Winner, Violet Crown Award for Fiction by a Texas Author
Silver Medal Winner, Independent Publisher Book Awards
Finalist, Foreword Magazine’s Book of the Year Awards
By October 1809, Meriwether Lewis was a man in trouble. A national hero along with friend and co-captain William Clark after his return from the Pacific Expedition in 1806, he should have been well placed for future greatness. But beset by backbiting subordinates and the plotting of Gen. James Wilkinson, he descended into alcoholism, disease, and possibly madness.
Lewis set out in September to journey to Federal City (then the name of Washington, DC) and died mysteriously en route, about 50 miles from Memphis. Learning his friend was in trouble, Will Clark tried to help but came too late. Was Lewis murdered by Wilkinson’s agents?
First-time novelist Hunter spins an imaginative tale of what might have happened during the last month of Lewis’s life that is authentic in detail and shows both the flaws and the virtues of these legends of American history.
Only one thing bothered this reviewer: Hunter couldn’t decide whether Lewis and Clark, supposedly two of the greatest friends in American history, were on a first-name basis. [Note: Their letters reveal they called each other Lewis and Clark, not Merry and Bill. Which we thought was just as well. — Frances]
This quibble aside, the book is highly recommended for all historical fiction collections.[This first offering from Blind Rabbit Press coincides with the 200th anniversary of Louis and Clark’s return to St. Louis. Ed.] Ken St. Andre, Phoenix P.L. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Roundup Magazine (Western Writers of America)
Who shot Meriwether Lewis, His Excellency, Governor of the Territory of Upper Louisiana on the Natchez Trace in October, 1809, barely three years after he, along with his friend and co-captain, William Clark, were national heroes? Or did anyone shoot him? Was it murder or suicide? What turned a strong, beloved hero into a debt-ridden, fawning drunk? Did the ambitious, amoral James Wilkerson [Wilkinson] attempt to ensnare Lewis in his traitorous plans to form a separate empire, or is that another historical rumor that lacks an underpinning of fact? If true, how did Lewis react? Did he turn down Wilkerson and write Clark, warning his old friend of Wilkerson’s treachery against the United States?
This first novel is a blending of fact and fiction that can be described as a historical whodunit, but it is so much more. It is the story of a desperately ill, desperately depressed man who has accomplished great things, and who seeks his own redemption at a terrible cost. It is also the story of friendship between Meriwether Lewis and William Clark; friendship betrayed between William Clark and his slave, York; and love between William Clark and his wife, Julia. It is the story of bravery, of honor betrayed and honor redeemed, and the undeniable truth that great men possess great flaws as well as great strengths.
Frances Hunter’s characterization of Lewis, Clark, York, Julia, and Wilkerson are superb, truly astonishing accomplishments for a first novelist, or any novelist for that matter. Her settings are lovingly described, and the skillful plotting that blends the facts that we know, the facts that we suspect, and the fiction that is the mark of a great imagination, is remarkable. To Liz and Mary Clare, sisters writing under the name of Frances Hunter, bravo and welcome to two bright new stars of Western fiction!
Midwest Book Review
Frances Hunter is a pen name for two sisters, Liz and Mary Clare, who wrote “To The Ends of The Earth: The Last Journey of Lewis & Clark” together. It deals with the course of the relationship between Lewis and Clark and the mysterious death of Lewis in 1809, shot in a lonely inn on the Natchez Trace. Timed for release on September 23, 2006, “To The Ends of The Earth” will mark the end of the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial. “To the Ends of The Earth” is both a historical novel and a gripping mystery.
It begins where the great expedition of 1803-1806 ends, with Lewis and Clark receiving kudos, fame, and political appointments. Lewis is appointed governor of Louisiana Territory, a virtual kingdom in size, and Clark becomes the Indian superintendent and militia general for the Louisiana Territory. Life in St. Louis, the center from which they operate, is colorful and unregulated in the extreme. While Clark, the more stable of the two, manages to marry well and begin to court financial success, Lewis finds the reality of post-Expedition fame less than palatable, and he sinks into a frightening disintegration of mental illness and alcoholism. The story turns on the relationship between Clark and Lewis, and also the relationship between Clark and York, his companion and slave since childhood.
“To the Ends of the Earth” is full of gritty historical detail and raw imagery that rings true across the years. “To The Ends of The Earth” is historical fiction at its best, pulling the reader in and re-engaging the mind and imagination in the drama that occurred 200 years ago.
