I have recently finished writing “Jackson Speed and the Blood Tubs” and am currently writing “Jackson Speed at the High Tide.” Both are set just before or during the American Civil War.
This is hallowed ground I’m treading upon, and I know it. My family is eat up with Civil War (a family farm actually makes an appearance in “Jackson Speed at the High Tide”). My oldest son is named for his sixth great-grandfather who lost his arm at Vicksburg, serving with his father and four brothers. Nobody has more respect for the history of the Civil War than I do.
But let’s be honest … There are a hundred thousand fiction and non-fiction books about the American Civil War, and ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine of those take an appropriately reverent approach to their subjects.
Even for the most fanatical of Civil War fanatics, you could never hope to read but the smallest percentage of Civil War books. I mean, it takes a couple of decades to get through Shelby Foote’s “The Civil War: A Narrative” (which comes in three volumes of a million pages each), and that’s required reading. If you haven’t read Foote’s Narrative, don’t even talk to me about the Civil War.
Of course, nearly all of it is required reading. Personally, I think the finest Civil War historian has been Glenn Tucker. His histories are incomparable in my opinion. I know a lot of people don’t care for Tucker, and he challenged some long-held views about Gettysburg and Old Peter. Nevertheless, for my money, Tucker does it better than most Civil War historians.
In every Civil War book I’ve ever read, one thing was consistent and clear: The author understood that the American Civil War is sacred. Lincoln is to be revered. Robert E. Lee venerated. The warriors were honorable, the battles worthy, the cause of preserving the Union and freeing the slaves righteous.
The Jackson Speed books are not that.
“Jackson Speed and the Blood Tubs” is the first in the Jackson Speed Memoirs to get Speedy into the Civil War, and only the smallest bit of the book is set during the war.
Speed is there when the cannonballs trace their arc in the Charleston sky to explode among the Yankees in Fort Sumter (no Yankees were killed during the making of this bombardment). And when a cannonball lands at Bobby Lee’s feet on Marye’s Heights overlooking the Battle of Fredericksburg, it’s Ol’ Speedy who’s standing nearby.
If you’re looking for a definitive Civil War novel that captures the horror and tragedy and heartbreak, the courage and honor and dignity, I can recommend some fine books, but Jackson Speed will not provide you with those things.
While I take great pains to ensure historical accuracy and spend more time researching than writing, I do not pretend that “Jackson Speed and the Blood Tubs” or “Jackson Speed at the High Tide” fall into the category of Civil War fiction.
Instead, I’m writing Jackson Speed books set during the Civil War.
Those familiar with Ol’ Speedy from the first volume of his memoirs, “Jackson Speed: The Hero of El Teneria,” know that Speed isn’t your typical Civil War Southern Presbyterian officer who prays for God’s favor when he commences to killing his enemies. No, if Jackie Speed is praying for anything, it’s that God will help him find a hidey-hole to crawl into until the shooting is done.
Speed holds no man in esteem when that man’s goal is to get him at the death, and so Stonewall Jackson is a priggish Presbyterian who looks like a flapping duck any time he attempts to ride his horse; Sherman is a red-headed little devil. To Speed, they are all maniacs and madmen who enjoy the slaughter.
And, of course, his one motivating desire is to get belly-to-belly with any woman unfortunate enough to catch his eye, and so while the cannons are blasting, you can bet that Speed is likely as not hiding in some bedchamber and hoping to use the woman astride him for cover should a cannonball come bouncing into the room.
No, the Jackson Speed Memoirs are not Civil War novels, they are Jackson Speed novels with a Civil War backdrop. My brand of humor and Jackson Speed’s unique observations have no place in Civil War literature.