tv Matthew Pearl The Taking of Jemima Boone CSPAN December 31, 2021 12:50pm-1:56pm EST
>> there's a final shot of arlington national cemetery, much as we see it today with the white head stones no parking graves of the fallen. >> with the capitol lit up at night. >> i think it's important to pause for a moment and think about the meaning that the unknown this time. it was about world war i, yes, but it was also thought to be a memorial that could connect all of the different american conflicts, that could stretch beyond world war i and really honor all of those who served in our nation's armed forces. that really continues very strongly until today. >> you're watching american history tv, exploring our nation's past. >> c-span's american history tv continues now. you can find the full schedule for the weekend on your program guide or at c-span.org/history. our guests tonight, candace millard, author of three "new york times" best sellers, the river of doubt, theodore rose volt's darkest journey.
dest 19 of a republic, a tale of madness, medicine, and the murder of a president, and hero of the empire, the daring escape and the making of winston churchill. that book was named amazon's number one history book of 2016. her work has appeared in the "new york times" book review, the guardian, “national geographic“, and "time" magazine, and candice is going to be in conversation with matthew pearl. he's a writer of fiction and nonfiction. the cofounder of truly adventurous, and his nonfiction writing has appeared in "the new york times," the boston globe, and slate. his books have been international and "new york times" best sellers, translated into more than 30 languages. so pretty impressed with both of our guests this evening. i'm going to bring them on screen this moment. take me just a second. get you both here.
and welcome matthew and candice. so good to have you here tonight. thanks for joining us. >> it's great to be here. thank you, jennifer. >> candice, later in the program will you call me back up and help with the q&a. >> sounds great. >> i'm going to sit back and enjoy with everybody else. see you in a little bit. >> all right. hi, matthew. >> hi, candice. >> thank you so much for this, i'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts, and everything you want to tell us about your book, and i know everybody else is too, so it's a real honor to be talking to you tonight. so i wanted to start with just asking you what this book is about, what is the story at the heart of it? >> thank you, candice, and thank you so much for doing this conversation with me. i'm particularly honored and intimidated because your books were among those that inspired me to take on this project and maybe we'll be talking more
about genres and writing in general, and i'll get to say some more about that, but yeah, this book came from my general interest in where books in our culture come from. so i'm always curious. we see people explore this from time to time in kind of a specifically meta way, where does "the great gatsby" come from and lolita, and finding that true story behind it and telling that story or stories. in this case, i became curious about the last of the mohicans, the james cooper novel, and found that one of the inspirations, there's not one monolithic kind of source or inspiration for a novel. but one of the inspirations was the kidnapping daniel boone's daughter, jemima.
that's what got me digging into it, and the more i dug, and i'm sure you might find this too when you explore a project. very often it seems like it could be really interesting and then you just hit a wall, right, where it feels like oh, this is such a -- in terms of true stories. we're talking about fiction, you can try to build yourself out of a premise that you get stuck on. but most of real life doesn't kind of keep building right in terms of stakes, in terms of suspense, what we call twists and turns, right, so very often, we explore projects that we say, oh, this can't be a book. maybe it could be an article. maybe it can't even be that. maybe it's literally just a sentence or two and then it fizzles out. in this case, i became really excited because the more i looked into it, the more it built up. and i found that not only was
this kind of initial event, the kidnapping of jemima boone and her two friends, really compelling in all kinds of ways, including the perspective of those doing the kidnapping, which was a group of cherokee and shawnee indians, but that it started a chain reaction into a series of events and what i really love as a reader and a writer, and i'm going to be presumptuous and think you do just from knowing your work, is finding a story that has a pretty tight scope. right? as opposed to writing, okay, i'm going to write about 80 years of this person's life or you know, 100 years of what happens in this particular place. i like to find something where we can shape and craft it to feel like we have a beginning, middle and end, and this account to me really lent itself that way over a 2 1/2 year period
that included the kidnapping, that included another kidnapping, it included a kind of all out battle, and a trial. so once that kind of came together, i thought, okay, i'm going to jump in and try this. >> that's so exciting, and you definitely have that. so in general, what would you say that you -- that you look for when you're choosing? and i know usually it's fiction, but when you're choosing a book idea. because like you said, a lot of times you'll start out and think, oh, this has a lot of possibility and you start looking into it and think maybe it's not going to work. for me that happens a lot more than the opposite. so what are the things you would say that you absolutely have to have in a book project, specifically let's say nonfiction, before you would commit to it? >> yeah, that's a great question
