"God and whiskey have got me where I am. Too little of the one, too much of the other."
—David King, 1895.

Born a slave in 1847, but raised as a free man by the Reverend William King, David has rebelled against his emancipator and his predestined future in the church. He’s taken up residence in the nearby town of Chatham, made a living robbing graves, and now presides—in the company of a German ex-prostitute named Loretta—over an illegal after-hours tavern.

These days that final, violent confrontation with Reverend King seems like a lifetime ago. The residents of Chatham know David as a God-cursing, liquor-slinging, money-having man-about-town, famously educated and fabulously eccentric. And he seems to be more-or-less happy … that is, until the death of Reverend King brings his past crashing down upon him.

Inspired by the Elgin Settlement, which by 1852 housed 75 free black families and was studied by Lincoln and Harriet Beecher Stowe, David is a fiery look at one man’s quest for knowledge and forgiveness, and a moving portrait of life after the Underground Railroad.

Ray Robertson is the author of Why Not? Fifteen Reasons to Live.