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Publisher's Summary

Ethan Saunders, once among General Washington's most valued spies, now lives in disgrace, haunting the taverns of Philadelphia. An accusation of treason has long since cost him his reputation and his beloved fiancée, Cynthia Pearson, but at his most desperate moment he is recruited for an unlikely task: finding Cynthia's missing husband.

To help her, Saunders must serve his old enemy, Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, who is engaged in a bitter power struggle with political rival Thomas Jefferson over the creation of the fragile young nation's first real financial institution: the Bank of the United States.

Meanwhile, Joan Maycott is a young woman married to another Revolutionary War veteran. With the new states unable to support their ex-soldiers, the Maycotts make a desperate gamble: trade the chance of future payment for the hope of a better life on the western Pennsylvania frontier.

There, amid hardship and deprivation, they find unlikely friendship and a chance for prosperity with a new method of distilling whiskey. But on an isolated frontier, whiskey is more than a drink; it is currency and power, and the Maycotts' success attracts the brutal attention of men in Hamilton's orbit, men who threaten to destroy all Joan holds dear.

As their causes intertwine, Joan and Saunders - both patriots in their own way - find themselves on opposing sides of a daring scheme that will forever change their lives and their new country.The Whiskey Rebels is a superb rendering of a perilous age and a nation nearly torn apart - and David Liss's most powerful novel yet.

©2008 David Liss (P)2008 Brilliance Audio, Inc.

What listeners say about The Whiskey Rebels

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

In My Top 10 - Maybe Top 5 At Audible

I've bought way too many books at Audible through the years. Some were unreadable. Some nearly so. A good many we're entertaining, or educational, or thought provoking. Every once in a while though I've lucked out. Not just a good book. A great book. And not just a good narrator. But the perfect narrator for this tale.

This is historical fiction at its best. Before I read this book I was vaguely aware of the Whiskey Rebellion. I knew it was tied to the first US banking system. Knew Alexander Hamilton played a roll and assumed if Hamilton was involved Burr was probably close by. Reading this novel gave me enough facts, names and dates that I was easily able to find out far more about this important moment in history with relatively little work.

But the best attribute of this book wasn't its foundation of real events and real people. It was the master story telling. Liss weaves an incredibly intriguing and entertaining yarn. The main character was an erudite wastrel who was drummed out of Washington's army on fabricated espionage accusations. He looses everything that gives his life meaning, becomes a drunk and an embarrassment, is so desperate to keep the one friend he has, his slave, he avoids admitting he'd freed him, in order to keep him close by. He tries to seduce the wife of the only other person who befriends him and under his friends roof. But he has a wonderful sense of humor, is clearly brilliant and an amazing escape artist. Most amazing though is the process of redemption the author leads him through in the course of the book. You have to love this guy.

The other narrator, a woman is brilliant as well. Attractive, cunning and a master manipulator - a role often left to men in novels, which is shame because she shows how entertaining it can be to watch a woman fool so many smart men as she pulls all the strings and choreographs every step everyone takes while they are oblivious to her total control. She is not redeemed. But she takes such joy in her love of revenge and devising the most complicated plans to achieving that revenge that redemption would be anticlimactic and somewhat disappointing.

The secondary characters were all well defined, all colorful and all helped move the plot along.

You don't have to be an expert in 18th century economics to follow the plot. I never understood the six and four preventers but this never affected my enjoyment of the book or understanding of where the plot was going. As the story unfolds, through each twist and
turn of the plot I stopped worrying about what I didn't understand. Since I could never guess what would happen next, understanding the technical details was of little use.

The narrator was great. Not someone I was families with. But his was the perfect voice for this book. I will seek out other books he narrates.

I heartily recommend this book.

87 people found this helpful

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Brand New Country, Whose Birth May Surprise You

The Whiskey Rebels covers what the history books doesn't . . . I had never heard of the whiskey rebellion . . . my husband had, but barely. This period of time, just after the revolutionary war, when our nation was making laws and establishing the institutions that would become the financial systems of America, are covered in good detail in this audio book. To my astonishment, the United States, though it had broken ties with England to become a free nation in 1776, did not look so very different in the beginning, and for several years afterward, with a continuing battle between it's original founders over how much control the federal government would have over the people. Corruption in government was an issued almost from the start (should we be surprised?), greed and desire for personal gain by politicians was the major motivation for running for office, and secrets ran rampant among the elite society folks of the day. The historical accounts of Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, and the other founding fathers are excellent. The story, which is fictional, is also excellent. I love historical fiction, and this one is top notch.

8 people found this helpful

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Good "federlist" era historical fiction

This book spans the era after the revolutionary war and the speculation that brought on the panic of 1791 just as the country was still getting it's bearings. I 'checked' on some of the background facts and found them to be very accurate. The narrator did a wonderful job with the characters (who I had a little bit of a hard time keeping straight sometimes). Good story and learned a lot about that time in our history

14 people found this helpful

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Ethan Saunders' Dry Wit Shines

This novel wasn't what I expected. Having grown up in western Pa, very near to where the Whiskey Rebellion took place, this title appealed to me. What I got was an entirely different story taking place well before the rebellion.

That said, I loved this book! Never have I laughed out loud so frequently while reading a book - and I average a hundred books a year these days. Ethan Saunders is simply one of the best characters I've met in a book!

Despite its substantial cast, I was able to keep The Whiskey Rebels cast straight due in part to the excellent narration in the audiobook.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story of patriots, scoundrels, greedy traders, and frontiersman - some fictional, some historic. Though the financial schemes had the potential to lose me, I hung tight through the satisfying ending.