and something that i think you are a mastermind of, and probably your answer would be sharper than mine. i think one thing is relatability. sometimes we think something could be interesting because the events are interesting or how it unfolds is interesting, but if we really can't penetrate the people involved, can't relate. it doesn't mean they have to be perfect, and certainly for example, daniel boone i think is a very relatable person, he's not a saint, and he's not perfect, nor is any real person. but perhaps people are really challenges to relate to even if they're making choices we would consider -- whatever their choices are, whether we consider them kind of worthy of admiration or we consider them
kind of wrong headed or even evil, we want to be able to at least understand why they're doing something, we want to find ways in which we can, i think, put ourselves in their shoes, one or more characters, i'll use that word even though we're talking about real people, and nonfiction. and i think that's for me, that's part of what makes narrative nonfiction, which is what -- this is my first book length nonfiction, although i've done for years now, what we've in a funny way, we choose the word long form for it. long form meaning not book like, right. long articles, and that was kind of where i tried out those skillsets that, again, you know, i admire so much in your work of does this have the raw materials that you need and, i mean, one thing i advise writers,
including writers that i work with as an editor for the digital magazine that i edit, truly adventurous, which jennifer was kind enough to mention, is that you want to be able to kind of craft the shape. sometimes we think -- sometimes readers or just people in general think, even writers, think that nonfiction falls out of the sky fully formed. >> right. >> and i think there's an advantage to the source material to -- i try to use primary sources as much as possible, and there's an advantage to them being boring. if someone else has already shaped them in a way that might already exist, what you would want to create might already exist. there's so much crafting and shaping and for me, so much is in addition to the relatability, the structure, can you keep raising the stakes. if everything happens in the first 20 pages, that's kind of compelling and exciting and, you're just explaining it or
you're just kind of unwrapping what happens to all of those people, then you're losing so much of that energy in the moment. >> right, right. so two things, i wanted to follow up on, so don't let me forget. one is primary source material. i want to hear all about your research, and then the -- the other is going back to structure, and shaping so let's maybe start with research. where did you do the research for this book? >> yeah, in the case of this book, "taking of jemima boone" it's set in kentucky. there's a couple of interesting aspects of the time period, so it takes place in 1776, which as we know is an important year in all kinds of ways, and it actually happens those first events, the kidnapping happens july 14th. so about ten days after the declaration of independence, although as i explained in the
book, news travels slow back then. so the settlement in kentucky that is kind of centered in the story, which is called boonesborough, named after daniel boone in particular, we can expand it to the boone family who were there and were contributing to settlement. they just don't know yet about the declaration of independence. but certainly were in the american revolution, so literacy is still very inconsistent at the time for people. and so the sources are less in realtime, being created in realtime. there are a couple of newspapers, just cropping up and those are wonderful sources. they tend to all have the same name, which is gazette. which makes it hard when you research. daniel boone is literate. he can write. we only have a few pieces of his
actual handwritten writing. there are biographers and interviews who write and in some cases publish, in some cases in the first person, what daniel boone is saying. now, and there's the issue of how accurate are some of these things, and i'm sure you run into this too, and of course that's part of our job to deal with. i was very lucky that there are a couple of people in the later 18th to early 19th century who became obsessed with the frontier. and they -- there's one gentleman whose name was draper, and one whose name was shane, and they collected as much as they could, they corresponded with people who had lived through it or children or grandchildren, people who had lived in places like boonesborough, there were not writers per se, they were more sort of collectors, and connoisseurs but an incredible
contribution to those of us who examined that, and, you know, i think one thing that i -- my philosophy, and i wonder if it's something you share is i don't want to make my reader do work. right? we're not writing in sort of an academic platform, nonfiction. i feel like it's my responsibility to sort through, for instance, what's trust worthy, what's the most accurate possible renditions of the material from those primary sources that i tried whenever possible to rely on. and there are certainly easy ways to flag potential questions for readers without kind of going down a rabbit hole and stopping your narrative it might be this, and it might be that. >> right.
>> that's what footnotes are for. >> exactly. >> and, you know, even footnotes or end notes tend to be pretty concise these days, right. because even that could expand your book, and footprint of your pages. so i think it's always a balancing act. i did get to also travel to kentucky, and one of the wonderful things there is that even though boonesborough does not exist in its original form, an incredible recreation was built right near the site, and you can see the site where it was on the kentucky river but they couldn't build the recreation too close to the river without recreating what happened which is constant flooding problems. >> right. >> so that was a wonderful opportunity. and a bonding experience. i brought my oldest son who now is 11, at the time must have been 8 or 9.
