In the Mandingo genre, a dark, vivid historical drama of slavery in 18th century Jamaica. Patterson cuts the slave society open like a rotten anthill, swarming with lust, guilt, and fear, but hiding, even so, a queen: Quasheba, a strong, defiant slave woman who is both a life force and a source of danger for her terrified brethren. To protect her daughter from the advances of a syphilitic white planter, Quasheba goes after the man with a knife; she wounds him and is hunted down by Jamaica's bloodthirsty militia. Her death pulls away the servile clown-mask the slave community wears to survive, and for a moment reveals the festering anger and humiliation, the clandestine dignity, beneath. Every character is touched by the poison of race: Benjamin, Quasheba's almost-white cousin, fervently spurning blackness, saving up for his freedom; McKenzie, the young white book-keeper, struggling against the lure of a pretty mulatto girl to keep his ""civilized"" superiority and his Presbyterian virginity, and thus to escape the corrupt sexual bond that binds master to slave -- a bond ironically called ""the custom of the country."" Popular in thrust without the overheated ex-ploitativeness of Frank Yerby.