Historical Novels Review Online
This story begins in 1809 St. Louis, three years after Lewis and Clark finish their expedition to the Pacific coast. It is a time of heavy responsibility for Lewis, as governor of Upper Louisiana. Political intrigue and personal demons dog his heels as he tries to keep Clark free from the influence of evil men such as James Wilkinson. Lewis, in desperation, finally decides that he must take his beloved journals to Thomas Jefferson by way of the Natchez Trace. While it is true that Lewis died on the Natchez Trace, the author completely fictionalizes the particulars of the trip, yet makes her theory very plausible.
In this book, Hunter attempts to explain the mystery surrounding Lewis’s death in the wilderness, yet, the story is more than a whodunit. It is also an exploration of Lewis and Clark’s legendary friendship and Clark’s effort to save Lewis from a tortured fate. The story explores the personal tensions in these great men’s lives, the political tensions rocking the United States in that era, and recreates the raucous atmosphere of the early 1800s.
The author gets the feel of the era right, making her own judgments about the hot-headed Clark and the ravaged Lewis. The story is one for readers who love adventure, interesting settings, a little romance, blood and gore, and characters who live life largely. It is a page-turner until the end and leaves one yearning to know more about Lewis’s mental health and the first journey that Lewis and Clark so successfully took together. – Naomi Theye
Roundup Magazine (Western Writers of America)
Untangling the mysterious death of one of history’s most celebrated explorers, Meriwether Lewis, has occupied historians since the Voyage of Discovery. Frances Hunter’s stunning, award-winning novel, To the Ends of the Earth, combines meticulous research with a fast-paced narrative based on intriguing speculation into the motives of durable historical characters. Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and James Wilkinson come to life in this extremely skillful novel as Lewis sets off to deliver to President Thomas Jefferson all the material gathered on his and Clark’s seminal voyage. A collection of rogues, some working at cross-purposes, are bent on stopping him.
Parallel to the reader’s anxiety for Lewis’s safety is a developing dread that the precious documents of Lewis and Clark’s historic exploration will be lost forever. Realistically, one knows for a fact they were preserved, but Hunter achieves that elusive goal for all novelists–that the reader suspends disbelief. Hunter teases the reader with the implications of the destruction of the entire collection of papers.
WWA members should take note of Hunter’s fine technique for creating compelling historical fiction without research paralyzing the story. To the Ends of the Earth lends an incredible sense of authenticity to characters and circumstances; readers will be convinced just such words were spoken and every scene actually occurred.
To the Ends of the Earth won the Writers’ League of Texas 2007 Violet Crown Award and a silver medal for historical fiction in the 2007 Independent Publisher “IPPY” Book Awards.
In 1809, three years after returning from the greatest adventure of their lives, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark find themselves serving politically appointed positions in St. Louis. Clark, at least, has established a family, having married the girl of his dreams and grown accustomed to a more settled life. Lewis, however, has languished in his new role as Governor of the Louisiana Territory. More suited to the rugged life of an explorer than to political intrigue, Lewis makes an enemy of the wrong man and is subsequently compelled to travel to Federal City, where he hopes to defend his actions to the Secretary of War. This will be the last journey of Lewis’s life, a terrible trek across treacherous lands where he will endure hostile companions, fight off attack by assassins, and face his own inner demons. A few days travel behind him follows his faithful friend William Clark, called out from the haven of his home by a desperate plea – striving to catch up to Lewis in time to save him.
Author Frances Hunter (in truth, two sisters writing under one name) has pried the famous duo of Lewis and Clark off the pages of history and breathed true life into them. Between the pages of this stunning book, we meet two real men, fully realized and believable characters who just happen to be the most famous explorers in American history. Although we first meet Lewis as a broken and tormented has-been with a ruined reputation, readers get periodic glimpses of the man he once was, the heroic and seemingly indestructible leader of the Corps of Discovery of the Northwest Territory. His stalwart friend William Clark is almost larger than life, but unmistakably human in his faults – particularly in the way he overlooks his friend’s shortcomings and in the way he treats his slaves. York is present, too, and although many modern history texts tend to sanitize reality by describing York as a valued member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, Frances Hunter reminds us that even after that valiant accomplishment, he was still Clark’s slave. Other characters brought to life include Lewis’s faithful dog Seaman and the mysterious Major Neelly, whose secret loyalties and possible role in Lewis’s death remain uncertain until the end.
