Monday, January 11, 2010

Review: Canadian Author David Mulholland Dramatizes 1833 Fatal Duel!


A Novel of Dramatized History

By David Mulholland
General Store Publishing House
ISBN: 9781897508398
130 Pages

When acts of violence occur, who is at fault? Is it just the individuals actually involved? Or is it the family, the community, or the society in which the individuals lived? Or, could the fault have been lies, deception and betrayal by someone who acted purely on his own self-interest?

David Mulholland in his novel, Duel, presents a dramatization of background and events leading up to the Duel Between Robert Lyon and John Wilson on June 13, 1833. His beautiful cover shares a picture of the actual dueling pistols!

In many ways dueling might be considered the smallest version of a war. It was once considered a respectable means of settling disputes among Gentlemen. Indeed history dwells most on those fought between gentlemen, referring to the same type of action in the lower classes as “merely a vulgar shootout between two Scallywags.” (p. 41)

One major difference with a duel was that it almost always was based on one thing—honor—or more clearly, the perceived offense that brought dishonor to another gentleman! Thus only disagreements between peers were accepted as a reason to “challenge” the other.

Little was known as to why these young men who had been relatively close friends actually proceeded to that duel. There had been many who had tried to stop it and some even said that one of the seconds was the main instigator! That is, until during his research of the event, David Mulholland found a descendent of the town’s blacksmith who had inherited a lengthy report that had been prepared at the request of a professor of moral and mental philosophy at Queen’s College. The manuscript was said to be 126 years old, written 50 years after this fatal affair when Robert Lyon was shot.

If this was indeed written by the blacksmith’s son, readers may immediately wonder why Professor Watson chose to contact this individual as opposed to one of the upper class, or had he learned something about the event and was himself conducting his own investigation? Surely what he discovered was not what he had anticipated!

David Mulholland successfully takes readers to Perth, Upper Canada, during the year 1833 when, “within minutes, Robert Lyon was dead.” (p. 3) The small town was a perfect setting you might say. Historians will want to study the old manuscript against other documents of the era. But in the end, will it really explain how two friends faced each other with dueling pistols, fully expecting only one to walk away?

Duel forces all of us to ponder the cost of honor. Mulholland provides an excellent novel with a significantly picturesque drama in which to explore that potential loss...

G. A. Bixler

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