Tearing down the Confederate statues

 

I remember as a child riding through Southern towns with my parents, and always searching for the statue of the Confederate soldier. When I was very young, my father had pointed them out to me and told me on road trips to look out for them.

To me, the statue was a tangible and expected memorial to the history of the War of the Rebellion, the war my father studied in the books sitting the table beside his chair; a war my great-great grandfathers fought in. The statues, to my young imagination, were a representation of my great-great grandfathers, one of whom donated his arm at Vicksburg to the cause of liberty.

I craved the statues of soldiers rather than a plain obelisk bearing only names, because in the faces of those statues I saw the faces of the dead in the old photographs from my father’s books. I frequently would lie on the floor and look at those picture in the books and try to imagine the lives of the corpses scattered on the recent battlefield; I would try to imagine who they had been and what they had lost.

The South was thoroughly beaten in the war. Sherman cut a swath through Georgia and the Carolinas, destroying property the entire way. The Army of the Potomac, and not much less the Army of Northern Virginia, ravaged the Virginia countryside. Veterans returning home near the battlegrounds in Virginia easily got lost as they found themselves in a landscape that in no way resembled the homes they had left in 1861. The men felled entire forests in service to their respective armies. Towns and homes and farms – all the familiar landmarks – were leveled.

Nearly all the battles fought happened in the seceded Southern states. Gettysburg and Antietam being the primary exceptions, the biggest fighting of the war occurred in Virginia, the Carolinas, Tennessee, Georgia, and Mississippi.

Like any beaten nation, the states that comprised the Confederacy suffered long after life in the Northern states returned to normal.

The Southern states were occupied and governed, at least initially, in the way that any victor would occupy and govern the land of a beaten foe.

Many efforts were made for swift reconciliation, and for some, that swift reconciliation came. Many of the South’s leaders went on to occupy elected office in the states or even the federal government. Others commanded black troops in service to the United States government.

But deep wounds festered in the South.

Politically and economically the South would not recover for two generations or more. Much of the South suffered in poverty for decades after the war. The blame, or much of it, can be laid not at the feet of the conquering Yankees, but at the feet of the Southern politicians who discovered that their political power was sustained by a weak and poor population. But so long as the Southern black was poorer than the Southern white, Southern politicians could be guaranteed reelection. Deepening the divisions of race to deflect attention from the solidarity of poverty was good business for white politicians.

Of course, the boll weevil and store credit played no small part in rural Southern poverty, but economics has a multi-faceted nature.

As the Confederate veterans aged, it became proper that they – and those who did not age – would be memorialized.

It does not require a vivid imagination to understand the motivations. Men and women who lost friends, cousins, brothers, sought to honor them. The sons and daughters of the aging Confederate veterans took up collections to raise statues to their fathers.

They did not erect statues to honor nameless and faceless heroes of the past, but to honor the people they knew and the people they lost.

In some instances, surely, the statues went up at the expense of the taxpayer and likely as not these were cynical (and successful) appeals for votes. Undoubtedly these statues also were intended as a defiant gesture against the Yankee government when Southern Democrats regained political control. That the statues were also intended as a message to freed slaves and their sons and daughters should not be ignored. That very defiance to the Yankee government told another tale to Southern blacks, a Jim Crow tale, and a warning of continued political oppression.

And so the question we must ask ourselves is whether it is right to continue to honor these Confederate dead, knowing as we do that their memorials in public places were often erected with the dual intention of telegraphing a message of defiance and oppression.

As much as some might want these statues to be lasting symbols of heritage and culture, the sad fact is that for many of our neighbors and our fellow Southerners, these statues are a constant reminder that their heritage at one time was the oppression of a people who equaled under the law only three-fifths of a man.

I cannot help but reach the conclusion that these statues should be removed from public squares and parks. I hate this, because for me personally these statues represent a tangible connection to the not-so-distant past, a past that thoroughly obsesses me.

But knowing that the statues hold a very opposite meaning for so many of my fellow Southerners, and believing that their view of these statues cannot be reconciled with mine, I see no way forward where everyone can be made satisfied and these statues left in place.

But it should not be the work of angry mobs, nor of politicians craving to garner the same cynical votes they craved a century ago.

The solution should come from the very people who erected the statues in the first place.

