Garn Summer Reading Series: David Joseph Kolb, Author of Devil Knows: A Tale of Murder and Madness in America’s First Century

David Joseph Kolb, author of Devil Knows: A Tale of Murder and Madness in America’s First Century. ON SALE, paperback book 20% off on Amazon, $14.35.

Author: David Joseph Kolb
Garn Press (352 pp.)
$14.35 paperback ON SALE on Amazon, $9.99 e-book
ISBN: 978-1-942146-22-3
Paperback Available: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound (local bookstore) | BAM! | INDIGO Books
eBook Available: Amazon

Devil Knows: A Tale of Murder and Madness in America’s First Century

In the dead of night at the height of the 1692 Salem mania, a dying smallpox victim collapses in prison while visiting a witch condemned to hang – Mary Bradbury, the great ancestor of famed writer Ray Bradbury.

A delirious old man, Hopestill Foster, is brought before the Rev. Cotton Mather, the infamous witch-hunter and the most powerful man in ancient Boston, for a very private interrogation. Mather is desperate for answers about Foster’s past because he knows it ties into his own. Better had he not asked. Over the course of the prisoner telling his story to the cleric, 60 years of a terrible history unfolds, at the heart of which is a monstrous secret about Mather’s family that must not be allowed to escape the room where Foster is being held. Hopestill Foster, the novel’s protagonist, a man inured to a lifetime of suffering and one to whom a great wrong was done by him and to him in his youth, ultimately has to decide. Pass on, leaving the wreckage of his life behind, or accept a final deadly mission to make things right. For Hopestill Foster, there is only one choice.

David Joseph Kolb’s Devil Knows: A Tale of Murder and Madness in America’s First Century, a thrilling historical adventure in the grand storytelling tradition ofNorthwest Passage and Drums Along the Mohawk, breaks new literary ground about the very first American century – a nearly forgotten post-Pilgrim past when intolerance, misogyny and ignorance culminated in horrifying outrages against ordinary people. Yet it rediscovers, too, that hope was never lost, and that heroes were always among us.

A Garn Press Readers Theater Performance: Strand Book Store in New York City

David Joseph Kolb – The Context:

Hopestill Foster, the fictional hero of the novel, finds out where the witch-hunters have sequestered his accused family friend Mary Bradbury only to be overcome by the onset of smallpox before he can save her. 

He falls into the hands of the Rev. Cotton Mather, who has been searching for the old man for many years, believing Foster to hold the key to a family mystery that has been plaguing his conscience.

Major Robert Pike, the historical hero of the book, reveals to Foster’s captor, the Rev. Mather, a letter revealing the depths taken to cover up a terrible deed.   Grief and shame overwhelm Mather as he struggles to understand what next must be done.

Chapter Thirty-Two, “Escape of the Witch,” pages 304-06.

“‘You recognize the hand?’  Pike asked, his phrasing again in the poorest Latin.  ‘It is that of Thomas Bradbury, whose writ is known in every public record in Salisbury for its beauty.  But this paper contains not beautiful things, but rather awful deeds.’

“Mather folded his arms in refusal.  ‘What interest would any writing of Thomas Bradbury, the husband of a convicted witch and, I dare say, a suspect himself, hold for me?’

“ ‘This is a fair copy,’ Pike said, holding the papers, ‘of another letter, an original letter, which is here, next to my heart, where it shall remain safe.  Your grandfather John Cotton’s most closely held secret is contained within.’

“Mather bristled in righteous anger.  He pointed a finger at Pike.

“ ‘Theft, a mortal sin!  And I need not quote you chapter and verse, major!’

“For the first time, Pike smiled.  He replied in the King’s good English.

“ ‘I have borrowed what’s needed, which is called necessity, and to which I need not cite the appropriate verse.’  His face darkened again.  ‘Read it, and be quick about it.’ 

“Then he added, ‘but sitting down is my advice.’

“Mather sat as directed.  He read slowly at first, then his eyes narrowed as he devoured the Bradbury copy with a sense of shock and awe such as he had never before experienced, not even once, over the course of a remarkable life filled with a providence of wonders.

“When the minister had finished, his hands dropped to his lap.

“ ‘History will damn me, damn my family,’ Cotton Mather whispered to the room.

“Pike advanced to the stricken, downcast man of God and hunter of witches, tempted to wring his goose-white neck. Instead, he glanced at the poor figure of Hopestill, fussed over by a terrified Tizzoo.

“His good friend, so cruelly abused by time, circumstances and fate, lay inert on the bench, used up, nearly broken.  He returned his gaze to Mather.

“ ‘Aye, history may well damn ye!’ Pike snarled.  ‘But it will not be because of what is in this letter.’

“With that, the old major snatched the Bradbury copy from Mather’s limp hands, crumpled the papers up, and tossed the wad into the flames where the crinkly mass crackled like Devil’s own laughter.

“Before him, Mather, a man he had met three previous times, once as a child prodigy, the second as a young minister and now, in maturity, a powerful icon, was reduced to an empty husk.

“Pike explained in a quiet voice, ‘I don’t care about history.  I care about the present and the people in it.’” 

Book Reviews


“With relentless research, fascinating characters and a great storyteller’s imagination, David Kolb unravels a lingering mystery from the historical horror known as the Salem witch trials.” – Clarence Page, Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist for the Chicago Tribune


“Award-winning journalist David Kolb has created an interwoven tale of the earliest days of American history. In this well-researched story he shows how the earliest inhabitants of New England fought, conspired, loved and lived in the New World.” – John McGarry, CEO, Lakeshore (MI) Museum Center


“The story is well-paced, and the author clearly spent a lot of time and energy on the setting and characters. While you’re reading “Devil Knows”, you temporarily forget about all of the future successes that were to accrue to this nation—you see it as they must have, a small outpost of tenuous civilization, surrounded by an alien and hostile wilderness.” – Amazon Reviews, AMAZON


“He very skillfully introduces us to an engaging character whose life we travel through as the threads of this intricately woven story unravels. The layers of history that we learn about along the way on this suspenseful journey are both surprising and appalling. I could not put this book down until the last page was turned!” – Amazon Reviews, AMAZON


“Devil Knows is an intriguing story creatively woven into actual historical events using actual historical figures. The author presents us with insight into the minds of the early New England colonists as well as the Native Americans inhabitants.” – Amazon Reviews, AMAZON


“What an attention keeper, amazingly written the author writes with suspense, graphics and detail…everyone should read this book.” – Amazon Reviews, AMAZON


“I thoroughly enjoyed reading Devil Knows and gained a more nuanced appreciation for the infamous events of that period. In fact, I felt knee-deep in it. A great story well told.” – Amazon Reviews, AMAZON


“The author has thoroughly researched an early American period and provided insight into a dark chapter in the history of our country, with enough fiction mixed into keep the story intriguing. Plenty of detail and well developed characters keep the history from being dry, and it is fascinating to learn in the afterward how much fact and how little fiction is contained in the story. Great presentation that I highly recommend.” – Amazon Reviews, AMAZON


“Devil Knows captured my interest on page 1 and kept me under its spell to the very end. This is the first time I can remember enjoying a story so much while at the same time coming away from a book feeling like I’d genuinely learned something. Part mystery, part history, totally enthralling!” – Amazon Reviews, AMAZON


“I just finished Devil Knows and it was great! I loved the history, and I have a much clearer understanding of the cultural context of the witch trials. The novel eloquently portrays the conflict of religion and governance, religion and commerce, the Native American Tribes and the tragic arrogance of British and French colonization. Wow! It has everything a good story needs.” – Amazon Reviews, AMAZON

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