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Mountain: A Novel

Author: Robert Kuncio-Raleigh

ISBN 978-1-949756-78-4 (softcover)

978-1-949756-79-1 (eBook)

302 pages

A vivid picture of life in the era when America was born, Mountain is based on the true story of Joseph Mountain — a free black raised by notable white Philadelphians before the revolutionary war. His adopted father — a signer of the Declaration of Independence — gives Joseph a stipend just before war breaks out and sends him abroad for his education. In London, he meets two itinerant entertainers who are also highwaymen. With dreams of adventure, young Joseph joins his new friends as a gentleman of the pike and as a sailor to make his fortune, but one day, fate places him on a notorious slave ship where his life changes. The novel is an account of his adventures in an intolerant world, his efforts to redeem his errant life, and subsequent visits to the Maroons of Jamaica, a Voudoo priest in Haiti, and thence to New Orleans where he seeks new allies. With a new-found perspective, Joseph returns home to the new United States.


Robert Kuncio-Raleigh graduated from Penn State and was curator at Ben Franklin's library where he was a Ford Foundation recipient, assembling the first exhibition of materials relating to Black History and has published undiscovered poems of Phyllis Wheatley, America's first Black poet.

He is an avid fly-fisherman, naturalist, world traveler, reader, and an accomplished watercolorist and pastel artist, having had works in many juried shows. Robert and his wife are retired in North Carolina, where he paints and writes every day.  

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Customer Reviews

Based on 5 reviews
Laurence L. Ewing - From Amazon
A vivid journey of discovery, with liberty and justice for some

Joseph Mountain, a free African American youth adopted and reared in comfortable surroundings by a Philadelphia Quaker couple, confronts a far different world than he has known in this engrossing and thoroughly enjoyable picaresque novel of life on the cusp of the American Revolution. It begins in 1775, when his adopted parents endow Joseph, then a bright but naïve 17, with a grand tour of Europe.
Arriving in London, Joseph swiftly abandons the advice of his parents and plunges into life as a highwayman, whoremonger, sailor and slave trader. His adventures are vividly portrayed in detail by the author, whose fluid style propels and enhances the story as the reader experiences the sounds, smells, sights, pleasures and pains he encounters along the way.
Joseph tells his story in the first person, which gives the tale both authority and immediacy. As it opens, he is standing watch on a ship whose cargo includes 571 African human beings en route to Jamaica where they will be sold into a lifetime of slavery. The fierce irony of his position, as a free African American engaged in the enslavement of African men, women and children, tortures the boy and drives him to keep an unsparingly honest journal.

W.S. Wallace - From Amazon
A fine historical novel that speaks to us today.

I will admit up front that I have a real interest in history so I guess I have a bias toward the topic. What Mr. Kuncio-Raleigh has done is taken a little known "everyman" and spun a yarn that plays out against arguably the most important and consequential time in American history. Using the few known facts about Joe Mountain, a freed black man,who was raised by a white couple in the Quaker religion to tell not just his story but America's as well.
This novel brings in a variety of themes/issues both big and small. How race and slavery played out during these times and concepts of religion and nationhood but also is rich in details that amplify and personalize everyday life. The writer shows his in depth knowledge of language and everyday life that pulls the reader in the story with the hero so that you have both a sense of place as well as the disorienting whirlwind of revolutionary times. Anyone who likes history will find this book a treasure trove!

John T. Tufano - From Amazon
A fine historical novel based upon fact

Dr. Robert Kuncio – Raleigh’s book “Mountain” is a historical novel based upon fact. He embellishes the actual life story written by Robert Mountain, a black man who was born a slave, but raised and freed by the well respected white Miflin family in Philadelphia. The novel is written in the first person and chronicles Mr. Mountain’s life from his beginning in late eighteenth Century Colonial Philadelphia, then to England, the Caribbean, Italy, Spain, Greenland, France and finally back to New York and Connecticut where he meets his fate. Dr. Kuncio – Raleigh vibrantly chronicles what daily life was like at that time in all locales: the city filth, thievery, “blood sports”, whorehouses, life aboard ship; and especially the horrendous conditions African slaves had to endure on ships bound for the Colonies. Mr. Mountain is an educated freed black man who never forgets that he is one step away from being a slave, and it is that fact which seals his ultimate fate. Dr. Kuncio – Raleigh’s dialog is crisply written and is liberally peppered with some unfamiliar words and terminology of that period of time, and the reader will get a great deal more enjoyment from this book if you have a computer or Phone device handy and can look them up. In the author’s “afterward” he directs the reader to sources where you can read Mr. Mountain’s actual life story on which this novel is based. You will definitely want to do this.

Alan B. Smith - from Amazon
Stranger than fiction -- a free Black man's experiences in early America

Author Robert Raleigh has written a creative first-person narrative of the life of Joseph Mountain, an African American raised, educated and pampered by adoptive Quaker parents just before the American revolution. The tale sprints through a life lived so far on the extremes of society that it would be implausible if told as pure fiction. Mountain became a classic prodigal son when he left home in Philadelphia for a grand tour in Europe. He quickly slipped into bad company and actively enjoyed the thrills of highway robbery, blood sports, prostitutes and life as an entertainer and fugitive. He became a sailor in the merchant marine, the Royal Navy and aboard a slaver. Mountain’s long-delayed epiphany on slavery and a resurgence of childhood values shaped a different narrative for the conclusion of the book and his short life. The book’s value inheres in the extraordinary life it illuminates and the iconic events it examines. The story, like Mountain’s life, is too wide-ranging and event-filled to permit any psychological depth, but its breadth is the main point. The intense experiences arrayed in this book were what eventually turned Joseph Mountain toward racial activism and a search for redemption from his many sins.

Denis Brown - From
A divine compass

Mountain's evocative, well-told story is of a man straddled between two worlds. The author takes us on his personal journey, and we are witness to his plight as he struggles to retain his spiritual self. He journeys the world by ship, by horse and on foot into a worldly environment replete with thieves, criminals and racists. Mountain's environment is not conducive to being the honorable man his deeper self wants to become. However, his moral compass remains intact.

His story takes us abroad, yet brings us back to Philadelphia and he perimeters of the new world prior to the Declaration of Independence when it is being tainted and altered by the subjectivity of other human beings. As he stands watch on board a ship to Jamaica, he is altered by the cargo of slaves below, the same color as he.
The standard for his behavior as a man is high. He rarely has the insight to be singly honorable. Reared in Philadelphia by a man who later signed the Declaration of Independence, he has ended up seeing the world in a more realistic way, subject to the forces faced by men of color and his human nature. Often, his desires pull him into situations where he cannot thrive. The challenges of the changes he wants to make are substantially greater because of the high standards of a Quaker Friend.
This book is a rare chance to visit a time that is difficult to maneuver even for scholars such as the author. We are richly rewarded by our awareness of the sense of Everyman in the main character.

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