The Sons and Daughters of the Confederacy, the ones to whom the statues represent heritage and culture, should be given first right of refusal to receive back the statues they bought. And they should then mount the statues in private parks, or in museums or donate them to the Civil War Trust to put on battlefields where it might make sense.

And in places where these statues were erected by governments and not by private organizations, paid for by taxpayers, the Civil War Trust should be given the statues to put in appropriate places.

Whatever else these statues might have been, they are now forever a part of our history, a history that is complicated and often means vastly different things at the same time. The statues themselves are a part of our history beyond just what they represent. And history should not be lost nor ignored. But the place these statues occupy in our present should not be the places they presently occupy.

Public places – government places – must be places of equal access, and having statues of Confederate soldiers standing guard at courthouses and town squares is an inappropriate use of public property.

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If James Garner is your Clint Eastwood, Jackson Speed might be for you

A few days ago, I wrote a post wherein I describe people who should not bother reading the Jackson Speed novels.

I thought it was only fair that I also put together a list of those readers who might enjoy the Jackson Speed Memoirs and should therefore be reading them.

 

If James Garner is your Clint Eastwood

There was a time when I thought that folks who enjoy a good Western would also make good Speed fans. Though most of the Speed novels published so far take place during or around the time of the American Civil War, I’ve always known that eventually the action would shift to a Western setting.

And, as is true with The Outlaw Josey Wales or The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly, the American Civil War and the traditional Western should never be completely separated. Much of the lawlessness of the “Wild West” was a direct result of the Civil War veterans who sought their fortune to the west in a hard and untamed land.

So knowing that one day Jackson Speed would rub elbows with the likes of Billy the Kid and Buckshot Roberts and would ride with the Pinkertons, I always considered the Speed novels to be akin to Westerns.

But I trip on a specific point.

Most Westerns feature as the protagonists brave and hard men who fear nothing. They are fast with a gun and are modern-day knights, chivalrous and noble.

If you love a good Western, there’s a pretty good chance that you want your heroes to be heroic.

Jackson Speed is not that. He’s a coward who stumbles into his adventures, and rather than putting on the white hat and figuring a way to beat the guy in the black hat, Speed is always trying to figure out how to get out of the trouble he’s in. And the color of the hat he wears is always whatever is most convenient for the moment.

I think about some of James Garner’s movies, particularly “Support Your Local Gunfighter.”

Speed is much more the conman with loose morals, more similar to Latigo, than he is Marshal Jed Cooper, the trail-hardened gunslinger.

Jackson Speed is the classic lovable rogue: Rhett Butler, Maverick, Han Solo. If he wasn’t, then how does he manage to always get the girl?

So if James Garner is your Clint Eastwood, and you like your heroes to be a bit on the cowardly side, you’ll probably enjoy the Jackson Speed Memoirs.

 

If you love history

I am meticulous when it comes to the historical settings of the Jackson Speed books, and I can all but guarantee that even the most avid of armchair historians will learn something in the Jackson Speed books. Some of the books are more heavily footnoted than others – Orange Turnpike, High Tide, and In the Rush all have numerous footnotes to assist in setting the historical context of the books.

In researching the books, I go to as many primary sources as I can. When historical figures make a cameo in the Jackson Speed books, I try very hard to be true and accurate to the character of the man or woman resurrected in the novels.

When describing battles or historical events, I attempt to recreate those as exactly as I can, and I will bend my story to fit the historical record before I will rewrite history to fit my narrative. And when I cannot tell the story I want to tell without altering history, I make a note of it in the footnotes to preserve the historical record.

I do this because I have both a passion and respect for history.

As a result, I also dig deep into my research to find the bizarre and outrageous and forgotten bits of history that you’ll not find in your text books.

Where – other than a Jackson Speed novel – are you going to discover the true and accurate reason why the Georgia volunteers were not taken into battle by Zachary Taylor in the Mexican-American War? Almost nowhere. That true and accurate historical accounting took extensive research, and it’s a moment of history that has almost entirely disappeared from memory.

And that was just a scene from the first book. Similar scenes can be found in any of the Jackson Speed novels.

 

If you’ve gone looking for Historical Fiction and you’re sick of finding this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nothing against Jasmine Ashford (if that’s your real name!). Her books sell significantly better than mine, and she’s got dozens and dozens more 4- and 5-star reviews than I have.

