A Wolf by the Ears

Book Cover


19th Century

Wayne Karlin

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A Wolf by the Ears focuses on the rebellion of enslaved people who rallied to the British after receiving promises of freedom during the War of 1812, a conflict personalized through the love triangle of three people, two of them enslaved and the third the man who once held them in bondage..


Drama,War,Historical Fiction,Epic

Short Summary

Towerhill sneaks off to a liaison with British officers to arrange for his fellow enslaved people to rebel and join them, as Jacob, an "enlightened" plantation owner dallies with Sarai, his black mistress and makes plans to sell off many of his slaves to meet his debts.

Towerhill, in an act of justice and mercy, kills Jacob who, with Sarai, is chained in the belly of a prisoner of war ship during the siege of Baltimore where the vision of freedom seen through ”the rockets’ red glare” is not one that would be shared by Towerhill and his people for centuries.


The Tidewater area of Maryland and Virginia, 1814

Based on a True Story


Plot - Premise

Internal Journey/Rebirth

Plot - Other Elements


Mature Audience Themes

Extreme Violence,Nudity, Language/Profanity,Sexual Abuse

Main Character Details

Name: Towerhill

Age: 34

Gender: Male

Role: Protagonist

Key Traits: Aspiring,Badass,Masculine,Aggressive,Decisive,Desperate,Educated,Honorable,Sexy,Outspoken,Skillful

Additional Character Details

Name: Sarai

Age: 25

Gender: Female

Role: Protagonist

Key Traits: Aspiring,Complex,Badass,Desperate,Empathetic,Heroic,Heartthrob,Visionary,Outspoken,Sexy,Underdog,Strong Moral Code

Additional Character Details

Name: Jacob Hallam

Age: 35

Gender: Male

Role: protagonist

Key Traits: Charming,Clumsy,Complex,Desperate,Empathetic,Faithful,Heartthrob,Educated,Insecure,Visionary,Patriotic,Sexy,Narcisstic

Additional Character Details

The author has not yet written this

Development Pitch

A Wolf by the Ears focuses on the rebellion of thousands of enslaved people from American plantations in the Tidewater region of Maryland and Virginia who rallied to the British after receiving promises of freedom. The novel’s title is from the famous quote from Thomas Jefferson regarding his concern over the institute of slavery: "We have the wolf by the ears, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go." The three main characters are two enslaved people, Towerhill and Sarai, and their master, Jacob Hallam, the three unequally entwined in love, hate and sex. At a time when America is still struggling with the relationships between the races, I became fascinated by the way the War of 1812 clarifies how the fraught and unequal historical linkage of white and black Americans underscored how differently each defined what it meant to fight for freedom. What we are taught about that war—if we are taught at all—usually centers on the courage of the defenders of Fort McHenry, Francis Scott Key’s glimpse of the colors symbolizing “the land of the free” through the “rockets’ red glare.” But the way that thousands of slaves ran away or rose against their owners and joined the other side speaks powerfully of the essential conflict that existed between the ideals articulated in the Declaration of Independence and the reality of people owning other people—a legacy that still affects us deeply.

About The Author

Wayne Karlin has published seven novels: Marble Mountain, The Wished-For Country, Prisoners (all with Curbstone Press), Lost Armies, The Extras, Us (all with Henry Holt), and Crossover (Harcourt, Brace), and three non-fiction books: Rumors and Stones, War Movies (Curbstone Press), and Wandering Souls: Journeys with the Dead and the Living in Viet Nam (Nation Books). Two of his books have been published in translation in Denmark, Sweden, Italy and Vietnam, and Crossover was also published in the United Kingdom (Methuen). The manuscript submitted to TaleFlick is under contract to be published by University of Massachusetts Press in 2020. Karlin has received five State of Maryland Individual Artist Awards in Fiction, two Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (1994 and 2004), the Paterson Prize in Fiction for 1999, the Vietnam Veterans of American Excellence in Arts Award in 2005, and the 2019 Juniper Prize in Fiction for A Wolf by the Ears.

Target Audiences

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

Target Gender: Universal

Group Specific

Information not completed

Publishing Details

Status: Yes: with a Publisher

Publisher: University of Massachusetts Press

Year Published: 2020

Hard Copy Available



ISBN 978-1- 62534- 503- 5