Published by Simon & Schuster, Wyndham Books in 1980. Excellent reviews followed from around the country. Then the novel,Ebb Of The River, was condemned by the marketing department of Simon & Schuster as "racially accurate but tough ... disqualifying it for use in corporate promotions."Mark Twain's novel Huckleberry Finn had the same fate. Ebb Of The River is now a collector's book.
Chase Ezekiel Kellum was raised on a small farm in Calvert County, Maryland in the '40s and early '50s. Kellum was known as "Ebb" in those days, a willowy - framed lad who found mischief on every corner and a purpose in every star. Listening to nature had inspired Kellum to an unorthodox life and led him through an unusual labyrinth of events that would culminate in what he termed "finding himself." Nature became Kellum's steward, and he would recall events that would explain his eccentricities and metaphorically characterize a time between the years 1943 and 1945.
Kellum's favorite place on earth is Solomons Island, Maryland, a cozy little fishing village nestled at the mouth of the Patuxent River where it flows into the Chesapeake Bay. He talks often in fond memory of "a time" and of his favorite subject, his boyhood chums, Fasso, an overstuffed Galiathan, who "really" has a good heart; Topper, an under stuffed, half-bred Powhatan Indian who believes everything Kellum says; Capt. Poe, the town's patriarch who teaches Kellum about life; and Bodecker (Bo), a black boy from Shanty who shows Kellum "the other side" of life.
Kellum explains everything in terms of childhood shenanigans - lessons learned and stored in that naive, carefree landscape of the mind. "Bigger than life events" he explains. Chase Ezekiel Kellum, better known as Ebb, is an orphan brought up by his stern, loving grandmother and uncle in a clapboard house atop Periwinkle Hill in the 1940s. Ebb's life is an exhilarating series of pranks and chores, strawberry festivals and squirrel hunts. As we join Ebb on his rowboat trips down the river, or on his wide-eyed rambles thought the backwoods, we see a boy begin to grow up, to dream about the future and to make a lifetime friend in a young black boy, William "Bo" Bodecker.
The drama of the story comes with the arrival of the Barnum and Bailey Circus to Prince Frederick, Maryland when Ebb and Bo run away for a day to join the circus. It is this day that they learn the unjust boundaries the adult world imposes on an interracial friendship when they discover Chickabee Wilson, a black man who has taken a job in a side show as "the ghoul." They witness the man locked in a cage and fed live chickens. The black man is virtually enslaved by circumstance. He is beaten by the circus foreman, P. Gress, and kept imprisoned. The ghoul escapes, and his freedom terrorizes the island. Bodies are discovered, amongst whom, Bo is thought to be a victim. Fear paralyzes the people as reports spread through the land about Chickabee Wilson, the "killer." The ghoul is doomed. A courtroom drama follows which tests friendships and convictions, uncovers prejudices and wrong doings, and proves the innocence of Chickabee Wilson who has wrongfully been killed by the town's vigilantes. Bo is found alive, and like the tide, life goes on at its unpredictable pace. The river, whatever its potential treachery, is easier for Ebb to understand than the island's perplexing human relationships. Despite its hardships the town is united by a series of events that take place after the inquest. It is comedy that soothes the bitterness of struggle as friendships, religion and tradition bring a community together.