But if you’ve gone looking for historical fiction, and you found this, and you were horrified, I promise that Jackson Speed is not this.

“Shauna had loved Aaron so much; their eyes locking when they met on the street one day. She wasn’t stupid though; she understood completely that a Lord could never marry a peasant, no matter how much they thought they loved each other. She had accepted that from the beginning, just as she accepted everything about him. His smile, his blue eyes, his laugh; his penchant to dream. She knew everything about him as he did her, and she loved him with all of her heart.”

Jackson Speed is nothing at all like this.

 

You like your humor dry and dark

The Jackson Speed Memoirs are not laugh-out-loud novels, but they are rich in humor. Much of it is a dark humor, as a fair number of the punchlines are centered on some man’s misfortune or death. All of it is a dry humor.

If you like slapstick comedy because you don’t get the joke unless someone smacks you with it, you might not laugh much while reading Jackson Speed. But if a subtle joke that makes you crack a smile is how you roll, you’ll probably enjoy the Jackson Speed novels.

 

You’re sick of political correctness

I don’t go out of my way to write non-PC novels, but I am certainly not creating characters who have 21st Century sensibilities and putting them into novels about the 1800s.

Some of my characters are bigots. Jackson Speed is a womanizer. The only thing his wife hates more than an abolitionist is William Tecumseh Sherman.

I don’t seek to write offensive books for the sake of being offensive, but if you feel like everyone is too uptight all the time and you think an off-color joke shouldn’t be a crime, you might find that the Jackson Speed novels are just the right amount of offensive.

If you are easily offended, please see my list of people who should not read my books. It does not (but should have) included people who are easily offended.

 

Nipples and bigamy are cool with you

You think it’s funny that an old man in his 80s and 90s, writing his memoirs, recalls all the women he bedded by the size, color and shape of their nipples.

As noted earlier, Speed is a womanizer. He gets belly-to-belly with as many women as he possibly can in 100,000 words or so, and in writing his memoirs his favorite thing is to reminisce about those women. Often, he recalls them by specific features, in particular their nipples. And he refers to their breasts as “teats.”

The sex is not explicit, but there is a lot of it. Jackson Speed’s arch nemesis throughout each of the novels is the “toothed vagina.” Every escapade and dangerous adventure that Jackson Speed encounters is brought about by his desire to bed some woman, and he is only married to a few of them.

If this isn’t enough to put you off the books, then you are almost surely going to love the Jackson Speed novels.

 

You love a good adventure

The Jackson Speed novels are full of adventure. Some of them read like a spy novel, and some are military adventures.

Speed’s life span takes him from the Mexican-American War, through the 1849 California Gold Rush, into the War of Northern Aggression, and out to the Wild West. In that time he spends time as a Texas Ranger, a Pinkerton, an officer and a spy for both the Union and the Confederacy, an outlaw, a prospector, an Indian and he rides with the 7th Cavalry. He’s a member of the Knights of the Golden Circle, and he helps fugitive slaves flee the South.

You don’t have to know the history to enjoy the adventure.

 

So if James Garner is your Clint Eastwood and you get a kick out of a hero who will do any anti-heroic deed to get himself out of trouble, then I’d recommend the Jackson Speed Memoirs to you.

Only certain people should read the Jackson Speed novels

Sometimes when a person tells me that they are reading one of my Jackson Speed novels, I feel an involuntary cringe. There are some people who really should not read my books, and maybe it would be a good idea to help people self-qualify whether or not they should read Jackson Speed.

And I’ll tell you right now, if you are not the kind of person who should read my books, I sinerely don’t want you to read my books.

About a year ago I found myself in a meeting full of about 50 business owners – most of them folks I didn’t know. One of the people in the room – in front of everyone – announced that he’d read the first Jackson Speed novel.

He didn’t say it in so many words, but he didn’t like the book. He acknowledged that I told a good story, and he acknowledged that I’d developed a character. But he did say he “hates” the character, and when he said it, I understood that what he meant was that he hates the book.

That’s cool. I can live with that. He’s not going to read any more Jackson Speed novels, and that’s okay. My feelings aren’t hurt. I knew when I started writing the books that they were going to appeal to only a certain few people.

I understand that Speed isn’t for everyone, and I get why some people don’t like the books.

