The Indigo Scarf
Purchase The Indigo Scarf from Sunbury Press
In 1882, Anna Maria Sharpe is departing from Washington’s Baltimore and Potomac Railroad station for the north-central Pennsylvania backwoods she’d fled in her teens doubtful of her identity. She encounters Benjamin James, a drifting, alcoholic longshoreman who’d been implicated in the murder of his brother during Anna Maria’s childhood. Benjamin decides to join her. Along the way, he relates the tale of the ancestors of their sordid hideaway settlement: his father, the infamous ex-slave Jedediah James; George Sharpe, a former indentured grist-miller whom Anna Maria believes was her grandfather; and Sarah Starret and Rosanna Wheler, the white women they had escaped with to the wild Sinnemahone country. Through the story, Anna Maria discovers an intimate connection to the man Benjamin had been accused of murdering, and to the murderer.
Benjamin’s account of the life of Jedediah James reveals a fatal obsession with ownership driving this freed slave toward his reckoning. Clandestine Quakers and a sympathetic prothonotary try to help James as hostilities build to a head between him and the august revolutionary war veteran Samson Starret and Thomas Tillman, a man fixated on a woman an ex-slave threatens to steal from him on the eve of his possessing her. The scenes of The Indigo Scarf take the reader from a forbidden slave marriage on a plantation in Virginia’s tidewater region to the tragic end of a whiskey and timber-pirating operation on the Susquehanna’s un-peopled and feral West Branch during the frontier decades after Pennsylvania’s last Indian purchase.
What Others Are Saying:
“A wonderful tale with glimpses of classics like Gone With The Wind, Roots and one of my all-time favorites, Amistad.” -- Ken Bangs, author of Guardians In Blue
"I bought this book at the Writers Conference of Northern Appalachia in Wheeling, West Virginia. Read it during a train trip to NYC and was totally blown away. Both the vivid characterization and the depth of research are gripping, even astonishing. I already knew how to make whiskey, but now I know how to grow linen and turn it into clothing, how to build a log cabin that will last, how to grind grain, and a lot of other frontier techniques now long forgotten. These pioneers were certainly not ignorant. Unlettered, maybe, yet they knew how to do so many useful, essential, and practical things we would no longer have the first clue about how to create! Piccirillo seems to delight in using words from the period that we've forgotten existed, and this nice touch adds to the authenticity. For example, I never knew the word "criscross" was a contraction of "Christ's cross." The rich descriptive language can sometimes hover just on the border of going too far, but the story never falters, and the description certainly clearly evokes the time period and the mountains and valleys this author obviously loves. The escaped slave Jedidiah especially is a tormented soul; his story and ultimate fate sucked me in. Be aware that this is not always a pleasant book to read, as it depicts very clearly the suffering of African Americans in the early 19th century, deep deep in the high Pennsylvania hills where they sought refuge, and the challenges of mixed race marriages then. Nevertheless, for the thoughtful reader it rings astoundingly true. This skilled and talented author should be much better known!"
David Poyer, author of the Dan Lenson and Hemlock County novels
"Epic in scope, The Indigo Scarf offers a cautionary tale that spans decades
as characters confront the brutal legacy of slavery. Historically anchored, and
set geographically in a wilderness both harsh and spirit-breaking, Piccirillo
confronts--among many--themes of redemption and bitterness, loyalty and
freedom. Told in a clear-edged prose, I found myself carried deeper and deeper
into the events and lives of these characters. And without ever being instructed
on how to interpret or feel, I nonetheless finished the novel thinking about the
myriad lessons for our troubled times."
Jack Driscoll, author of The Goat Fish and the Lover's Knot
"PJ Piccirillo’s The Indigo Scarf is a riveting and unflinching work of historical fiction of the highest order that deserves to be widely read and appreciated. Rich in illuminative detail, a deep sense of history, and a remarkable sense of place, this narrative is driven by beautifully drawn characters limned in exquisite prose. A literary page-turner of the highest stripe."
Bruce Pratt, author of The Trash Detail and Serpents of Bliss
"This book was everything. The nuanced characters and differences between the two major black male characters were written brilliantly. The supporting cast of characters were humorous, cruel, eclectic, innocent, complex....you get my point...so many layers…I plan to research for more details about the real people. That's one of my favorite things about completing a historical fiction read. It's like the book club discussion has already started. Definitely, not just another slave story." Mo, Goodreads Reviewer
“The plot was believable. The setting realistic…And what an ending!” Anne Halvorson, Goodreads Reviewer
“A well-researched and beautifully written novel about slavery and its lingering effects even after freedom has been gained. The book is loosely based on a unique community which once existed in the Pennsylvania Appalachians. The novel spans the lives of three generations who lived along the Susquehanna River and Sinnemahoning Creek in the wilds of central Pennsylvania, and paints a vivid picture of their lives. It was hard to put this book down as the plot built to a shattering conclusion. I kept thinking about the novel for days after I finished it, and to me, that is a sign of good literature - the need to revisit, and discuss, and revise interpretations. I look forward to rereading it soon.” Amazon Reviewer
“…well-written historical fiction. I appreciated the detail and research that no doubt went into the making of this book.”
J.D. DeHart, Goodreads Reviewer
“I really enjoyed reading this historical novel, the characters were great and they felt like they were meant to be in the time that the novel took place.”
Kay Mcleer, Goodreads Reviewer.
“Pick up The Indigo Scarf when you have plenty of time because you will want to keep reading and reading and reading until you get to the end of this compelling historical drama. Action, emotion and history run high and constant. You'll learn, laugh and perhaps cry with these characters and settings.” Amazon Reviewer
“Gives one a glimpse of the challenges one may have faced after being freed from slavery. The challenges of settling in a remote area. Well written. Very descriptive. A book that keeps me up all night reading and makes me think, even several days after finished, is in my opinion a grand book for all to read. I already want to read again.”
"Whatever you are looking for in an historical novel you will find in The Indigo Scarf by PJ Piccirillo. Extensive research and the skill of the author transport the reader into the Pennsylvania frontier of the early 19th century. Complex characters add to the appeal of this novel. Jedediah escaped bondage but could not overcome the emotional scars of slavery. His wife and children would pay the price. As the story unfolded this reader felt empathy, admiration, anger, and disgust for Jedediah. Cornelia Bakeraskin, Jedediah’s owner, exemplified the viciousness of a culture that viewed the men and women they owned as expendable as livestock."
This reader highly recommends The Indigo Scarf to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.
“A fascinating, rich story.” Lee Byrd, Publisher, Cinco Puntos Press