Nationwide — On Feb. 7, 1989, writer Mike Jordan’s 92-year-old great-grandmother called him over to her lounge chair and said she had something very important to tell him. The Bohannans of Bohannan Mountain, Ark., she said, secretly hid escaped slaves before and during the Civil War and nursed them back to good health, then got them off on their way toward Canada and freedom.
They were, she said, part of the Underground Railroad. But, she said, few people knew it or talked about it. Because he was a writer, she urged her great-grandson to track the story down and write about it.
One week later, on Feb. 14, 1989, Valentine’s Day, Jordan’s great-grandmother passed away.
The result of that conversation, all these years later, is The Freedom Song, a just-released novel, based on a true story, that tells the story from both the perspective of the Bohannans and the escaped slaves they helped at Lakeport Plantation in Southeastern Arkansas.
The Freedom Song is the second book in the author’s Lost Heroes Series. Crockett’s Coin, the first installment that launches the story from a Tennessee perspective, was also released this summer. The books can be purchased on mikejordanbooks.com, at Amazon.com, or at any book outlet around the world.
Reviewer Stephanie Baker, the first professional reviewer to read The Freedom Song, gave it her highest ratings (A+) in overall readability and content, and a letter grade of “A” for writing and story line.
“I was particularly moved by the main female characters, one white and one slave,” Baker wrote. “Winnie is a strong matriarch who is loving and loyal… a strong force and lifesaver to many in the community. Mary is somewhat of a mixture of virtually every woman: she is at times a part of the white plantation owner’s realm because she serves as a model, literally, for the plantation owner’s wife.
“Mary is also part black, so there is her African heritage, which ties in with the novel’s title, The Freedom Song. She is young, yet has an old soul due to her past experiences as a young orphan. She is feminine, yet has strength and convictions.”
Jordan, an award-winning writer who is professor emeritus at Pepperdine University, was thrilled with the review.
“When you are a writer it is more than just the story, it is the hope that your readers are moved and inspired by the characters and the storylines and connect with what you had in your mind and in your heart,” Jordan said. “This reviewer got it, and I was thrilled and humbled.”
Baker cited the major themes in The Freedom Song, as “religion, romance, politics, racism, war, psychological conflicts, loyalty and true friendship.”
The reviewer also loved the character Nancy Green, calling her “a young orphan who is an angelic character who saves John, one of Henderson’s sons from suicide, and who seems a genius who always imparts wisdom.”
Baker hailed the characterization of Jordan’s villains, the Fergusons. “Jake (Ferguson) loves snakes and loves to scare people with them even more. He terrorizes Champ (Ferguson) with snakes, but the two remain companions of sorts throughout the novel.”
The plotlines, Baker wrote, are “wonderfully complex,” citing the James Brooks character and especially the two Marys in the beginning of the novel. “This cute, yet seemingly insignificant matter serves as a catalyst for later events in the novel.”
Crockett’s Coin, the first book in Jordan’s series, tells the story of many of the same characters when they lived in Tennessee, as children and teens. It is also available at mikejordan.com, Amazon.com or any book outlet around the world.
The MikeJordanBooks.com website was highlighted by Amazon.com Createspace team members as having unique features for readers of fiction, including a patent-pending interactive author-reader process called “Coffee Break.”
“Coffee Break” pages are integrated into both the paperback version and the Kindle version of Jordan’s novels that direct readers to chatrooms to discuss the book with the author and other readers while they are still reading the book.
The website also includes a “Photo Gallery” feature allowing readers to view photos of the people and places in Jordan’s novels while they are reading, and a “Back Story” page that lets the reader in on Jordan’s writing and researching process and explains the original ideas that led to his books.
The story of Jordan’s research and writing of both novels is a dramatic tale of perseverance and discovery that resulted in the award-winning journalist and professor emeritus of journalism at Pepperdine University traipsing all over Tennessee and Arkansas.
On the “Back Story” section of MikeJordanBooks.com, Jordan tells a personal story of how he discovered that the mansion at Lakeport Plantation was still standing.
Norma Chancellor and her late husband Harrell, who still lived on Bohannan Mountain, five miles west of Huntsville in the Ozarks, told Jordan that the slaves who came to Bohannan Mountain were from the plantations of the Delta Lands of Southeastern Arkansas and specifically mentioned Lakeport.
“In 1998, I decided I should travel down to where this Lakeport Plantation was and walk the walk – continuing my research for The Freedom Song,” Jordan explained. “I was sure any remnants of the old plantation probably were long gone, but at least I could walk along the Mississippi River and get a good feel for it.
“I checked into a little motel in Lake Village in Chicot County, then headed out toward where the plantation was located. Imagine my shock – and joy – when I discovered that the Lakeport mansion still stood after all these years. I was delirious with excitement.”
Jordan continues that story, and how he came to interview the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of slaves who toiled at Lakeport, on www.mikejordanbooks.com.
The research at Lakeport ends on a high note. The boarded up and dilapidated old mansion there was donated to Arkansas State University in the mid-2000s and the mansion has been restored to its original grandeur as a museum, open to the public. An in-depth website, http://lakeport.astate.edu, displays the results of the four-year restoration.
Jordan’s next novel in the series, The Runner, also set at Lakeport and at Bohannan Mountain in the Ozarks, is due in 2018.