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Review - Defying Conventions, by Joseph W. Knowles

Skinny87

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awww yeah, thanks @AndyC for posting this!

Not every day we get an American War of Independence-period Alternate History legal thriller (that's a hell of a sentence) - and I'm excited for people to find this title

I think this is one of the most subtle pieces of counter-factual fiction that I've ever come across - and also highly skilled, because Knowles brings in some detailed concepts about the different views on the development of the American Constitution, and it's all very easy to understand and see how it affects history when the timeline changes
 

Walpurgisnacht

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that Assassins Creed DLC where George Washington becomes a Monarchical Tyrant Because Reasons
TBF, there is a reason, it's just got something to do with the whole mess with the Pieces of Eden and the Knights Templar and whatever.

When I first heard the name of that DLC I thought 'interesting, it's exploring the discontent of the more rebellious parts of the Revolution at the increasing centralised-by-necessity US government, and how ultimately Washington has become just as much a figure that power concentrates into as King George'. Except no, it's just 'and then Washington builds a giant pyramid with his face on it'.

To bring this back round to the original subject, I like how, since the murder sparks the whole plot off, it is effectively an AH story taking place immediately after the PoD, an interesting style you don't see much of.
 

Skinny87

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This is the first book you've reviewed that I've immediately purchased afterwards. Looking forward to reading it!
This is awesome! Can't wait to hear your thoughts on it!
 

JosephK

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To bring this back round to the original subject, I like how, since the murder sparks the whole plot off, it is effectively an AH story taking place immediately after the PoD, an interesting style you don't see much of.
And that could be a function of this story being my first real stab at AH. It was actually this book about the election that pitted James Madison against James Monroe that got the creative juices flowing.
 

Skinny87

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@JosephK Welcome to the SLP forums!

I was wondering - would you mind answering a few questions about Defying Conventions?

I must admit, I'm interested to know what your background is as a writer, and what led you to write an Alternate History Legal/Constitutional thriller!
 

JosephK

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@JosephK Welcome to the SLP forums!

I was wondering - would you mind answering a few questions about Defying Conventions?

I must admit, I'm interested to know what your background is as a writer, and what led you to write an Alternate History Legal/Constitutional thriller!
I’d be glad to!

As far as my background goes I’d only had a short story published before Defying Conventions. I started writing the novel itself for NaNoWriMo a few years ago. I graduated law school and got my license to practice law in 2007, so that’s a big part of the reason that the legal/constitutional issues interest me.
 

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To bring this back round to the original subject, I like how, since the murder sparks the whole plot off, it is effectively an AH story taking place immediately after the PoD, an interesting style you don't see much of.
Indeed, the only other example I can think of offhand is Eric Flint's The Rivers of War, and that's a more conventional war 'n' politics adventure.

Welcome to the forum @JosephK
 

Skinny87

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I’d be glad to!

As far as my background goes I’d only had a short story published before Defying Conventions. I started writing the novel itself for NaNoWriMo a few years ago. I graduated law school and got my license to practice law in 2007, so that’s a big part of the reason that the legal/constitutional issues interest me.
Well, that background certainly makes sense for the direction the novel takes.

Avoiding spoilers, I think it would be fair to say that the level of detail you've added for the characters in Defying Conventions, and especially the complex legal, constitutional, and moral issues involved in the narrative, aren't necessarily things that would come up in the average history book pulled off of the shelves of Barnes and Noble or even Amazon.

How did you come to write about an alternate Constitutional Convention? And what kind of research did you need to do to develop the plot of the novel? My impression was that you have an incredibly in-depth knowledge of the issues surrounding this period.
 

JosephK

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How did you come to write about an alternate Constitutional Convention? And what kind of research did you need to do to develop the plot of the novel? My impression was that you have an incredibly in-depth knowledge of the issues surrounding this period.
I've actually been intrigued for a long time about the idea of what would have happened if the United States had somehow continued under the Articles of Confederation.

To the extent that the average American knows anything about the 1787 convention the typical view is that everyone just knew that the Articles were a failure and needed to be tossed out. But when you start reading contemporary sources (sources other than the pro-ratification Federalist Papers) you find that the story is quite different. For instance, a lot of people probably only know about Patrick Henry as the "give me liberty or give me death" speech guy, not as a Governor of Virginia and opponent of ratification of the new Constitution. So when I read more about him, I knew I wanted to work him in to the story somehow.

Over the years I've read a fair bit from the Antifederalist Papers, along with some of the ratification debates that took place in the various state legislatures (available online in various places). Then there have been miscellaneous essays and articles I've come across along the way that have come at the topic from different angles. One of the things that I think helped was that in law school we actually had to read primary documents from the time period of the debate and ratification of the Constitution for my course on Constitutional Law (although that kind of assignment is not typical in most American law schools). I think I had enough of a general background in the history that doing research for the book
 
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