RIDERS OF THE LONG ROAD by Stephen Bransford


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A fictional tribute to the Wesleyan (Methodist) circuit preachers of the post-Revolution period, centering on a dramatic contest of wills and ways between a wealthy young Virginian and a raw-boned, red-haired, hellfire ""exhorter."" Jonathan Barratt, young heir to Barratt Enterprises of 1780s Virginia, makes a jolting discovery: he is a bastard, offspring of his sinning mother (who died in agony back in 1771) and Silas Wills, a friend of Jonathan's late ""father"" but now the most ferociously pious disciple of Methodist pioneer Francis Asbury (a real-life figure who cameos here). So, leaving the burgeoning family business to Uncle Ethan, single-minded Jonathan sets out in icy anger to follow Silas into the rapidly settling Kentucky wilderness. Keeping his motives secret, he pursues the suspicious, contemptuous Silas--who senses that Jonathan refuses to ""enter God's Kingdom."" Jonathan watches the exhorter rail against liquor and loose living, sees him supervise the execution of renegades while giving a sermon on God's love from the gallows. Then, along the Wilderness Road, Jonathan meets an old friend, former slave Macaijah, who has joined the Shawnee tribe of Tecumseh; he learns about the poor and dispossessed who are building new lives in Kentucky, about the damage done by Barratt Enterprises. And finally, though Silas flees from ungodly Jonathan, there'll be an inevitable clash between the obsessed father and son--with their passions resolved before a final siege and battle by the Green River. Despite chunks of rough-hewn theology: a solid novel with more fictional weight than most sectarian pageants--thanks to dusty pioneer ambiance and a well-paced confrontational drama.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1984
Publisher: Doubleday