time blurs together for me, but that's something else, i think, for our books that's behind the curtain. each book isn't just about what it's about, but it's also a chapter in our own lives that when i imagined, you might feel this too, when you look at your book, you're also seeing that. >> right. right. and were there things that you found that -- to me what's always interesting is finding things that you think might be in the book and might not, and end up, you don't put them in the book directly, but still they do inform the book. still you're glad that you knew it, and it was important to your understanding of the story and the way that you are going to tell the story, and the story that you hope that the reader comes away from reading. >> yeah, that's such an interesting way of looking at it, and i don't think i ever thought of it so specifically that way, but i think that happens so much when we research, right, because such a small fraction of what we do
when we research these books ends up in an explicit way. >> right. >> but all of it goes into how you're seeing it, and i think you have to let yourself evolve also how you're seeing it when you're telling these stories, and, you know, i think one thing in this case is that there were many many distortions of the original events, and so i don't want to spend my real estate on, again, explaining to the reader what those distortions were, but they're fascinating because why is this being distorted in this way. you know, one example is that so part of the story is the rescue of jemima and her friends, and in one distortion, there is the narrative that on the way home from being rescued jemima and
betsy and fanny, the two other young women, get married to their rescuers. they kind of stop and all get married. >> lovely. >> yeah. it's clearly there's kind of a subtext of, you know, kind of centering the sort of male role in their lives and that the first thing that has to happen is that they are paired off, right, with the hero, when in fact, they had all kinds of agency in really interesting ways, and that was part of what my -- what i felt my responsibility was in a story like this, which is so often told at the time or after, you know, from that gaze of the kind of male storytellers, so, you know, what i felt my job was in part was okay, how can i find what the young women were thinking. how can i find the tribal
individuals, the warriors who were involved in this, what were their motivations, what were they going through? what were they grappling with, the attempt to restore all the perspectives that in this case came together in really interesting ways with this event and this kind of chain reaction that followed it. >> right. so just getting back to your research a little bit and you're able to go to kentucky, was most of your archival research then done online? were there different archives you were able to access? what was the archival research like? >> in this case, there wasn't too much online. there's a fair amount that's luckily on micro form, micro film from those collectors. unfortunately it's not organized. i'm sure you ran into this too. there's a lot of material but it's not particularly or really at all kind of organized, so it
was a lot of going to libraries, and just kind of staring, sometimes until you realize you don't know what you're looking at because you're been staring too long. i think i even looked at one point looked into can you buy a micro film machine and order copies of these and i don't remember the answer. i think you could in theory, but i think it would be very expensive and i'm not sure that it would be worth doing, but, you know, but it is really, you know, that's one of the things that can really stop you in your tracks with a nonfiction project, especially one that's into history, is that there might be so many ingredients there but if there's not sources to build the story off of, you sometimes have to throw up your hands so i think on the one hand, it can be exhausting once you do find those very rich wells of sources. on the other hand, it's also necessary in order to be able to
build what i hope this is doing, and what you do so well, which is really narrative, you know, how do we place the reader in an experiential story where it doesn't just feel like an overview. we're providing the color and details, and very small moments that to me are more revealing and more effective than the broad strokes, the kind of bird's eye view that history can in important ways also present itself as. >> right. yeah, i agree, and i always think that it's also, it's an essential truth in history. if you deprive history of emotion, of that color, of feeling like, okay, you're actually dropping into this different world, this different time, this different place, if you deprive of that, i think it takes away an essential truth of history. if it's just, you know, facts
and dates and things, and it's just this dry kind of trudging through, you definitely lose something because you don't really experience it at all the way the people who lived it did, and i think you absolutely captured that with this book. absolutely. so along that line, let's talk about structure, and let's talk about how, like, i'm a big proponent of outlining, and i know i'm alone in that a lot of times. i know, especially for fiction, i know i read a lot of fiction, and you write excellent fiction. but i know, and i've heard a lot of fiction writers talk about they would never ever outline, that it would kill the story, and even a lot of nonfiction writers i know do not outline. i spend like a year outlining. so i'm really curious to see, like, what your approach is to structure. >> i think i tend to be more in your camp. >> yay. >> which doesn't surprise me,
again, because you were among my guiding lights for working on this. you know, i think it really helps me to conceive of the story to have a structure in place. and in this case, i split the entire book up into three sections. sort of three overall sections, and then within the chapters within those, and i was -- i kind of had a pretty easy time in the case of this book with structure because it's -- it almost structured itself. their lives were so eventful in this stretch of time, and one event often clearly led to the next one in ways that kind of felt like they had natural starting and stopping points for those sections, for those chapters.
and again, as i mentioned, it kind of felt like they were building, building stakes higher and higher, so sometimes i think structure can be one of the most difficult challenges with nonfiction, and i think this goes back to the fact that it doesn't fall out of the sky. maybe we want readers to feel that it does. >> and it could. >> we don't want the reader to make sense of -- have to work to make sense of, okay, how diz this relate to this one, and even to the point, i don't know if you do this, and i would be curious if you do, even to the point where i'm careful, i don't want to introduce names that aren't necessary. can feel like our brains can start, wait a minute, do i already know that person?
