If you’re of the opinion that the Patriot cause of 1775-76 was a sham for the colonial upper-class elite to perpetuate their own interests and that the men recognized today as our “Founding Fathers” were nothing but a gaggle of self-serving egotists, then Paul Lussier has written the book for you!
Acclaimed in many literary circles, The Last Refuge of Scoundrels is an all-out assault on the patriotic notion that the American War for Independence was for a just cause and that the leaders behind it were of noble intent. Novelist Paul Lussier relentlessly and colorfully paints a dark and chaotic portrait of the American Revolution, beginning with the 1765 Stamp Tax riots on up through France’s decision to send her fleet to trap Cornwallis at Yorktown. All the while, Lussier frames his tale as a sweeping flashback vision granted to a dying George Washington who seeks to regain his humanity by willingly confronting the “truth” of what he presided over.
From his deathbed, Washington sees the life of John Lawrence (who, according to the story, serves as his first aide-de-camp) from his oppressed teenage years under the stern hand of his seedy father to the end. Witnessing the story, as narrated by John Lawrence himself through most of the book, Washington sees the journey of this “common man” from a confused runaway teenager, hopelessly infatuated with a woman named Deborah, to his pivotal role in winning the War for Independence.
Lussier is a talented writer. And the tale he weaves is compelling and absorbing. Centered around John Lawrence, a very fictionalized version of John Laurens (one of George Washington’s real aides-de-camp during the war) and a cross-dressing prostitute named Deborah, another fictionalized caricature of a historically authentic figure, The Last Refuge of Scoundrels seeks to prove the very premise of its title. So committed is the author to this goal that the story takes a few too many twists and turns to be credible, even for a work of fiction. Nevertheless, one can’t help but keep turning the pages as the story Lussier writes holds you until the very end.
In seeing this tale (the journey of John Lawrence through the chaotic years of the Revolution), Washington – and (hopes Lussier) the reader – learns that the American Revolution was won, not by the “Founding Fathers,” but by “the transvestites, the prostitutes, the blacks, the Indians, [and] the queers!”
There are many readers who will enjoy this book. Diminishing our nation’s heroes, particularly the revered Founding Fathers, has become rather popular in many circles of American life, especially in various academic and literary arenas. For such readers, Lussier does not disappoint. Samuel Adams is portrayed as a wild-eyed, crazy agitator incapable of reason. James Otis, while painted with a soft side in his relations with John Lawrence, is shown to be a devious ally of the Boston agitators, exploiting the peoples’ affection for him and their commitment to his eloquent declarations of colonial liberties. John Hancock