In his latest novel, Matthews returns to the 1850s, the time of his novel, Sassafras (Houghton Mifflin Company, 1983). In The Gambler’s Nephew, the reader will enter a world of slavery, abolitionist passion, murder, hypocrisy, grave-robbery, chicanery, holiness, memory, guilt and plain old-fashioned cussedness.
It’s a politically incorrect world of unrepentant capital punishment, when there were plenty of scoundrels just asking to be hanged by the neck until dead, thus coming as close as they could ever get to being civilized. In contrast, however, the reader will come upon the beauty and grandeur of the old steamboats plying the Ohio River, along with people troubled by such grand irrelevancies as love and tenderness. In short, The Gambler’s Nephew brings us a world as richly confused as our own—familiar yet different . . . and as alive as living can get.