Born Blind

Can an idealistic slave-holding lawyer overcome his brother’s treasonous ambition and avert the Civil War through the brilliance of his blind slave and the power of the Supreme Court?

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“Riddle’s novel intriguingly explores its themes of legality and justice.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Skillful writing and an extraordinary idea.” – Amazon reviewer

“An illuminating and informative novel of the pre-civil war.” – Amazon reviewer

“The central characters were well developed and compelling. Riddle is a very vivid writer!” – Amazon reviewer

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Note to readers:

I have gotten several inquiries about the nature of historical fiction, and the distinction between fact and fiction. I have distilled my responses to these questions with respect to my own book into three points that might be useful as you read.

  • My premise is, of course, fiction, but most of the action in the book is based on historical fact.
  • All characters in the book are historical figures except the Scott family and their slaves. The dialogue for all characters is imagined, except for that appearing in historical documents.
  • All text in italics are quotes from historical documents except for the letters exchanged between the Scott brothers, which are fictional but which deal mostly with historical events.

I have gotten other questions about the inspiration for this work. As a lawyer, I started with the nagging question of why the issue of secession was never litigated. I asked a few knowledgeable colleagues the question and was met with blank stares. I then began consulting a long list of books to continue seeking an answer to the question. Surprisingly, I found no discussion of the scenario – none. So I decided to create one myself, based on my own legal background and somewhat obsessive interest.

Here is a list of some of the works I consulted before publication, and those that I continue to read as I work on the sequel. I will post more information about my characters and the process of mixing fact with fiction as I continue to write.