and already, with so many, again, i'll use the word characters, because i'm not sure there's another word. maybe there should be. because it sounds like it implies fiction. but, you know, i try to make sure that every character i'm spending time on, is serving a role that we can follow, and that doesn't end up confusing and especially, you know, i think especially because names often repeat themselves, so we also, i think, have to deploy strategies because, again, we don't want -- and that could be something as simple as also including, as i do in this book, including a chart of characters or family tree or some guide in the front. it was interesting and i think the books you've written probably presented some -- and i know you have included them, some nice illustrations and photographs to include to amplify the reader's experience. it was interesting that that
really stumped me, when my wonderful editor, sarah nelson at harper collins touched base about whether we would have illustrations for this book, and i couldn't quite figure out why i was slow to sort of come up with a plan for it. i think i was assuming i'd have it, and i realized that the illustrations, of course there were no photographs at the time, the illustrations and portraits and paintings that existed from that time or shortly thereafter were really very cartoonish. they sort of simplified and caricatured both the settlers, the pioneers, and the indians. and again, it doesn't mean they're not useful or important, but i realized that i didn't want to use the reader's energy on deciphering that or my energy in explaining, okay, i'm going to show you this depiction of
jemima boone getting kidnapped but i'm going to explain how she's, you know, the indian figures are presented as the dark others, the intruders, and jemima is presented in this angelic light, and i realized that would do exactly the opposite of what you and i just talked about which is to kind of put the reader in that experience of what i'm doing my best to recreate of what it was actually like as opposed to a very deliberately kind of slanted agenda in depicting it or just an agenda that was rooted in a very specific moment in time. so that was an example where i chose to leave material out that at first i thought might be helpful for the reader. >> right, right. what were some of the things that you found either while you were doing research or while you
were writing the book? >> yeah. you know, i kept finding really fascinating elements, some of which i ended up really sort of embracing and throwing my arms around and making space in the book, and sometimes that's a surprising process because you might think you're going to focus in one way and then you end up either expanding or changing what your focus might be. so one example of part of the book that i didn't expect would be in it was an american indian woman named nan helema. she also had a christianized name of kate that was given to her by a missionary. the missionaries, by the way, were among those who really chronicled indian life because they were traveling through tribal towns. and you know, it's one of the challenges of the research.
we talked a bit about the research, that tribes themselves were not steeped in a document-based culture of preserving history that way. it's very different, so as a writer and a storyteller, you also have to take different approaches to re-creating that. and nonhelema was a warrior herself, said to be over 6 feet tall and fought in several battles. she became the confidante of one of the american officers who was in charge of one of the bases in the frontier. and his name was matthew arbuckle. and it was just a fascinating relationship. it's not center stage in the book, but it's certainly on stage. where arbuckle sees himself for the most part as very much a fighter against the indian tribes.
but he has a platonic but very trusted relationship with nonhelema, and she ends up essentially divesting herself of her -- of her indian life, of being part of the indian community and living on the fort. and it was really a fascinating example of something that kept surprising me in all kinds of ways, which was how fluid the boundaries were between the communities and the culture. i think many of us grow up thinking these are completely diametrically opposed spaces that existed, particularly in the frontier in sort of its most dramatic fashion, because of clashes exemplified by the kidnapping in which we see violence coming to the surface. but in fact, these were very much shared spaces, cultures that bled into each other.
many of daniel boone's iconic frontier skills were coming from and being drawn from the tribes. i mentioned a second kidnapping, and that's when daniel boone himself is kidnapped. and we are kind of in a position of thinking that there's vengeance involved because daniel boone has killed in rescuing jemima, has killed the son of an important war chief of the shawnee. in fact, daniel boone is made into part of that chief's family. and is adopted in a ceremony to take the place of that son. so in all kinds of ways, family and community are blurring those lines between the tribal communities and the settlers communities. and i think in thinking about surprises and kind of fascinating elements, that would
be right at the top of my list. >> right. so i think that a lot of people here tonight and a lot of people who will come to this book will come to the book because they're interested in the subject, but i think a lot of them will come to it because of you and because of what they have read from you in the past. so what's very interesting to me, especially as someone who has never written fiction and thinks i would be terrible at it, the difference between writing fiction and nonfiction and for you, what are some of the similarities, besides the obvious ones? what are some of the differences? what were some of the challenges? i'm very curious about that. >> yeah, thank you for asking that. so this is somehow my seventh book. >> wow. congratulations. >> thank you, i think. sometimes i -- sometimes i don't know if that's an accomplishment or a reflection of some kind of
instability, but you know, i mentioned that it's been a couple years in which i kept deepening my experience in writing nonfiction, and particularly really the type of nonfiction that i was drawn right to was narrative nonfiction. i think that very much relates to coming out of fiction, because i think some of the best narrative nonfiction, i wouldn't be dogmatic about it, but i think some of the best, and i would absolutely include your books in this category, read like fiction. right? we experience it as a reader in the way that we experience a novel. and again, that gets back to characters coming alive. it gets back to the structure, providing us enough suspense that we need to keep reading, right? a lot of -- >> right. >> a lot of new writers to
narrative nonfiction, i notice as an editor, want to tell us everything that's going to happen before it happens. i always say, don't tell us before it happens. because in their minds, it's already happened. so the sort of natural way to do it is to say okay, this is what i'm going to tell you about what happened and now i'm going to tell you. >> yeah. >> but we really want to be in the moment, just like we would be in a novel. all that said, it certainly was intimidating, and it was sort of a gradual process for me to feel like i was ready to try a book-length work of narrative nonfiction, which, of course, is a different type of project than a shorter one. i think for me, sort of my surroundings were becoming more -- more saturated with nonfiction. i started editing the magazine that i mentioned, truly adventurous, the digital magazine, which is devoted to narrative nonfiction, long form.
