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Went on sale: Jan. 9, 2018

Wild Horses

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A Novel of Faith & Abolition Along the Underground Railroad


New title for Zimbell House: Dan C. Gunderman's debut novel, Synod, a dramatic, sprawling tale set against the backdrop of rural New Jersey circa the 1820s.

The novel has received praise from indie reviewers and bloggers, and has garnered attention in historical fiction circles.


Jacket Copy: Set against the latter years of the Second Great Awakening (1829), Synod is both an endeavor in world-rebuilding and a fast-paced examination of the law and, perhaps, complacency of the era. This is an ambitious story of a forty-year-old veteran of the War of 1812, issued name Goldfinch, a layered but cynical man who's suffered from ennui for years. After training an ex-slave to handle a rifle, Goldfinch sends his brave protégé off to retrieve runaways, to transport north along the Underground Railroad. However, once the group returns to the communal grounds of the Ramapough Mountains, bounty hunters have also sniffed out their trail. Soon, Goldfinch not only has to contend with these foul creatures, but also a corrupted politician in the New Jersey Governor's Office — a man of untold and far-reaching capabilities. The resilient Goldfinch tries to maintain a Utopian lifestyle in his village, Synod, but he is also twisted by an opinion leader in Paterson and left to test the waters of love.

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Praise for Synod:

"Gunderman writes a detailed and very likely story of what this type of situation would be like. This story all by itself would have held my interest but Gunderman also adds in a group of bounty hunters trying to reclaim the escaped slaves and return them to their owner in the South . . . The villager’s attempts to protect the slaves and their community was very well written. At that point, I had trouble putting the book down . . . Overall I would highly recommend this book, especially for those who are interested in historical novels, pre-civil war novels, novels on the Underground Railroad or even novels on religious communities."

-Goodreads Review

"This work of historical fiction is full of intense adventure, controversy and political intrigue surrounding the secrets of the Underground Railroad in a local Northeastern town. Dan is a very promising young author and one to be followed as he continues his bright literary career!"

-Ye Olde Warwick Book Shoppe - Greenwood Lake

"I found the book inspired me to find out more about (the real-life figures') true place in the slavery/abolitionist movements . . . This 'atmospheric' story is a worthy one, in which the author, admittedly, is intending to capture the 'zeitgeist' of the time, rather than to create an embellished historical fiction woven around real characters and events. The barbarity of slavery and the fierce and brutish mentality of its adherents as well as the anti-slavery position of the abolitionists, are explicated well . . . "

-Goodreads Review

"This book was an entertaining read from start to finish. In my opinion, it has everything to make an interesting and compelling story . . . After the first few chapters, I didn’t want to put the book down. Gunderman takes you on a harrowing journey of historical fiction—through northern New Jersey in 1829. There, you’ll find a society slowly coming to grips with the institution of slavery; the story tackles this head on . . . All of the characters in the village of Synod are as interesting as the violent outsiders that threaten its very existence."

-Goodreads Review

"Cool book (by) new author. Like his style. Kept me reading."

-Amazon Review

"(Goldfinch) believes in the abolitionist fight and thinks the entire community is on the same page. Yet, when the battle comes to his front gate, he finds traitors among them. With the lives of a few runaway slaves in their hands, Goldfinch finds help from some strange places and people and finds his own way in the end . . . People who like historical fiction set in early America will enjoy this book as well as those who want a book that has a deeper storyline . . . The message is that a small act by one person to another can help move along big changes."

-Sarah Anne Carter, Reviewer

"Gunderman orchestrates a mighty clash of villagers with pro-slavery opponents. The woods and hills are tangled with bravery, skullduggery, camaraderie, and a cannon's roar. Inside the walls: lies, sex, and pride manifest. With death tolls mounting, a reader is ultimately reminded of current and ongoing racism clashes with each side willing to defend what they consider the best for humanity."

-Donna Ford, US Review of Books

"The book has a Free State of Jones/Hell on Wheels type of vibe. It is a bit earlier in American history and takes place in New England, but those are the things this story reminded me of . . . Emotions run high throughout the story as the added tension of helping runaways is added to the already tense hamlet. The dialogue and characterization are solid, with the speech and character attitudes fitting the era."

-Nicholas Watkins/LiteratureIsLife

"Along for this novel's journey includes violence, suspense, drama and unsavory political doings. All these elements give Synod a multidimensional depth and meaning. Clearly, Gunderman did his homework . . . In a time of deeply embedded racism, Synod is an important work of fiction."

-BookishJen/TheBookSelf Blog

"Overall, I found Synod to be a very interesting read that was well-worth my time. It was apparent that an immense amount of historical and regional research was done beforehand, based on the level of descriptive detail and period vernacular Gunderman provided . . . If you are interested in a unique piece of historical fiction that deals with emancipation and the social struggles our country faced in the mid-1800s, I would definitely recommend giving this book a read."

-Goodreads Review

Praise for Ashima Shiraishi, Rock Climber:

"Not just a biography of a young climber, this entry in the 'Make It Happen!' series (10 titles) also encourages readers to fight for achievements of their own . . . Recurring 'Make It Happen!' sections offer kids realistic ways to set goals, achieve milestones, and plan for a future . . . An inspiring and interactive biography."

-Maggie Reagan, ALA Booklist

ImpactRadioUSA Interview

Dan was featured on “Dr. Paul’s Family Hour,” which airs on Impact Radio USA. Host Paul Reeves sat down with Dan for a full-length interview about Synod, inspiration for the novel, the writing process and striking a balance in the journalistic/creative divides. The interview aired at 11 a.m. on Feb. 5, 2018. It also re-aired on the network and is available as an audio file.

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