Salt of the Earth

Book Cover


19th Century,Earlier 20th Century

Mark Allan Johnson

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A story of the Reverse Underground Railroad from the 1840's, through and after the Civil War, ending in 1948.


Historical Fiction

Short Summary

John Hart Crenshaw operates salt mines in the free state of Illinois during the 1840's with legally leased slaves form other states but also increases his considerable wealth by breeding slaves and capturing and selling free Negroes.

The story ends in 1948 with the death of Robert Wilson, who fathered slaves for John Hart Crenshaw and other plantations, at the age of 112.


llinois, California and battles fields of the Civil War.

Based on a True Story


Plot - Premise

Rebellion Against 'The One',Quest,Overcoming Monster/Villain

Plot - Other Elements

Philosophical Questions,Meaningful Message,Happy Ending

Mature Audience Themes


Main Character Details

Name: John Hart Crenshaw

Age: 50-70

Gender: Male

Role: Protagonist

Key Traits: Villainous,Narcisstic,Confident,Aggressive,Badass,Unapologetic,Secretive,Outspoken,Power Hungry,Greedy

Additional Character Details

Name: Beulah

Age: 25

Gender: Female

Role: Antagonist

Key Traits: Adventurous,Heroic,Faithful,Decisive,Modest,Strong Moral Code

Additional Character Details

Name: Devlin Doyle

Age: 35

Gender: Male

Role: mentor

Key Traits: Charming,Decisive,Faithful,Leader,Sophisticated,Romantic,Funny,Visionary,Masculine

Additional Character Details

Name: Michael Kelly Lawler

Age: 30's-60's

Gender: Male

Role: protagonist

Key Traits: Adventurous,Aggressive,Complex,Confident,Religious,Blunt,Decisive,Empathetic,Faithful,Heroic,Honorable,Leader

Development Pitch

John Hart Crenshaw, one of the wealthiest men in Southern Illinois in the 1840's, leases slaves from bordering states to labor in his salt mines. But, he has other ways to increase his wealth, such as breeding slaves on his estate of Hickory Hill, a way station on the Reverse Underground Railroad, capturing and selling freed Negroes for profit. Michael Kelly Lawler, Crenshaw's son-in-law, Irish immigrant and devout Catholic, fights for the abolition of slavery during the Civil War, eventually becoming a General, his faith and beliefs always a trouble to his father-in-law. The story deals with slavery, slave breeding, the Railroad Chinese, runaway slaves living with the Cheyenne, Irish immigrants in the Civil War and after, the Underground Railroad and their final settlements in Canada. It is the story of the ongoing fight for freedom from prejudice that continues to this day.

About The Author

Author of the novel "The Last Resort", books of poetry, "Laughter at a Wake" and "Desert Bloom" and a book of haiku, "In Frozen Fields". A Great Northwest native now retired in Tucson, Arizona with his wife, Judy Boushey.

Target Audiences

Age: 18-34,35-54,55+

Target Gender: Universal

Group Specific

Information not completed

Publishing Details

Status: Yes: self-published

Publisher: Amazon KDP

Year Published: 2020

Hard Copy Available







Slavery is alive and well in America as it is on the cusp of the Civil War. Patsy's daughters are taken and sent to the South to be sold as slaves. Elias escapes his master to freedom. Irishman are also making there way in America, helping get enslaved people to freedom while dealing with prejudices against them.

Overall Rating


Point of View


Narrative Elements

Authors Writing Style: GOOD

Characterization: GOOD

Commerciality: FAIR

Franchise Potential: FAIR

Pace: GOOD

Premise: GOOD

Structure: GOOD

Theme: GOOD

Accuracy of Book Profile

Yes, the book profile accurately reflects the book.

Draw of Story

The story follows African Americans and there experiences trying to flee slavery and get to freedom. It is always important to tell these stories. It also shows the Irish prospective who also faced prejudice in America. In this case, Devlin helped hide slaves on the underground railroad.

Possible Drawbacks

The book uses racial slurs excessively. It is trying to be authentic to the time period and those speaking but it feels harsh. It also was difficult to distinguish between the characters while reading.

Use of Special Effects


Primary Hook of Story

The hook is the different stories of slaves and others during the time leading up to the Civil War. I would watch this for the strong characters who were slaves and fought to be free. It would be interesting to see their journeys.

Fanbase Potential

This could have a large fanbase as it shed light on a horrific time in US history. There are some great characters that would draw the attention. On the other hand, many stories of BIPOC that are celebrated on screen tend to deal with oppression. Slave movies have been done before and this is not different from any others.

Awards Potential

This could have award potential since films exploring the oppression such as slavery or the Holocaust do attract critical acclaim. It deals with heavy topics.

Envisioned Budget


Similar Films/TV Series


What’s New About the Story

The story is not original. It is about slavery and depicts life in the south under slavery as we have seen before. To make it more unique, there could be more focus on the enslaved characters and less with the white owners or white characters. The story would need a complete direction changed to make it more unique.

Lead Characters

The lead characters are strong people who stand up for their beliefs. The black characters are persevering in the face of insurmountable adversity because they believe they deserve better.

Uniqueness of Story

This is an average film that mimics many other films like it. The theme of slavery and oppression have been done many times over. To be more unique, the perspective needs to change, something new and fresh, besides masters against slaves.

Possible Formats

Film - Indie, Film - Streaming, Film - Studio, TV Series - Limited Run / Mini-Series, TV Series - Streaming

Analyst Recommendation



While the story has many positive points, it has room for improvement (see possible paths below). If you can't change the story at this point, my suggestion is using your notes as a guide to highlight the best aspects of it when taking the next steps, either putting a pitch page together, a treatment, or a presentation.

Tips for Improvement

This tells the same story about slavery that has always been told. It also does nothing for representation of African Americans which it should at this point. The characterization could be more realistic.