So maybe it’s worthwhile to eliminate prospective readers before their sensibilities are destroyed.

 

If the word “nipple” bothers you

The protagonist of the story is an old man telling about his memoirs. The character is not the guy running from Yankee bullets in the Civil War. The character is the old man reminiscing. A lot of what he reminisces about are the women he bedded when he was younger.

When I started writing the novels, it struck me as funny if the old man remembers his love conquests by their nipples. So when Ol’ Speedy remembers the girls – and there were many girls – he remembers them by their nipples. So for every female character in the series, there are nipples times two.

If nipples bother you, please don’t read the Jackson Speed novels.

 

If you are given to moralizing

The Jackson Speed depicted in the novels is not a good, decent, church-going type of person. If you are in law school and you want to develop a firm understanding of “moral turpitude,” perhaps you should let Jackson Speed be your guide. He often conducts himself in a vile, base manner. He is a scoundrel.

His only two motivations are self-preservation and getting belly-to-belly with whatever woman is unfortunate enough to catch his attention. He is no Southern Gentleman.

So if your favorite part of your religiosity is condemning other people who are not as good as you are, please take that somewhere else.

 

If you are offended by bigamy and/or extramarital sex

In all of the book descriptions, I specifically point out that Jackson Speed is a womanizer. While the sex scenes are not graphic depictions, Jackson Speed has sex with a lot of women. He’s only married to a few of them.

 

If you don’t like history

The footnotes alone should be enough to keep you away if you don’t like history. Most of the Jackson Speed books are heavily footnoted because the novels are full of true history. While Speed is a character of my imagination, the setting is often real and many of the secondary characters are people who actually lived. I’ve gone to some lengths to fairly and accurately portray those people, and often the quotes given to them in the books are things they actually said or nearly said. All these portrayals, of course, are through the filter of Jackson Speed – who dislikes most of these people – but I do try to be fair and honest when dealing with historical places, events, and characters.

If you don’t have a love for history, too much of the painstaking research I put into the books will be completely wasted on you. So even if you enjoy the stories and think the character is outrageous and funny, and your favorite word is “nipple,” maybe you should skip the Jackson Speed novels. If you think history is boring and just a bunch of dates and places to be memorized, I might recommend 50 Shades of Gray. I’ve never read it, but I’m told it’s pretty banal.

 

If you are under 16 years of age

You’re too young.

 

If you are anyone’s grandmother

Maybe you’d like “Four Things My Wife Hates About Mornings.”

 

If you are one of these three people

My sons, who have never read them, hate my books. It may have something to do with their father using the word “nipples.”

 

If you are this woman

One of my very first reviews came from a woman who said, “I borrowed this for my free Amazon Prime monthly download. I’m glad I didn’t pay for it. I didn’t finish reading the book. Sorry, I’m not interested in hearing about how many times a 15 year old boy gets laid.”

For the purposes of my story, Jackson Speed needed to be 15 years old when he fled his boyhood home of Scull Shoals, so necessarily the story is about a 15-year-old. And let’s remember, in 1845, a 15-year-old was a man, not a boy. A shit ton of 15-year-olds got holes in them in the War of Northern Aggression.

If this woman is you, don’t read Jackson Speed. You cannot imagine how glad I am that she did not finish reading the book.

 

If you think Robert E. Lee sits on the right hand of Jesus

My books, while well researched and historically informative, take a critical view (Jackson Speed’s point of view) of a lot of historical personages. Robert E. Lee is among them.

I spoke about my books once at a meeting of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. These are my people. These are people who love history, specifically the time period of the mid-1800s. These are people who have a deeply held affection for their forebears. These are people who I can talk to and relate to and spend time with. But let’s be honest – most of these folks don’t read fiction. They just want the War of Northern Aggression in stark and vivid reality. They want Ken Burns and Shelby Foote, not Rob Peecher and Jackson Speed. Although, the speech to the SCV went very well, and I had my audience laughing for an hour. But they still aren’t the folks who are going to read my novels.

And I’m afraid too many of them would have apoplexy when they read High Tide and discover that Speed turns Yankee halfway through the Battle of Gettysburg.

But if you are a Son of Confederate Veterans and you can take a joke, then maybe. Maybe. But don’t get mad at me if you start reading the book and discover that Jackson Speed helped prevent Lincoln’s assassination in ’61.