my wife actually wrote her first book, which is also a narrative nonfiction and was inspired by a member of her family. i will show it here, which is called terror to the wicked, which i'm so proud of. it came out, i think, last year. also, intersecting with american indians, with one of the first murder trials in the country. so i think as it surrounded me more and i have always had friends who were terrific writers of narrative nonfiction, i finally worked up the courage to talk to my agent, who is also your agent, suzanne, who is just a wonderful adviser on everything. >> the best. >> yes, absolutely. and the title of my book was actually her idea. >> great one. >> i shouldn't say thank you because i can't take credit for it, but i agree. >> and a great cover, by the way. i love the cover.
>> oh, thank you. i also can't take credit for that, but i agree. a wonderful job with the design. and you know, the first thing i did was kind of pull out a couple books, including river of doubt, including in the heart of the sea. >> love that book. >> books by stacey shif, by simon winchester. there's a handful of writers who i feel like really without exaggeration have changed the way we write and we read narrative nonfiction over the last ten or so years. in ways that i'm just so impressed by and made me want to do this. and one of the first things i did, not kidding you, was to chart out how you structured "river of doubt" and sort of how you were able to draw the reader in immediately and to sort of keep us hooked on that story.
and that, you know, got me writing the proposal and from there i was lucky to find first suzanne and then sarah at harper collins to support it. in terms of the differences, the fiction i have written has been what i call research-based fiction. sometimes we call it historical fiction. historical fiction is such a weird term because there's not a real definition for it. >> right, right. >> if we write a novel set in the 1980s, i think we don't tend to call that historical fiction. >> yeah, good point. >> right? but it's for better or worse, that's quite a while ago now. the 1980s. i don't know where the line gets drawn, what feels like historical fiction. but i have always done a lot of research for my fiction, and it's always been really important to me that the fiction i write is authentic to the history. but here's the secret. i don't know that anyone cares about it.
it took me a while to realize that. sometimes i would actually find things that had never been published before. >> yeah. >> and let's say about edgar allan poe, one of my novels deals with his death, and i would integrate it into my novel. and i would be so excited about it. and of course, nobody cared because how could they tell the difference? you're not -- >> right, you don't know. >> unless you're an avant-garde fiction, there's no end notes. it's purposefully blending fact and fiction in a way that is not meant to be able to, for you as a reader, to be able to separate. that was kind of a starting point for a frustration where i felt, hmm, there's these great true stories. one of my rules of thumb that i developed is that if something can be told in nonfiction, go for it. meaning there are stories that you can't tell in nonfiction. >> right. oh, yeah. >> it might be an incredible thing that really happened. there simply isn't the material. there's not what we might call a recording.
>> right. yeah. >> exactly. so that might be the perfect subject for whether it's historical fiction writer or some other kind of a playwright, a screen writer, some other adaptation of that material. for me, where i landed if you can tell something with nonfiction, that's a great place to start because i do think there's an added power to be able to say, this is a true story. and it doesn't get lost -- again, there's kind of that balance where people tend to feel that nonfiction just falls out of the sky, which it doesn't. but once you do it right, it has this extra power to it. >> right. >> if you're able to craft it in a way that can really pull the reader in. so i have found for myself that nonfiction is less stressful.
this is maybe the real answer. >> i can see that. no. >> and i don't know how you are in general. i'm not a decisive person. i have trouble with, like in a restaurant, i'll have trouble with a menu. and i'm a vegetarian, so there's usually only a few things. even that, i just will eventually order, and then i will just be kind of agonizing over whether i ordered the right thing, and when the people come, i'll look around. maybe that was better. i really just, decisiveness is not one of my strengths. maybe i have very few strengths and that's certainly not one of them. so not that there aren't 1,000 decisions with nonfiction, of course there are, but it's not, for example, one thing that always plagued me with fiction is first person, third person, second person, i guess if you're being very experimental. and there's not really an equivalent of that, for example, with nonfiction.
