by Jerome Charyn
W.W. Norton & Co. – February 2008
448 pages; $25.95
“Where shall I begin my unremarkable life? My hands were bound with hangman’s rope. A rifle dug into my ribs. My accomplices were slobbering at my side…”
Johnny One-Eye is historical fiction that is anything but typical. Set in Manhattan during the years of the American Revolution, Johnny One-Eye is the story of a half blind, seventeen year old, double agent named John Stocking. The story begins with Stocking being captured for trying to poison George Washington; whom, as we learn, may be his illegitimate father.
The story, which is narrated by Johnny, is that of his self-admitted “unremarkable life.” The reader quickly learns Johnny’s life is anything but. From his love interest, one of the finest whores in New York City’s red light district, to a cast of famous characters (Washing, Hamilton, Benedict Arnold, etc.), to the various historical events that unfold in Manhattan during this time. Johnny is there lending his unique voice to it all.
Johnny’s story is told in a somewhat disjointed way. In any other book this would take away from the story, however it works here. Emblematic of Johnny’s distinct personality. Charyn does a remarkable job of weaving historical fact with seemingly possible fiction. Another enjoyable aspect to Charyn’s writing is consistent, authentic, and believable dialog. Throughout the book – whether it be gritty, humorous, or historical scenes – the vast cast of characters are continually versed in an authentic voice.
Part Forrest Gump and part Benjamin Franklin, John Stockton is a character the reader will surely fall in love with. Historical fiction fans interested in a gritty, bawdy, and satirical look at life during the Revolutionary War will no doubt enjoy this fun, page turner of a novel.
For more information on Johnny One-Eye, or Jerome Charyn, please visit the author’s website by clicking HERE.