To the Ends of the Earth is an example of independent publishing at its finest. Impeccable editing, compelling writing, and a believable interpretation of a famous historical mystery make this one of the best independently published novels I have read. I admit that the first couple of chapters, heavily weighted in political intrigue, moved a bit slowly for me, but by the time the author introduced York, I was hooked. Periodic flashbacks describe vivid moments of the original Lewis and Clark Expedition, while events in this, their last journey, move inexorably toward the climax. Although I knew the fate of Lewis in advance, I was still not ready for it when it happened, and I was, like York in the novel, struck by horror and disbelief: “Captain Lewis couldn’t be dead! Oh, many times on the Expedition he’d come close – why, he’d been chased by a grizzly bear! He’d almost fallen off a cliff! Hell, he’d even been shot through the ass! Seemed like folks were always giving Captain Lewis up for dead. But it was impossible!” Impossible, maybe, but it was as true and strange as only history can be. For fans of historical fiction and American history, To the Ends of the Earth is a novel that should not be missed. – Dianne Salerni
In September 1806, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, leaders of the Corps of Discovery, arrived in St. Louis after a grueling expedition that had lasted for more than two years. Hailed as heroes even before the true extent of their accomplishments was known, they were feted and honored by an eager nation forever pressing on its Western borders. To the Ends of the Earth, The Last Journey of Lewis & Clark begins in St. Louis three years after the celebrations had ended with Will Clark serving as Superintendent of Indian Affairs and Meriwether Lewis as the appointed Governor of the Louisiana Territory. But the intervening years have not been kind to Lewis. He is fending off people to whom he is indebted and, more importantly, rebutting criticism from his superiors in Washington that he has misused government funds, and the rumors are washed down with a liberal amount of whiskey and a healthy dose of laudanum.
Sensing his vulnerability, Lewis is approached by James Wilkinson, who had been caught up in the Aaron Burr conspiracy a few years earlier, and who is now an agent of Spain. He attempts to involve Lewis in another conspiracy which will put him, as well as William Clark, at the head of an empire carved out of the Louisiana Territory. Not only does Lewis not bite, but he heads off to Washington to defend his honor and to warn the government of Wilkinson’s actions. Because Lewis believes that Wilkinson has hired men to kill him in New Orleans, he heads to the Federal City by way of the primitive Natchez Trace on horseback with a belligerent freed slave and the priceless records from the Expedition.
No one can say exactly what happened on the Natchez Trace, but what is known is that Meriwether Lewis, the hero of the Corps of Discovery, died alone in a room rented from a Mrs. Grinder. Most historians believe that Lewis committed suicide. Because so few details are known, the author is free to create a story of conspiracy, pursuit, brutality, betrayal, and murder.
In most reviews, there is usually a “but” somewhere in the review: “It was a good book, but . . .” There are no “buts” with this book. The characters of Lewis, Clark, Wilkinson, and York, Clark’s slave, are richly detailed and wholly believable. You can sense what it was like to travel the Natchez Trace with its seedy inns, runaway slave communities, and robbers. Everything necessary to recreate the early part of the 19th Century in the Louisiana Territory is covered: climate, politics, environment, living conditions, and the evils of slavery, but all is woven into the compelling story of Meriwether Lewis, a man who had become a drunk, drug-addicted, persecuted wreck of a man, and his friend, William Clark, who could do nothing to save him.
On their journey to the Pacific, the Lewis and Clark Expedition vastly expanded our understanding of the diversity of the North American continent. Mountains and rivers were mapped, flora and fauna were recorded, details and sketches of the indigenous tribes encountered on the trip were brought back to Washington and greatly added to the collective knowledge of the United States. It is one of the great events of American history. But for Meriwether Lewis, it all ended in a rustic cabin on a territorial road in Tennessee, and To the Ends of the Earth is his story. – Mary Lydon Simonsen, author of Pemberley Remembered
Lewiston Tribune [Idaho]
The story of Lewis and Clark’s journey has been retold more times than there are years in the bicentennial commemoration. Here’s the story of what happened afterwards.
In October 1809, three years after their return, Meriwether Lewis was found shot to death in a lonely inn on the Natchez Trace. For some, his death falls in the category of mystery.
This historical novel follows Clark as he searches for the truth of Lewis’s demise amidst accusations of conspiracy. The book is written by two Austin, Texas, sisters, Liz and Mary Clare, who write under the pen name Frances Hunter. They traveled parts of the Lewis and Clark trail in Montana and Idaho and followed the route Lewis took in the last days of his life.
