Desperate Sons tells the story of the group known as the Sons of Liberty. When one thinks of the beginnings of the American Revolution, events such as the Boston Masacre, the Boston Tea Party, Paul Revere’s midnight ride, and Lexington and Concord spring readily to mind. Individuals such as Jefferson, Washington, John and Sam Adams are familiar as well; but how many people think of the group known as the Sons of Liberty? For many, the Sons of Liberty are a nebulous force that we know helped bring about the American Revolution, but putting our finger on exactly what they did can be difficult. Desperate Sons works to bring light to the group, “who propelled the country to the breaking point”.
Standiford, opens the book with an example of the anger over the Stamp Act and how that played out in the life of Henry Van Schaack who many thought was eager to be appointed the local tax collector. In telling the story, Standiford does an excellent job in providing the reader with the background into the passage of the Stamp Act, as well as the ugly reception it received in the colonies.
But this isn’t a book about the Stamp Act, nor is it about Albany. Desperate Sons weaves its way throughout the colonies taking the reader to Boston, New York, South Carolina and throughout the colonies. The reader is also provided with insights as to the events taking place in London and Parliament as both colony and mother country struggle over taxes.
Desperate Sons is an excellent read. Standiford uses his skills in creative writing to present the historical drama that unfolds in a gripping way. Along the journey he presents the big stories such as the aforementioned background about the Stamp Act, as well as lesser known anecdotes (the origins of tarring and feathering for example). In addition, Standiford does make references to todays events making the book relatable (though potentially outdatable). One criticism is a seemingly misplaced reference to Andrew Johnson in discussing the separation of the social classes in the colonial period. Other than that, Desperate Sons is a well written book that presents a side of the origins of the American Revolution that few others have.
Desperate Sons was written by Les Standiford who is the director of the creative writing program at Florida International University. While not trained as an academic historian (he holds a B.A. in Psychology and an M.A. and Ph.D in Creative Writing) he has written several books of historical narrative before.