it might be, okay, am i going to start the book or the article here or here? probably the heres are fairly close together. and that fine tuning is absolutely important. >> right. >> but i never felt, and maybe i haven't gotten there. you could tell me having much more experience in nonfiction. i have never felt an existential crisis in writing nonfiction the way i have with fiction. >> right. infinite possibility. >> exactly, right. i never felt like, okay, i'm going to throw this out and start over, which i have not only felt but have done with fiction. >> mm-hmm, yeah. that's a really critical -- i would love to keep talking, and we will, but i think that jennifer, we should bring you on and start taking some questions. i know that there will be a lot of people who want to ask matthew some questions. >> including me. >> yes. >> that was absolutely fascinating. thank you both so much. you know, i wasn't necessarily expecting to learn so much about
writing and writing process. it's been really, really fascinating. i would like to hear a little bit more about this story. and you know, for instance, the clues that the girls managed to leave. can you tell us a little bit? put that in context and -- >> yeah, absolutely. thank you for asking. and so again, there's three young women who are taken from the kentucky river. so it's jemima boone and her two friends, betsy and fanny calaway. and they are being taken away from that spot in the kentucky river into the wilderness. so they all decide to try to find ways to leave clues for what they hope will be people that are looking for them. their family members and their fellow settlers from boonsboro, so this was, yeah, absolutely one of those elements where i was looking for these tiny
details that we might overlook if we're writing history at a bird's-eye view so jemima tied five knots in a string from her clothes and dropped it. why does she do that? she's telling, she hopes, she's communicating how many kidnappers there are. and, incredibly enough, daniel boone and his group find that, and daniel boone correctly interprets the meaning of that. so there's all kinds of ways that, you know, all of the people involved and their skills and including the members of the tribe, are just astounding to me. and i think just to us in general from looking from our vantage point. they're also trying to dig their heels into the ground to leave marks. their captors see this and sort of cut off the heels of their shoes. >> oh, wow.
>> betsy calaway has an engraved handkerchief, so she's ripping pieces of her name off, so literally kind of leaving a message in the dirt. they're breaking branches and leaves off. so yeah, those are some examples, and again, i try to surround the story, especially that part of the story, the kidnapping, with the perspectives of everyone involved, the rescuers, the young women, the tribal warriors who are being forced out of their land and are placed in this position of trying to gain leverage over the settlement. and really try to re-create what they're all thinking, what they're doing, and one of the kind of developments as they're being taken is that jemima and the leader of the tribal party named hanging ma, form a very important bond in which ultimately results in them trying to protect each other.
>> that is absolutely fascinating. >> yeah. so good. >> the story he's told suggests perhaps a very special relationship between daniel and jemima boone. it almost sounds like she was an apple who didn't fall too far from the tree. can you tell us about that? >> absolutely. i try to stay entirely in the narrative, and i think candice, i notice this about you as well, i don't step out or step back very much to kind of comment or go on detours. there's one place, jennifer, where i do step out a little bit, which is to explain that there was a rumor that jemima was not actually daniel's daughter. and go into where that came from, but my conclusion to that is it makes it all the more interesting because the boones apparently were aware of this rumor, that their bond was so close.
the truth is, in the frontier, that people very often didn't know their own birth years. because their records weren't being kept. they were traveling, so jemima, we think, was 13 at the time, but we're not totally sure. just to give an example. so the fact that it would be confusing to some, you know, who someone's paternity, what the paternity of a particular individual would be, how old they were, it's not actually surprising once you realize how kind of scattered their own knowledge of their lives were. but to me, it was actually more informative about how special their bond was because they might have been -- they might have been unsure about her paternity. it's unclear, but if they were, they never wavered in how devoted they were to each other.
and it comes not just in daniel boone's kind of dedication to finding jemima when she disappears, but the reverse as well. when daniel boone is taken by the tribe that we mentioned, jemima is the only member of the boone family who stays behind, and everyone else assumes he's dead, for good reason. the context clues are he's probably dead. jemima is the only one who says i'm not leaving. the other boones go back to north carolina to be with rebecca boone, jemima's mother's family. jemima and her husband she marries shortly after the rescue stay behind. and it's in the face of adversaries because the kind of people who take over boonesboro are rivals to the boones. >> that is fascinating, isn't it, candice? >> yes, very.
>> so a lot of people want to just know more about daniel boone. we have people referencing the 1960s fess parker, daniel boone was a man, a real man. that's about all we know about him. and how do we not know that his daughter was kidnapped and why is this not more a part of our national narrative? >> that's a great question, jennifer. it's funny you mention that because i often think how one of the common questions i get if i mention the book that i'm working on or now that's published is oh, what's the difference between daniel boone and danny crockett? many people say this. and i know nothing about -- i watched a lot of reruns growing up. for some reason, those were not on nick at night that i'm familiar with all these shows that i probably shouldn't know anything about. but apparently, someone -- a reader told me this. they were played by the same people in the respective disney series.
davie crockett and daniel boone were played by the same actor. i actually have not looked up. i'm not an expert on these shows. i don't know if either of you are. >> audience, chime in please and let us know what you know about that. >> if anybody knows. but that's fascinating because it helps explain, because i couldn't explain why -- other than their names being vaguely similar and they're not really in the same time period, davie crockett is in the early 19th century, and then dies at the alamo in the 1830s. but in any case, you know, one theory that i have of why so many people have forgotten the kidnapping of jemima boone which was such a touchstone event for the frontier at the time and then for those who kind of examined the frontier after, is the last of the mohicans. i think sometimes when a literary work or adaptation is inspired by a true story, it almost replaces the true story in a strange way.