Characters like York, Clark’s slave, and Julia, his beloved teenage wife, come to life, as do the famed explorers who are rendered all too human. When we first meet Lewis he is waking up in bed with a prostitute and a hangover. [Jennifer K. Bauer]
North Dakota Horizons
To the Ends of the Earth: The Last Journey of Lewis & Clark is a seamless blend of history and fiction telling what might have happened after Meriwether Lewis’s death in October 1809. In her novel, Frances Hunter tells a thrilling tale based on the historical events that surround the great unsolved mystery of Lewis’s death. More than just a historical mystery, the book explores larger themes of honor, vengeance, and redemption as Clark searches for the truth about his friend’s fate.
The story begins years after the return of the Corps of Discovery in St. Louis. When Lewis suddenly dies after a myriad of problems, including alcoholism and secret late-night meetings, it is left to Clark to save his closest friend from dishonor and disgrace.
This 392-page book has been endorsed by acclaimed western writer Elmer Kelton and received excellent reviews from many Lewis and Clark historians and writers.
Blogger News Network
It was once explained to me by a literary agent that the perfect recipe for a best-selling historical novel was to write about an unknown aspect of an event or person that everyone had heard about. He gave as an example “Cold Mountain” – everyone has heard about the Civil War, right? But the distinct un-enthusiasm of many nominally Confederate soldiers for the Southern cause was the perfect unknown aspect. By this principle, “To the Ends of the Earth” is a striking example of this axiom. Everyone has heard of the Lewis and Clark Expedition; that daring, two-year long mapping and scientific exploration of the then-newly-acquired Louisiana Territory. That acquisition expanded American possessions from a bare coastal toehold plus mountain range country to most of a continent, from sea to sea, but at the time it was very much a pig in a poke. It was the challenge of two daring young Army officers, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to go and see what Thomas Jefferson had wrought, or at least purchased.
And so they did, and to great acclaim, popular, political and scientific… but this book is a speculative account of what happened afterwards; primarily an exploration of the mystery surrounding the death of Meriwether Lewis, who was on his way back to Washington, to account for his use – or misuse – of government funds. Was he murdered, as part of a plot by a vicious and sinister political enemy? Or – chronically ill, depressed and self-medicating with alcohol and patent medicines – did he kill himself? How valuable were his expedition journals, maps and scientific observations on every aspect of what he and his good friend had seen on their journey to the Pacific Coast? How much would a foreign power pay for them?
“To the Ends of the Earth” is more than a period thriller; it is also a deftly drawn and sympathetic portrait of friendships and relationships, in an age when the political and the personal merged. The deep friendship between Lewis and Clark is only the central facet. Of similar interests and complimentary temperaments, the great expedition had been the professional high point of both their lives, something that they had both longed to do and planned for. The close father-and-son affection between Lewis and Thomas Jefferson, his political and intellectual patron is implied, but powerful. Then there is the fraught relationship between Clark and his slave, York. York, who accompanied the two explorers into the west, is torn now between loyalty and affection. His growing dissatisfaction at being merely property, a chattel is more fully developed, as the two of them follow Lewis along the Natchez Trace on what would become Meriwether Lewis’ last journey. And then there is Clarks’ marriage to the pretty and feisty Julia, and her growing sense of independence.
The narrative is a web of relationships, but the force that drives the plot the malign character of James Wilkinson. Wilkinson – a political general and military incompetent – is known to have been entangled in all kinds of traitorous and self-serving plots during the early days of the American republic – including that which entangled Aaron Burr. Historically, Wilkinson seems to have been as corrupt and slippery an operator as is painted here; as such he makes almost too satisfactory a villain, cheerfully taking money from a foreign power and planting malicious gossip about people who have crossed him politically.
“To the Ends of the Earth” is a gripping and accomplished read, well-researched and unfailing in it’s portrayal of a time when the United States was still new and uncertain – and yet blessed with the services and devotion of men like Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. The book was awarded a silver medal in the historical/military fiction category in 2007’s Independent Publisher Book Awards. – Sgt. Mom (Celia Hayes)
To The Ends Of The Earth is Frances Hunter’s fictionalized account of famed American historical figure Meriwether Lewis’ final days leading up to his death in a room of an inn in the Natchez Trace. This is also the story of his good friend William Clark’s attempts to save Lewis from himself, not that he is successful as this story stays faithful to history despite the creative liberties taken by Ms Hunter.