 

If you think I mean 1961

Come on.

 

There is probably a lot more that should be added to this list, and I’ll continue to give thought to other people who should not read my books. I’m sure more people will read the books, tell me how much they don’t like them, and help me identify the characteristics of people who should not read the Jackson Speed Memoirs.

But if nothing in this list excludes you from reading Jackson Speed, then you really should get on with it.

Click here to start buying the Jackson Speed Memoirs.

Two years in the making, “In the Rush” is now available

My wife, and first reader, Jean models the Kindle version of “Jackson Speed In the Rush.”

I wrote the first Jackson Speed novel in 28 days. It was a mad dash of late nights, early mornings, writing at the dinner table. My wife Jean thought I had lost my mind, and she worried she had lost her husband.

Over the years I’ve started and never finished a lot of novels. Back in the mid-1990s I was writing a novel I was really excited about. I spent months writing the novel. It was an enormous tome. I don’t know for sure, but if I had to guess, it was probably around 150,000 words (by way of comparison, most of the Jackson Speed novels are fewer than 100,000) and it was not even close to being finished.

Then I lost interest and quit writing.

And I’ve done that a lot with different ideas I had for novels. For many years, I didn’t even try any more.

But when I first had the idea for the Jackson Speed novels, it was like an epiphany. I can’t describe how excited I was about the concept, and I was just desperate to get the story written. And I was worried that if I stopped long enough to take a breath I would lose my momentum, and poor Ol’ Speedy would go the way of all the other novels I’d ever started.

So I wrote feverishly and didn’t stop to take a breath.

It was a weird month.

I’m not saying that writing El Teneria in 28 days made it a better book, but I finished it. And published it.

Five years later, I’m really pleased to announce that I’ve now published the sixth book in the Jackson Speed series.

Jackson Speed In the Rush was two years in the writing.

It was not the feverish, non-stop writing marathon that El Teneria was.

When I first envisioned Jackson Speed – that morning I had the epiphany – there were four very specific books I planned to write about Jackson Speed’s life. I knew there would be (or could be) many others, but I had four specific episodes in mind.

In the Rush is the last of those four.

I knew I wanted to start Speed in the Mexican-American War. I knew I wanted him to be a Pinkerton spy saving Lincoln from the Baltimore plotters. I knew I wanted to put him at the Battle of Gettysburg. And I knew I wanted to send him to California as a Forty-Niner.

I also generally knew the story before I ever started writing it.

It’s hard for me to say, then, why this particular book took so long for me to write. One reason might be that I had to do more research for this novel than I have for the others.

Prior to writing Jackson Speed, my knowledge of the American Civil War was already vast. I’d read countless books on the subject, visited battlefields, watched documentaries. I am, obviously, what they call a “history buff,” and before Jackson Speed was ever an idea in my mind I had already done the bulk of the research for any novels set during the Civil War.

But In the Rush takes up episodes in history that were less familiar to me. My knowledge of the California Gold Rush and the Cherokee’s early days in Oklahoma was only surface knowledge. When I wrote Orange Turnpike and High Tide, ever bit of research material I needed was already on my book shelf in my office. But for In the Rush, I had to buy or borrow several books, and I spent countless hours on the Internet doing research.

In the Rush is slightly longer than High Tide, which up to now was the longest of the Jackson Speed books.

In the Rush is almost like two novels in one, with two distinct and separate stories being told. So readers may come away feeling like they’ve just read two novels.

If you’ve enjoyed the previous Jackson Speed novels, I don’t think you’ll find anything disappointing about Book 6 of the series. If you haven’t enjoyed previous Jackson Speed novels, you’ll like this one even less because it is a little bit longer.

And if you haven’t read the previous Jackson Speed novels, what are you even doing reading this? – Get yourself over to Amazon and start reading them!

So, if you’re ready for Book 6 of the Jackson Speed Memoirs, click here to get the Kindle version.

Book 6 of the Jackson Speed series is now available

Jackson Speed In the Rush is now available to Kindle and Kindle app users!

The print version of the book should be available in the next couple of days.

I am massively pleased with this book, and very excited for Speed fans to get a look at it.