interestingly, to me at least, jemima was still alive when the last of the mohicans was published. and it was very obvious to everyone that it was based on her life. well, she wasn't literate. she was never taught to read. and as far as we can tell, we don't have any evidence that she learned to read later in life. she ended up in missouri, and before she died, and this is very sad, she dictated her entire life into a manuscript, so she did get a chance to write her story. but it was lost in a boating accident. it was lost in the water. there was no copy of it. and the coda i would add to that is if you open last of the mohicans, any edition, you'll see a preface saying what, he's warning women not to read it.
that it's too -- it's too disturbing or distressing for women to read the story. it's such an irony, such a twist for the story to be drawn from the experience of real women and in particular this one very strong woman, jemima boone, to then be shut out on multiple levels, to not have the skills to read, to not have been given those skills to read, and then to be kind of pushed out of that experience even if she were to be able to read by a warning from the male author. so an interesting way in which the narrative, her true narrative, is dissolved, and i hope in some small way that this book with kind of push that true story back to the foreground. >> definitely. >> it almost sounds like jemima boone warrants a biography of her own outside of the narrative that you have shared in this
book that she sounds fascinating. how old was she when she died? >> i would have to refresh my memory on that, but i believe she was in her 70s. 60s or 70s. so i mean, kind of perfectly normal life span for that point. she was also with daniel boone when he died. he died at her -- i believe at her house, if i'm remembering that correctly, and he, according to accounts, he waited for her to be there and to hold his hand. he was clearly dying, and she was rushing home or maybe it was at her brother's house. there were many siblings in the boone family. some in the same area. so that also just to sort of cap what you brought up, jennifer, the sort of special bond between the father and daughter. >> wow. some of our audience members are confirming that the same actor, and i believe it was fess parker, yeah, fess parker played both. i never put that together. i just did not put that together. >> there you go. that explains at least in part.
>> this is why i love my job so much. so this is for both of you. this is from kevin. he says, do either of you find visiting the locations that the characters of your book existed in helpful in providing the historical narrative? i guess your answer is going to be yes, but let's hear a bit about that. >> candice, do you want to take that first? >> sure, yeah. it's hugely important to me. and like i said, sometimes even if it doesn't explicitly end up in the book, it definitely adds to my understanding of the person and the time in which he or she lived. and yeah, being there, not just in their home but i wrote about winston churchill when he was captured during the war, and being both where he was captured and where he was imprisoned, it still stands, it was a school at
the time that they used as a prisoner of war camp, and now it's a public library. and you can go in and you can go to the room where churchill was kept. the trap door in the floor is still there where they thought about tunnelling their way out. there's still a map on the wall that this was an officers' prison, so they're highly trained cartographers, and they allowed them to draw a map of the war as it progressed, as they got news. that's still up on the wall. it went to -- he hid for three days with these white rats in a coal mine shaft, and the coal is not there anymore, but the shaft is still there where he came out, the british consulate in mozambique is still there. so yeah, it's hugely, hugely important to understanding what these people experienced in trying to express that.
and just somebody who i worked at national geographic for so long, so to me, the little things that really brought the story to life, like i was curious, what was it like for him in this coal mine shaft? i thought it would be tight and dark. but then i talked to people who had worked in these coalries for years and they're like, it's really large. and it smells like pony feces because they would put these poor ponies down there for weeks at a time to work. and so that, again, shaped how i was able to understand what churchill endured and able to describe it. so yes, to me, it's both the best part, the most fun of the job, and i think, at least to me, both as a writer and a reader, the most effective way to then tell the story. >> that's such a great insight, and i think for this particular book, because so little exists
structurally exists from the 1770s in kentucky, it is a different experience because some of what you do get to see is sort of recreations. but also, even just seeing the settings, one place i visited with my son was the spot where the girls were taken. by the tribe. and just standing there on the river and kind of imagining all of those different experiences happening at once, and you know, i think one trick, i don't know, candice, how you handle this, is you only have so many resources for visits to somewhere that you don't live. if you live there, it's different, right? but it's tricky because you don't want to go too early. if you go too early, you don't know all the things you're looking for. >> right, right. >> but if you go too late, you can't go after the book is written because then it's already written. so it's sort of -- it's a challenge in the timing. >> timing.
