Robert Lackey - Author - The Palette & The Page

Robert Lackey is a native of Havre de Grace, Maryland. The area is rich in history and watershed culture, reaching back to the beginning of the country. Robert has been a writer, soldier, photographer, and administrator, but always comes back to his writing. Stepping outside of technical writing in 2005, he focused his alternate passion on understanding life along the canal, and the uniqueness of Maryland history. That passion for history evolved into the historical novel “Pulaski’s Canal”, set in 1841 Havre de Grace, published in 2014. He then continued the story within the novel series: The Pulaski Saga.

The novels follow a representative family, from the mid to latter 19th century. The Pulaskis settle along the canal that passes daily between slave and free state, awakening them to the moral quandary of bondage versus humanity. From awakening to action, the husband and wife team face the real struggles of life in the 1800s while devoting more of themselves to helping runaway slaves escape north. As the years pass, their sons and daughter join them in the mission to do what they can, at a time when the country was tearing itself apart over slavery. The series exposes the reader to the actual national histories through the experiences of the Pulaskis. The author challenges the characters within that history by bold adventures, dangers in hate and war, and desperate searches for love, fundamental for a good read.

Pulaski’s Canal – Book 1

1841. Ben Pulaski was dead. His return to Havre de Grace from long imprisonment in China destroys the sense of survival that has sustained Sonja as a widow and mourning mother to a lost infant daughter Ben never knew. Former shipmates join Ben to help his fledgling business on the Susquehanna and Tidewater Canal, bringing with them the volatile contradiction of that “peculiar institution”. Tricked into smuggling escaping slaves into Pennsylvania, Ben nearly dies for it. He misses crucial deadlines to the bank and once more jeopardizes his family’s security by facing foreclosure of their home, releasing a surprising explosion of rage in the little town at the head of the Chesapeake Bay.

Blood on the Chesapeake – Book 2

Pulaski Sequel – 1842. Ben and Sonja struggle to rekindle their fragile relationship and rebuild their lives in a young country trying to merge a cacophony of beliefs while ignoring the festering sore of slavery.

Still mourning an infant daughter and home taken by the raging Susquehanna River, together they push back at the people and laws that would keep them destitute. Working the canal that pierces the Mason and Dixon Line and sailing the upper Bay, Ben and Sonja are targeted by a violent man Ben thought left for dead, and a conniving banker Sonja humiliated in desperation. Brought together in a dark business venture, the two enemies devise a plan to destroy the Pulaskis as well. Ben and Sonja find themselves in the center of a growing storm fed by greed, bondage, and revenge, releasing the monster held deep within Ben, and pouring blood on the Chesapeake.

Raven’s Risk – Book 3

​3rd in the Series! Havre de Grace, 1843. Ben and Sonja Pulaski strengthen their bonds after overcoming bloody intentions and conniving efforts, and gain ownership of the schooner Raven. With their younger son Aaron left as captain of the sailing barge Ugly Boat and their older son Isaac accepted to West Point, their Maryland roots range deep into both slave and free states. Still struggling to meet the needs of a family without powerful friends, but driven by powerful beliefs, the Pulaskis accept surprising obligations that will take them deeper into slave smuggling. Sonja grows stronger as a partner to Ben, far beyond the social expectations of the 19th century. Ben struggles to contain the demons that haunt his anger and push him toward violence. They are pushed and pulled by the banks and political forces. Once again, the Pulaskis step into a broader world, taking them farther from the simple life on the Canal, and ever forward into the growing maelstrom of a nation straining within itself.

Kingdom’s in the Marsh – Book 4

Ben and Sonja Pulaski return to South Carolina, in spite of death threats from Jeremiah Williamson, owner of Palmetto Haven plantation. Jeremiah hosts his niece, Lydia Binterfield, cast out from Havre de Grace by her half-brother. Lydia is determined to gain control of her new home, joining Jeremiah in his hatred for the Pulaskis. Sonja finally discovers an end to the nightmare gnawing at her soul. Working with the mysterious Argyle Corporation, Ben continues to ship rice and lumber from Georgetown into the Chesapeake Bay, and find a way to defuse Williamson’s anger, while keeping his real purpose secret. Ben and Sonja move through the centers of slavery under Ben’s guise as a slave trader, while secretly smuggling slaves north.

Brazen Deceit – Book 5

1847. Ben and Sonja Pulaski, a husband and wife team, supported by their sons Isaac and Aaron, steal slaves in the deep south and smuggle them north to freedom Working their barges on the Canal near Havre de Grace, Maryland, the Pulaskis travel between slave state and free state, awakening in them the moral law that outweighs Maryland slavery laws. After gaining the Schooner Raven, their commitment to freedom takes Ben into Washington with a dangerous plan that sends him hiding from the law in Leonardtown, Maryland.

Serpent’s Compromise – Book 6

Ben and Sonja Pulaski, the Maryland husband and wife team stealing slaves and smuggling them north, are joined by their sons Isaac and Aaron in a growing network reaching deep into the south and into Washington. Rage explodes in Congress, in the press and into the streets of America when the grip on slavery tightens under new federal laws, and hatred spills into Bleeding Kansas caused by another failed compromise.

Despot’s Heel – Book 7

The nation slips over the brink in 1860-1862. Compromises fail, drums of war rattle the soul of a nation tearing itself apart, and the Pulaski Family is pulled into the middle of it all. Ben and Sonja struggle in their commitment to keep the escaping slaves moving north, even under the military occupation of Maryland. Sons  Aaron and Isaac stand firm on their different paths. The horror of the Civil War explodes, driving Maryland and the nation into chaos.

Bloody Ground, Shallow Graves – Book 8

Ben and Sonja Pulaski are charged with sedition by the occupying Union Army’s Provost Marshal. They are sent as punishment to help bury the dead of the bloodiest war the world has seen. Son Isaac faces life with part of his body torn away, withdrawn with his wife and children far from the battlefield. Aaron is trapped in the South, an abolitionist amid the warring cries of slave owners, hiding with his southern wife and son, smuggling reports to his newspaper in Washington.  Alisha defends her station on the Underground Railroad while her husband fights in the South. The war drags thousands more young men to their deaths, millions of severed arms and legs pile onto monuments to horror. The tragedies of war wash over the nation. The Pulaskis struggle to uphold family and honor, in spite of it all.

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Brutal Peace – Book 9

1865-70.  The bloody Civil War has finally ended, but angers of the conflict lingers within the family . The specters of the past slam into their lives with burdensome gifts holding dark legacies. The Pulaskis face personal tragedies, the hardships of reconstruction, the failures of the Freedmen’s Bureau, the rise of the Ku Klux Klan, and the loss of family and friends! 

Pulaski’s Redemption – Local Author – Robert Lackey


Sonja is haunted by nightmares of her past deeds coming to light, and driven to make amends to the dead. Ben stubbornly holds to his course, refusing to admit his needs and recognizing powers beyond his own hands. Together they face a profound loss within the family while struggling to stay alive in the grips of the greatest flood ever to strike Havre de Grace.

Pulaski’s Redemption – Book 10

Sonja is haunted by nightmares of her past deeds coming to light, and driven to make amends to the dead. Ben stubbornly holds to his course, refusing to admit his needs and  recognizing powers beyond his own hands.Together they face a profound loss within the family while struggling to stay alive in the grips of the greatest flood ever to strike Havre de Grace.