There are some instances of brutality but nothing gory and several uses of strong language early in the book, which didn't hinder my enjoyment. I'm looking forward to reading more by this author!

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
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Very Entertaining

At times the story telling line was blurred...but the main character's narcissistic view of himself and the world's perception of him was great. Good story, that I enjoyed listening to very much

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Good Book

I really liked this book. I thought the narrator was excellent. He really conveyed personality for each of the characters. The story was interesting, and I would recommend this audiobook. I think it is better than "The Coffee Trader" by the same author.

7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Engaging

I bought this on a whim and I am glad I did. Good characters. I enjoyed ol' Captain Ethan Saunders. His comments on his own faults and views on women were humorous. He is truly a scoundrel, but oh so lovable. I realize this is a mix of fact and fiction but it makes me want to look into the era a little deeper to understand the facts of the day. This is a part of history I had never really thought about, but now want to know more. This is what I like in a book, to be enthralled, wish it never ends and want more when it is done. Good writing, good narration.

15 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Great Historical Fiction

I have listened to many David Liss novels and this is one of his best. Well developed charachters, historical insight, and finely crafted plot made this one I sat in the driveway and listened to because I wasn't ready to stop. Christopher Lane did an excellent job with the narration. I always enjoy a book more when each character has his/her own distinct manner of speaking. I highly reccomend this book and this author.

9 people found this helpful

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Great book, great narrator

Great book ... I have listened to it twice so far
The story is great and very informative. The narrator is simply superb. Enjoy



2 people found this helpful

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Alexander Hamilton, Pro/Con in a Riveting Story

Most historical novelists seem to start out as writers who get interested in history and then turn it into story. That is, I gather, the method that even the best – like Hilary Mantel – have followed. David Liss does it the other way around, though. He began as a historian – and, I believe as a historian in the potentially dry field of economic history – and then he found a way to tell stories that gave a flavor of the historical clashes and processes he came to understand.

I read his Conspiracy of Paper when it first came out more than 15 years ago, and I admired it enough that I wrote him with vague hopes that he might be looking for a job as an academic historian and would consider the place I was then teaching. As I recall, he wrote back kindly, expressing polite interest for after he’d finished his PhD, but I think he must already have glimpsed his coming career path. While this is now only my second Liss, I can see he’s been turning out quality historical fiction ever since.

This novel, at a bottom line, is an assessment of Alexander Hamilton’s footprint on American life. Like a good historian – a better one that the otherwise masterfully talented Lin-Manual Miranda – Liss sees that legacy as mixed. On the one hand, Hamilton established a system of federal credit and wealth-generation that made the subsequent American experiment possible. Without Hamilton’s bank and credit regulations, the Revolution would have withered.

On the other hand, the price of that system was that some spark of the true American rebellion got snuffed. To the degree that early America represented a Jeffersonian vision of small farmers, conquering the land and living in what we might retrospectively see as a nobler Libertarianism, Hamilton’s centralization of economic authority shifted power back to the merchant class. As characters here complain, Hamilton restored some of the inherent corruptions of capitalism that at least some American Revolutionaries understood themselves as fighting against.

Liss deals with that dichotomous view of Hamilton by creating two protagonists here. Ethan Saunders is a disgraced spy, one who feels personally let down by Hamilton but ultimately supports his aim. Joan Maycott is, in spirit, a pure Jeffersonian, a young woman who wants to write the first great American novel, and who determines to help settle Western Pennsylvania with her young husband. When Joan is fleeced by land speculators – and when even worse follows as a consequence of her being tricked – she identifies Hamiltonianism as her ultimate enemy.

The result is a novel in alternating chapters, with Ethan narrating one and then Joan the next (although there are occasional alterations in the pattern). Each protagonist sees some grey to the black-and-white character of what Hamilton represented, but the effect is that over the course of the novel we get a pro/con for Hamilton’s influence.

Remarkably, Liss never lets that feel dry or forced. In fact, it’s only in retrospect that I see what amounts to the history lessons concealed beneath the novel itself. What we have on the surface is a pair of adventure novels – ones that ultimately intersect in satisfying ways – and a pair of nicely imagined characters grappling with the New World of the American Republic.

The result is a legitimate thriller, a novel that moves quickly and that has a great deal at stake within it. I’m sure it’s possible to read this and think of Hamilton as merely an incidental figure, as simply the “client” that detective Saunders works for or the politician that rebel Maycott intends to bring down. You can read this, in other words, as a fast-paced adventure story.

I enjoyed this throughout, but there are a couple spots where Liss is not entirely deft in his narration. The alternating chapters bother me less than I imagined they would, but it did bother me toward the end when he resorted to the sleight-of-hand of not quite telling us what was going on. (For example, Ethan would declare something like, “I determined to go to the one man who could tell me what I needed to know,” leaving it hanging that he was off to see, say, Philip Freneau, for no purpose other than to sustain some narrative uncertainty.) The hardest part of the literary effort Liss set for himself was to weave the two narrative perspectives together, and the seams do end up showing even as the story comes together effectively.

As a side note, Liss continues here some of what he did in A Conspiracy of Paper where, also interrogating economic history, he explored the possibility of what we might call “tough Jews” in historical times. There, it was Daniel Mendoza, the great boxer, who becomes pressed into service as a quasi-detective. Here, it’s Hamilton’s agent Levian, a ruthless and effective spy who partners with Ethan to undertake the dirtiest aspects of their shared work.

In any case, I recommend reading this both for its history and its own energy. Liss knows what he’s doing here, and I suspect he knew what he was doing 15 years ago when he made it clear he saw a better future for himself as a novelist than as a history professor.


2 people found this helpful