FASTEST ON THE RIVER by Manly Wade Wellman
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The whole Mississippi River flows through this carefully documented book by this master of neglected American lore. It is a worthy successor to Mark Twain's classic, by an author steeped in his subject. The book is woven around the great steamboat race of 1870 between the Natchez and Captain Tom Leathers, and the Robert E. Lee, Captain John Cannon. The route was between New Orleans and St. Louis to determine which of these supberb vessels was indeed ""fastest on the river"". The rivalry between the captains was not new. When the Civil War broke out, Cannon steamed north to join the Union forces; Leathers stayed with the Confederacy, and by 1870 was still so ""unreconstructed"" that he refused to fly the Stars and Stripes from his new Natchez. Leathers had borrowed heavily to build her for the purpose of defeating Cannon, but in this he failed. The race was scheduled for five in the afternoon, June 30, 1870, but-with all New Orleans watching- the Lee cut her hawsers four minutes ahead, and gained a lead she never lost. There is far more to the book than the race itself. It is the saga of the last of the Mississippi packets and their pilots and of course of the river itself, all told with tautness, suspense and the sparse style which won the author's Dead and Gone the Mystery Writers of America's fact-crime Edgar. Here he has woven a comparatively unimportant incident into the fabric of American history. His book is a ""must"" for students of Mississippi River history and a delight for all who like a fine suspense story superbly told.

Pub Date: Oct. 24th, 1957
Publisher: Holt