>> the process. >> definitely. >> when is the perfect time that i'm going to invest both, sometimes financially, but also in terms of your work and your energy, in taking that. i do wonder, certainly it's affected me in some ways in terms of covid and all the challenges with travel for that, how it will affect many writers with this kind of research, whether it's to go to an archive. archives that might be closed. to go to a wonderful place like the mark twain museum and take that. all these things that if you're not living near it or if it's not open, can really alter the course or the timeline for a project. >> absolutely. yeah. >> that was fascinating. thank you. i just want to point out that our dear friend ted is in the audience tonight. he says, fess parker signed a tv deal to do davie crockett for nbc tv, but walt disney would
not release the rights so they changed the character to daniel boone. thank you, ted. >> i should have written about the daniel boone/davie crockett disney battle. >> you really should. next time, next time. so i'm not going to put you on the spot. somebody is asking you if you have a favorite twain book. i never put authors on the spot to talk about mark twain unless either of you have something compelling you would like to say about that. >> i mean, mine would be huck finn, i think, for me. yeah. i just reread it a couple years ago with my daughter, and i remember stopping at one point and saying to her, this is why it's a classic. you know, this writing, you know, you kind of forget. you think, oh, it's a story. it's the writing, too. i mean, it's just so, you know, just so many emotions. you know, wrenching and funny and totally alive and original.
and only mark twain, you know. yeah. that's mine. >> yeah, i'm going to totally get it wrong if i answer now. i would have to think about it. but i do kind of enjoy the camelot. >> oh, yeah. >> king arthur's court. which is my favorite mark twain book. >> is it? there you go. i got it right. candice got it wrong. no, i'm joking. there's obviously no right or wrong because part of what makes him so interesting is also that his range, right? it's that we tend to think of a lot of these writers like twain in one way, but it's always interesting to remind ourselves, i think, of how much they experimented with different types of writing. and you know, whether it's in
that case kind of historical fiction mixed in for twain, and also kind of an allegory, at least my memory of it, an allegory of how we own ideas or kind of inventions and that's in the mix, too, which i always thought was interesting. >> those were amazing answers. i'm glad i did put you on the spot. thank you. can you take one or two more questions? we're kind of running to the end of the program. somebody has asked if you're going to do a reading, matthew. we talked about this earlier. i think we are all looking forward to reading your book. but we have learned on these virtual programs that for authors to read out loud from their work just doesn't really work very well in the virtual platform, so i'm sorry to the reader who asked about that. or to the audience member, but i think that we're going to spare
matthew that experience this evening. >> and i would say even in person, i get a little jittery to read out loud, just because it's -- i always worry that i'm not going to be -- that you're going to be able to read it wo not -- that you're going to be able to read it better than i k so candace and i chatted a little about that. >> that's a really good way to put it. so we talk about mark twain and he got more bitter as he got older and had very good reason to do so, but marcus wants to know how true is it that daniel boon's reputation in being more antisocial as he grew older. is that a thing you know about? >> that is fair. he was always a little on the antisocial side, not that that word would have been applied at the time but if we're thinking about him from our perspective,
it was part of why he was a frontiersman or a frontier leader is that he was constantly pushing away from society and got disgruntled once wherever he was got more populated and was fairly disgruntled with kentucky and the area that is center stage for this story, so always sort of removing himself. you know, in his older age, there was a boy who recounted seeing daniel boon on his porch and saying aren't you getting boon, he said i used to be, and so this public figure, losing it, i think that was built into his personality always. >> great question. >> and that's interesting too,
because mark twain was very conscious of creating this persona, mark twain, that's interesting. i never knew i could be so interested in daniel boon. >> to also tie things together there is this connection between teddy roosevelt that you wrote about in daniel boon, the history of the west, the wedding of the west if i'm getting the title right and in it, he talks about daniel boon and daniel boon is representative of a certain time so it was helpful for me because roosevelt was really eloquent and not that roosevelt has a completely three dimensional view, had his biases, but interested with daniel boon as well. >> so a couple of things.
i want to say that jaque lamar my colleague saved the day and was able to fix the book link. i can't imagine you listened to this conversation and not made a decision to buy this book. so the link, i think you can see it pretty easily in the chat right now. please go ahead and click that link and purchase your signed copy. so one of the things i like to say is that the mark twain house is a writer's home and a home for writers and i hope you guys will consider yourselves members of that family of writers that we surround ourselves with at the twain house. has either of you been to this mark twain house in person? >> my husband and daughter have. i'm very jealous. i have not had an opportunity, but i will, i will plan on it. >> yeah, i think i -- i almost visited. i think i was nearby and it was closed. it was, but it was not closed in general, just it wasn't the
right hours and i realized i was near it. so yes, i'll have to get back there as well. >> please do, both of you, and thank you, this has been absolutely fascinating. and i know our audience has lapped it up. i'm sorry we didn't get to all the questions. i kind of went with questions not easily answered by reading the book. so if you have a burning questioned that would be answered by reading the book, you know what to do. thank you both so much, it's been a great evening. >> thank you so much. >> thank you. >> weekends on c-span2 are an intellectual feast, every saturday, american history tv documents america's story and sundays, book tv brings you the latest of nonfiction books and authors. funding for c span-2 comes from these companies and more, including spark light.
>> our weekly series, the presidency, highlights the politics, policies and legacies of u.s. presidents and first ladies. coming up next, author gary ginsberg talks about the people prominent in american politics and their influence. >> he said, get a dog and we heard at his funeral don rumsfeld had a correllary -- get a small dog. we're joined by gary