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Fiction Review     

Lord Baltimore
by Stephen Doster
John F. Blair, 2002
$22.95 (360p)
ISBN: 0-89587-264-1

Stephen Doster may have written a literary classic in his debut novel Lord Baltimore.  Rich with literary allusions, packed with adventure, blended with superstition and humor, the fictional memoir of a modern day young man discovering survival skills on the road makes for great escape. 

Fearing his son will not be prepared for the world and wanting him to follow the family tradition of adventurous journeys to manhood, Ensworth Hardling's father abandons him on a coastal Georgia road with instructions to deliver a letter to Savannah.  Seventeen year-old Ensworth is used to comfort, money and life among the country club set.  On foot with a backpack and a hundred dollars, Ensworth must find his way from St. Simons Island to Savannah without contacting his family or turning back, which would mean disinheritance.   

As he treks up the coastal highway, he comes across a cigar-smoking Englishman who becomes his companion, guide and mentor – Lord Baltimore.  Together they observe a drug drop and exchange of money involving the local sheriff.  Much of the adventure involves trying to avoid capture by the corrupt sheriff and setting a trap to bring justice.   

Ensworth and Lord Baltimore spend time on Zapala, a Gullah island off the coast of Georgia, and Ensworth is exposed to voodoo, superstitions and ghosts.  The island is rich in philosophy from the witch doctor, the Latin-speaking descendent of local slaves, and Lord Baltimore himself.  The island becomes a place of life lessons for Ensworth as much as the journey itself is.   

Along the way, Ensworth goes to a political rally and a traveling healing preacher tent show.  He becomes partners with a golf con artist, meets a young prostitute with a baby, then befriends the baby’s father who is also running from the same sheriff.  Ensworth survives a hurricane while on a houseboat, then is shanghaied at the port of Savannah. 

The young naïve man that started this journey is prepared to face life’s battles by journey’s end.   

Joyce Dixon
Southern Scribe Reviews

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