  1. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Frederick Douglass
  2. Confederates in the Attic, Tony Horowitz
  3. Spying on the South, Tony Horowitz
  4. We Have the War Upon Us, William Cooper
  5. The Impending Conflict, David Potter
  6. Lady First, Amy Greenberg
  7. The Unvanquished, William Faulkner
  8. Secession on Trial, Cynthia Nicoletti
  9. Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
  10. The Bondwoman’s Narrative, Hannah Crafts
  11. Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker, Jennifer Chiverina
  12. Top 100 Constitutional Law Cases, ed. AudioLegal Team
  13. We Hold These Truths, Mortimer Adler
  14. Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet B. Stowe
  15. These Truths, Jill LePore
  16. Lincoln and the Chief Justice, James Simon
  17. Lincoln and the Decision for War, Russell McLintock
  18. Sarah Childress Polk, a biography, Bumgarner
  19. William G. Brownlow, Coulter
  20. San Antonio – A Tricentennial History, Miller
  21. Heart of the Valley, a History of Knoxville, Deaderick, ed.
  22. The Road to Disunion!, William Freehling
  23. Robert E. Lee, Roy Blount, Jr.
  24. Ratification, Pauline Maier
  25. We the States, VA Comm. on Const. Gov’t
  26. The Federalist Papers,
  27. “John Catron and Jacksonian Jurisprudence,” Allen
  28. “Tennessee Reaction to Nullification,” Bergeron
  29. “The Use of the Federal Injunction in Constitutional Litigation,” Lockwood
  30. “Party Politics and the Debate Over the Tennessee Negro Bill,” So. Hist. Journal
  31. “When Can a State Sue the U.S., 101 Cornell Law Rev. 851
  32. History of the Supreme Court, Peter Irons
  33. “The Lost History of the Political Question Doctrine,” Grove, NY Law Rev.
  34. “Political Questions, Public Rights, and Sovereign Immunity” Note 130 Hou. Law Rev. 723
  35. “Supreme Court Justices: A biographical dictionary”, Hall
  36. “Pioneers, Patriots and Politicians: The Tennessee Militia System, 1772-1857”, Smith
  37. Beloved, Toni Morrison
  38. The Real Lincoln, Thomas DiLorenzo
  39. “John C. Calhoun and the Secession Movement of 1850”, Am. Antiq. Soc., April, 1918
  40. Letters of a Nation, A. Carroll, ed.
  41. Sweet Taste of Liberty, Caleb McDaniel
  42. Worst. President. Ever., Roberty Strauss
  43. Midnight Rising, Tony Horowitz
  44. Presidents of War, Michael Beschloss
  45. A Disease of the Public Mind, Thomas Fleming
  46. This Vast Southern Empire, Matthew Karp
  47. The Saddest Words, William Faulkner’s Civil War, Michael Gorra
  48. “Baseball and the White House in the Nineteenth Century,” http://www.whitehousehistory.org.
  49. Summoned to Glory, The Audacious Life of Abraham Lincoln, Richard Striner
  50. “The Buchanan-Douglas Feud”, Auchampaugh, Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society (1908-1984)Vol. 25, No. 1/2 (Apr. – Jul., 1932), pp. 5-48
  51. Without Precedent, The Life of John Marshall, Joel Richard Paul
  52. Apostles of Disunion, Charles Dew
  53. “William Henry Bissell”, Journal of Illinois State Historical Society, Vol. 36, No. 1 (Mar., 1943)
  54. “Thematic Survey of Springfield’s African-American Community,” Mansberger and Stratton, Springfield Historic Sites Commission (2018)
  55. Calhoun, American Heretic, Robert Elder (An outstanding biography of one of the Nation’s ablest politicians and deepest thinkers, whose legacy was heretofore more tainted by his racism than was the legacies of his contemporaries, perhaps unfairly.)
  56. The War Before the War, Andrew Delbanco
  57. “The Strangely Insignificant Role of the U. S. Supreme Court During the Civil War,” Jonathan W. White, Journal of the Civil War Era (Vol. 3, No. 2, June, 2013)
  58. “A Conservative in Lincoln’s Cabinet: Edward Bates of Missouri”, University of Missouri, St. Louis, ILR@UMSL, Mark Alan Neels, Thesis (May 12, 2009)
  59. Speech of Senator Stephen Douglas, Senate Floor, January 3, 1861, Congressional Globe,
  60. “Stopping Time: The Pro-Slavery and ‘Irrevocable’ Thirteenth Amendment”, A. Christopher Bryant, U. of Cincinnati College of Law Scholarship and Publications, 2003
  61. Life and Speeches of Thomas Corwin: Orator, Lawyer and Statesman, 1896 (ed., Josiah Morrow)
  62. “Presenting the Case for the United States as it Should Be: The Office of Solicitor General in Historical Context,” Seth P. Waxman, lecture before the Supreme Court Historical Society, June 1, 1998
  63. Lincoln on the Verge, Ted Widmer
  64. The Civil War as a Theological Crisis, Mark Noll
  65. Decision in Philadelphia, Christopher Collier and James Lincoln Collier
  66. History of the Lost State of Franklin, Samuel Cole Williams
  67. Absalom, Absalom!, William Faulkner (still the greatest American novel, after at least a dozen readings)
  68. On Augustine, Rowan Williams (dense but profound in many respects)
  69. Living Wisely With the Church Fathers, Christopher Hall
  70. Summoned to Glory, The Audacious Life of Abraham Lincoln, Richard Striner (author is audacious, too)
  71. The Tender Bar, JR Moehringer (a pinnacle of the memoir genre for American writers)
  72. Without Precedent, The Life of John Marshall, Joel Richard Paul (predictably admiring of Marshall, and surprisingly critical of Jefferson, but Paul makes a compelling case for both opinions.)
  73. Apostles of Disunion, Charles Dew (eye-opening historical record)
  74. The Mansion, William Faulkner (my favorite of the Snopes trilogy)
  75. Fish Out of Water, A Search for the Meaning of Life, Eric Metaxas (I met and spent time with the author a few years ago at a conference; his is a very important voice in America today, but I am not yet sure what to think of this work.)
  76. The Morning Watch, James Agee (a nearly perfect novella, in my opinion; I am grateful to Patrick Gahan for introducing me to this work.)
  77. A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway (still trying to decide about Hemingway’s true place in literature’, but this work is a good sample for one wanting to understand his approach to the craft of writing)
  78. Calhoun, American Heretic, Robert Elder
  79. The War Before the War, Andrew Delbanco
  80. Our Man in Havana, Graham Greene
  81. Lincoln on the Verge, Ted Widmer
  82. Greenlights, Matthew McConaughey
  83. The Civil War as a Theological Crisis, Mark Noll
  84. The Saddest Words, William Faulkner’s Civil War, Michael Gorra
  85. History of the Lost State of Franklin,
  86. My Reading Life, Pat Conroy
  87. Decision in Philadelphia, J. Collier and S. Collier
  88. A Potter’s Vessel, Riddle (pre-publication review)
  89. The Coming Fury, Bruce Catton
  90. Light in August, William Faulkner
  91. Polk, The Man who Transformed the Presidency and America, Walter Borneman