The Jackson Speed books do not follow the chronological order of his life, and this one – the sixth book in the series – actually takes readers back to where the first book left off. In Jackson Speed In the Rush, readers find Speed returning home from the war in Mexico, but as Bugs Bunny might say, Speed took a wrong turn in Albuquerque (actually, his wrong turn was in Dallas) and instead of returning to Georgia he goes off seeking gold in California.

But for Speed to get from war in Mexico to gold in California, he has to take an adventurous detour that leads him to the Spavinaw River in northeast Oklahoma. There he meets and spends time with the famous Cherokee chief Stand Watie.

Watie is an interesting person to me, and I really enjoyed writing the first half of the novel where Watie plays a role.

As I have noted previously, this book required a good bit more in-depth research than I usually have to do, and for about a month I was studying up on Watie quite a bit. I got caught up reading a great deal of his correspondence, and it was truly fascinating to me. I knew I was going to like the guy, though, when I discovered early on that he was the last Confederate general to surrender. I have big respect for anyone who is willing to stand his ground even when everyone else has thrown in the towel.

All of the books in The Jackson Speed Memoirs have a cast of characters of real people who really did some or all of the things depicted in the books.

Included in previous novels have been people like Devil Dan Sickles, Jefferson Davis, Ben McCulloch, Allan Pinkerton, Stonewall Jackson, Fitzhugh Lee and even Abraham Lincoln. I thoroughly enjoy writing about these historical people in the Jackson Speed novels. Pinkerton is probably my favorite historical person to write into a novel, but I really enjoy the process of discovering more about these individuals and trying to resurrect them on my pages.

In the Rush has another wonderful cast of characters joining Stand Watie.

Jesse Chisholm makes an appearance or two in the book. Chisholm, of course, lent his name to the famous cattle trail. Most interesting to me about Chisholm, though, was that he routinely adopted children who had been kidnapped by Plains Indians. The Comanche even purposefully kidnapped kids just so they could sell them to Chisholm. Jesse tried to find the families of the children he rescued, but when he could not, he just took them as his own.

John Rollin Ridge, a tragic character if ever there was one, also appears in the novel. I felt a deep connection to Ridge because he, too, was a journalist and novelist. I’m convinced the novel does not do justice to Ridge as a person, but I needed him to play a specific role in my novel and then I needed to leave him in Fayetteville, but it was always a nagging shame to me that I could not incorporate Ridge into the novel in a bigger way.

My own seventh great-grandfather shows up in the novel, though I’m afraid he isn’t cast in the best light. Great Grandpa Nathan Boone was about 70-years-old in 1848 and by then his health wasn’t great and he was in the habit of drinking heavily and reminiscing even more heavily. I think my portrayal of Boone is fair, but he’d have acquitted himself much better if we’d have caught him at a younger age.

Obadiah Bush, an ancestor to two U.S. Presidents, also makes a convenient cameo in the novel. I was able to find very little factual information about Obadiah Bush that would allow me to draw him out as an accurate character, and so the Obadiah Bush in the Jackson Speed novels is mostly fantasy. Sometimes when I incorporate historical people into my novels, the novel bends around the historical character. Sometimes when I incorporate historical people into my novels, the person bends around the plot of the novel. Obadiah Bush does all the bending here.

And finally, Joaquin Murrieta and Three-Finger Jack (Manuel Garcia) provide Speed with the antagonists he needs so that he can do that thing he does second best: Run like hell!

This isn’t the first time that Murrieta has appeared in fiction, so he’s pretty darn good at it. He’s quite a bit more of a villain for Robert Peecher than he was for John Rollin Ridge, but I think you’ll like him anyway.

I’ll note, too, that Slim and Brother were a couple of guys I knew in college. They were roommates in Beeson Hall at Georgia College, and I used to hang out some with Slim and Brother. They provided inspiration and nicknames for a couple of the characters in the novel.

So, with a cast full of fascinating historical people, I hope In the Rush is as fun and entertaining as it is informative.

To get the Kindle version, click here: Jackson Speed In the Rush.

First reading of Jackson Speed in the Rush gets a couple of tears

Not only is she my first reader, but Jean will also sometimes model books for me when first editions show up.

I am feverishly working on the final edits for the next Jackson Speed novel with the hope that it can be done and published in time for my friend Chris to read it on his vacation the first part of June.