Now, I am not too familiar with the lives of Lewis and Clark (don’t look at me like that, I have a good excuse – I’m not American) so I’m not the best person to ask if you want to know how much the author has or hasn’t stayed true to history.
What I can tell you is that I find Lewis in this story an interesting flawed character. He has become addicted to the laudanum that he uses to control his malarial fever, he drinks too much, and he is generally very unhappy and restless with his life as the Governor of Louisiana Territory. He doesn’t care who shares his bed and he also commits his signature on a few documents that will later return to haunt him. And yet his friend Clark is so doggedly loyal to Lewis to the point that he defiantly ignores the less-than-heroic aspects of Lewis’ life and how Lewis’ life is fast taking a nosedive. He is the classic enabler to Lewis’ increasing self-destructive tendecies.
When Lewis is summoned to the Federal City to account for some irregularities in his bookkeeping, he finds himself plunged into a journey full of danger and not-so-subtle aspects of nature as metaphors for dramatic things. You see, he is actually the target of a political intrigue and he wants to warn the folks at Federal City about the Foul Plot while he’s there. The bad guy, of course, will want to make sure that Lewis doesn’t reach Federal City in one piece, so the journey is not going to be a peaceful one. Clark, who I suspect must be in love with Lewis, gives chase after his beloved darling. Clark’s wife Julia also chases after her husband, aided by an earnest soldier, although judging from Clark’s ridiculous and cruel welcome reception when she shows up, I think she’s happier off eloping with the soldier. Poor Julia, she’s married to a man who is obviously besotted with a half-mad drunkard.
To The Ends Of The Earth is an impressive example of a well-written and well-edited independent effort. The writing is fluid and very readable, free from amateurish author mistakes. The pacing is fine and there is an excellent build-up of suspense even if Lewis’ fate is pretty much well-known if you have previously read up on him. I find myself wondering why this book isn’t picked up by a bigger publishing house as I turn the pages. Then again, who knows how the publishing industry works, eh?
If I have my way, though, I’d wish that the author has allowed me a little more insight into what is going on inside her characters’ heads. Ms Hunter tends to describe what the characters are feeling and doing instead of showing me what they are thinking. Clark’s treatment of Julia and his slave York, for example, isn’t always rosy, but yet they are inexplicably devoted to him. Likewise, Clark is so doggedly loyal to Lewis when Lewis doesn’t always treat him well either, which leads to my suspicion that poor Clark in this story is actually madly in love with Lewis. I feel sorry for Lewis, in a way. If he has a better friend and confidante than Clark, at least someone who won’t enable Lewis through his dogged devotion to Lewis, that man may be saved from his downward spiral.
This is a very readable and entertaining book. I have little familiarity with Lewis and Clark when I first open the book but I manage to catch up easily because Ms Hunter’s prose is clear, simple yet elegant, and always very readable. If you have a hankering for historical fiction featuring self-destructive men with flaws that the author does not sugarcoat, you may want to take a look at this one.
Stephenie Ambrose Tubbs, coauthor of The Lewis & Clark Companion:
“Novelists have long mined the letters and journals of Lewis and Clark for source material, but rarely have they struck gold the way Frances Hunter does in To the Ends of the Earth … Rich in historical detail and masterfully drawn interpretations of characters we thought we knew. This work will leave you saying ‘Eureka!’ with satisfaction at the final page.”
Tom Mullen, author of Rivers of Change: Trailing the Waterways of Lewis & Clark:
“To the Ends of The Earth resonates with authenticity. As we search for the truth about a man’s motivations and his fate, the scents and sounds of a raw and wilder era come alive in a tale filled with bawdy taverns, decadent plantations and lonely western outposts.
Heated dialogue and simmering tensions propel this story that transforms names we learned from history books – Lewis, Clark, Julia Clark, and York – into humans we genuinely care about and crave to know even better. To the Ends of The Earth transforms history into story. The book is skillfully written with a keen eye toward detail and a deft mastery of prose. Each page takes you further from the present and deeper into a vibrant, raucous, surprising universe from the past.
Whether you love history, drama or a just a well crafted story, To the Ends of The Earth is a compelling and entertaining read that will keep you wanting more.”
Elmer Kelton, author of Six Bits a Day:
“It is ironic that the great success of the Lewis and Clark expedition, accomplished with the loss of only one man, was followed so soon by the tragedy of Meriwether Lewis’s death under mysterious circumstances. This novel, full of the lore and color of the time, offers an imaginative but plausible explanation.”