Review and Giveaway: Prince of Darkness

November 3, 2015 Uncategorized 27

Review and Giveaway: Prince of DarknessTitle: Prince of Darkness: The Untold Story of Jeremiah G. Hamilton, Wall Street’s First Black Millionaire
Author: Shane White
Links: Amazon|Indiebound |Goodreads

Summary: My best nonfiction read so far this year, this author won me over with his enthusiasm and ability to share uncertainty in an honest and engaging way.

Jeremiah G. Hamilton was, as the subtitle says, the first black millionaire in America. He was also one of the first millionaires in America without qualification, despite incredible racial prejudice at the time. Living in NYC during the abolition of slavery, followed by a period with Jim Crow-style codified discrimination, he still managed to survive and even thrive in the cutthroat world of Wall Street. His involvement in business, trade, real estate, and newspapers makes his life story a fascinating look at a turbulent time in American history.

I’ve read several engaging nonfiction books recently that have left me wanting better citations, such as Devil in the White City, and books like The Witches that haven’t managed to handle uncertainty in an engaging way. This book was an incredible contrast, because the author handled these things perfectly. Every section, from his intro note describing his research process to the sections where he discussed unknowns in Hamilton’s life, were infused with his enthusiasm for the topic. This kept things exciting even when he had to go into the gritty details of what was known and what was conjecture. It made me feel excited to be part of his research process. I’ve never wanted to write a nonfiction book before, but reading about his experience made me want to.

I think the author made some other very wise decisions. The first was that he didn’t try to portray Hamilton as a saint (which may have been hard to do!), but he did make it clear that his shadier business dealings were very much in keeping with the the times. I felt as though the story was a fair portrayal of a complex individual.

The second important decision the author made was to not tie himself too tightly to Hamilton’s story. Although the chapters were generally chronological in Hamilton’s life, the author wandered far afield, tackling a bigger topic connected to Hamilton’s life in each chapter. This could have been an organizational nightmare, but the author kept me interested in every chapter, gave me a greater understanding of the time period, and stayed firmly anchored in Hamilton’s story. I never felt lost and loved learning about everything from fires set by slaves to how the stock market and newspapers operated in the 1800’s. I’d highly recommend it, so I’m very excited to be able to offer a giveaway (US only) from the publisher today 🙂

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27 Responses to “Review and Giveaway: Prince of Darkness”

    • DoingDewey

      I’m not sure if I find it surprising he was forgotten or not. For all that he interacted with Vanderbilt, he didn’t achieve quite the same level of success. He does seem like a fascinating individual though!

  1. Naomi

    Great review! I’ve never heard of this guy before, and I’m wondering why. I like that the author strays a little from just Hamilton, and puts it in a historical context. I never thought I’d want to read about a guy getting rich through the stock market!
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    • DoingDewey

      I find it amazing the topics a good author can make interesting! It seems as though Hamilton has just been forgotten and I appreciated the author’s passion for sharing his story.

    • DoingDewey

      It seems as though a lot of his money came from shady deals and scamming insurance companies or other people! He was also in court a lot, both suing people and being sued. He wasn’t the most upstanding of citizens, but at the time, it doesn’t seem like his behavior was very much outside of the norm for businessmen either.

    • DoingDewey

      I’m glad! I thought it was incredibly well done, so if you’re interested in it, I think it’s like to be a book you’d really enjoy 🙂

    • DoingDewey

      There was one part where there were riots because there were drafts that didn’t include black people, stirring up a lot of resentment. With that exception it seems as though Hamilton probably encountered a lot of racism in his daily life and he certainly had to deal with racism in newspaper articles about him, but there wasn’t anything overt or scary. So it wasn’t intense in that way, at least. It was a really great read though and definitely kept my interest 🙂

    • DoingDewey

      They aren’t usually my thing either, but that didn’t make me enjoy this any less! Even the bits that were just about how the stock market worked back in the day kept my interest. This is an author I’ll be keeping an eye on 🙂

    • DoingDewey

      That is too bad! The guidelines are from the publisher on this one, so it has to be US only. I hope you’re able to get a copy anyway 🙂

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