If there has ever been any question about whether or not I love my readers, let this put all rumors to the contrary to rest. I am staying up until midnight night after night after night to be sure that Chris’s vacation has some Jackson Speed in it.

The “final edits” process looks like this: I read over every word and try to catch any last type-o’s, any continuity issues that were missed in previous edits, or anything that just sits funny with me (there are two scenes in El Teneria that still make me cringe when I wonder why I didn’t edit those out).

During “final edits,” I simultaneously give the book to my wife and ask her to read through it.

If you follow this blog, you know that Jean is my first reader, and I put tremendous value in her opinion of my books.

So this is what was going on in our house last night. I was final editing, and Jean was first reading.

If you’re a fan of Jackson Speed, you know these are not weighty books. I try to keep them historically accurate, full of action and satire, and entertaining to read. But periodically I’ll throw in some really terrible stuff because we are, after all, talking about a rough period of American history. My books are full of characters who die. I think of the final chapter of Jackson Speed and the Blood Tubs, where Speed is on the battlefield at Fredericksburg and is standing over a dying Yankee soldier. It’s a poignant moment. And while the books are not weighty, there are certainly scenes that get heavier than others.

So last night Jean read through one of those heavier scenes.

And it made her cry.

She wasn’t bawling. She didn’t have snot coming out of her nose. But she had a couple of little tears she was willing to shed over a scene in the book.

That’s what I’m looking for. That’s why I put the book in Jean’s hand and watch her while she reads. If she cries when I want her to cry and laughs when I want her to laugh or shakes her head in disgust as Jackson Speed crawls into yet another woman’s bed, then it’s all a good gauge to me that I’m doing my job as a storyteller.

I don’t expect everyone to tear up while reading this book. It’s a fact about Jean that she’ll cry while watching Hallmark or Folger’s commercials. But for the average reader, there might be a scene or two that make you wonder if the room has suddenly gotten a little dusty.

So Chris need not worry that Ol’ Speedy is going to ruin his vacation with a lot of tear-jerking, but if my first reader’s reactions are a fair representation of the book, then I think I’ve done my job.

This one tops 100,000 words, so it’s a bigger book than all the other (except High Tide) and really it should feel like two stories for the price of one.

I’m excited for you to read it!

Now … back to editing before Chris gets his suitcases packed!

Sherman jokes are indeed too soon

Cump Sherman

With the fire and collapse of a section of bridge on I-85 yesterday, there’s been a lot of posting about William Tecumseh Sherman in the last 24 hours.

Sherman makes an appearance in the soon-to-be-released “Jackson Speed in the Rush.” Sherman biographers will know that the Yankee general made famous for burning Atlanta on his March to the Sea will know that in 1848-49 the young Lieutenant William Tecumseh Sherman was in California and played a small role in the California Gold Rush.

I learned some interesting things about Sherman during my research, not least of which is that his friends all called him “Cump,” a shortened version of his middle name.

I’ve seen lots of jokes floating around Facebook about Sherman and the burning of Atlanta. My favorite is the photo of Sherman with the caption: “Police have released this photograph of a suspect in the I-85 fire.” Invariably, someone will post: “Too soon.”

But I think it’s important to remember that for many people, these jokes are “too soon.” My personal authority on the Old South has many times reminded me that when Sherman and those damn Yankees marched through Georgia they devastated lives and property, and generations later some have not forgotten. In fact, my personal authority on the Old South has told me how he used to hear stories from the old-timers (who got it from older-timers) of how the Yankee soldiers entertained themselves.

It was common back in the old days that peacocks roamed the streets in some small Southern towns. Some people kept them as pets and allowed them to roam at will. In fact, I used to live down the road from someone who had a couple of peacocks as pets, and they were constantly coming into the yard, honking and aggravating my dog.

My friend and Old South authority said that when Sherman came through, the Yankee soldiers entertained themselves by shooting these peacocks for sport.

“They shot the peafowl,” he says, and the generational sorrow is thick in his voice.

I’m not suggesting that people shouldn’t be able to have their fun on Facebook or that there’s not some humor to the joke that Cump Sherman set the fire that shut down I-85, but don’t dismiss those who say it is “too soon” as idle jokers. Some wounds take hundreds of years to heal, and Sherman’s gash across the face of Georgia is still a raw scar.

They shot the peafowl.