Author & Speaker

Historical and Legal Commentary

Why F. Scott?

This morning brings the inaugural installment of a monthly piece I’ll be writing for the Washington Independent Review of Books.  The subjects will be what I’m reading, writing, or thinking about.  This morning’s effort puzzles over the bafflingly inflated reputation of F. Scott Fitzgerald.  I don’t get it. . . .

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Five Books on Impeachment

The conservative-inspired “Impeach Obama” campaign will wax and wane over the next two political years, a weird residue of the benighted effort to impeach President Bill Clinton fifteen years ago.  Even though the Impeach Clinton effort failed somewhat ignominiously, it has empowered true believers of the Left and Right to think of impeachment as an…

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WWI: Who was the enemy?

As the World War I centennial continues to gear up, and as I slouch to the end of my novel on the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, I have stumbled upon the most remarkable French memoir of the war — Poilu.  (Thanks to Andy Dayton for recommending it.) Louis Barthas was a barrelmaker in the…

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World War I: Fragging Officers and PTSD?

The sequel to my historical novel, The Lincoln Deception, is set at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919.  Accordingly, I’ve been doing some considerable reading about World War I and the peace treaty that proved to be “The Peace to End All Peace,” as some have it.  Recent forays into two American novels about The Great War…

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Nine Breeds of Historical Fiction

[This piece first appeared in the Washington Independent Review of Books] Historical fiction is flourishing, and its advantages are many. For readers, it combines the familiar with the unknown, as novelists imagine the motivations and thoughts of historical figures. For writers, it provides grounding. Certain characters are already known and even defined. Better yet, the real…

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Fear of the Shallows

Looking back over the year just ended, I am struck by the proliferation of door-stopper books.  This phenomenon — which afflicted both fiction and non-fiction — emerged in many of the most celebrated books which logged impressive sales numbers.  To cite just a few: Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, a novel checking in at 784 pages. In biography, The…

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"The Lincoln Deception" on Audible.com

Audible.com has finally listed the audiobook version of The Lincoln Deception, narrated by L.J. Ganser.  I’m a huge fan of audiobooks, and listen to them all the time in the car, even on very short trips to the market or the gym. Right now I’m near the end of the audio version of Bernard Cornwell’s 1356, a chronicle of…

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Killing Them Softly

Death plays a big role in most history books, and definitely in biographies.  The death of a central feature often concludes a book.  Even if the book’s story ends before the main characters shuffle off this mortal coil, readers want to know how it all ended for the people they have spent several hours reading…

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Washington Navy Yard: Some Tough History

For someone writing a book about James Madison (that’s me), yesterday’s mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard has powerful echoes.  While the new national capital was being hacked out of forest and swamp in the 1790s, Congress arranged to buy land for a naval support facility.  Soon the navy yard at Washington City was…

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John Bingham: American Founding Son

Today marks the launch of a new biography of Congressman John Bingham of Cadiz, Ohio, American Founding Son, by Gerard Magliocca of University of Indiana School of Law.  It’s great to have this fresh and excellent examination of Bingham, a key force in helping to shape the America that emerged from the Civil War: Bingham…

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