Jackson Speed & the Green Eggs and Ham


Periodically I’ll drop a line or a scene into one of my novels just because it makes me laugh.

Obviously, when I’m writing the Jackson Speed novels I’m trying to develop scenes that will amuse my readers, but sometimes the jokes are just for me. If any reader catches onto the joke, that’s even better.

In writing Jackson Speed and the Blood Tubs, I dropped a line into Chapter 11 that was a great example of this. Speed is staying at Barnum’s hotel in Baltimore and he’s gone down for a breakfast of “ham and eggs and cabbage.”

It’s a throw-away line, right? He might have had a breakfast of eggs and bacon or bacon and grits or sausage and biscuits with apple butter. I suppose I could have had him eating an Egg McMuffin, though it might not have been appropriate for the time period.

In fact, it wasn’t a throw-away line. Somewhere in my research for the novel, I stumbled across the recipe for “green eggs and ham.”

Red cabbage, when cooked with eggs, will turn the eggs green.

So I tossed in an homage to the greatest poet of my childhood, Dr. Seuss, as a fun little joke to myself.

That’s right, Jackson Speed eats green eggs and ham.

At least one reader caught the joke. I got a message not long after Blood Tubs was released from someone who thought “ham and eggs and cabbage” was an odd combination of foods, so he searched the breakfast to see if there was some special 19th Century reference, and his search produced links to green egg and ham recipes.

Of course, Blood Tubs is full of references to poets.

I still am tickled by the scene where Speedy reads Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” to woo Southern belles in Baltimore. Whitman, of course, was a rabid abolitionist, and the attendees at the ball where Speedy read Whitman to the women were all secessionists, of course.

When I write these scenes that amuse me so much, I always call my wife in and make her read them. Her reaction is generally how I know if I’ve written a scene that will amuse a wider audience or if I’ve written a scene that is all for me.

I’m not suggesting that readers should Google every meal Jackson Speed has. Sometimes he eats oysters simply because oyster bars were like the Subway sandwich shop of the 1860s.

Latest Jackson Speed story now available

I am working to get Volume III of The Jackson Speed Memoirs in a publishable state, and hope to have it done before August is out.

Volume III will contain a relatively short novel which features Jackson Speed in the Battle of Chancellorsville and leads directly into Volume IV in which our hero is at Gettysburg.

But there is an episode in Ol’ Speedy’s life that is worth knowing before you read about his exploits in Gettysburg. It’s just a short episode, a “short story” if you will, and I’ll also be including that in Volume III.

But, because I know that you, like so many women in the 19th Century, can’t get enough of Jackson Speed, I have decided to go ahead and publish the short story here on my blog. I’ll probably be taking it down when I actually publish Volume III, but for now it is available and free to read. Print it (it’s about 28 pages printed, I think), read it on your computer, whatever you like.

It can be found under the “Short Fiction” tab at the top of this page, or by clicking here.

If this story serves as your introduction to Jackson Speed and you like what you see, I’d be delighted if you would check out Jackson Speed: The Hero of El Teneria and Jackson Speed and the Blood Tubs.

I’ve got books to write

Probably I should be passing the time at book release parties in New York City, sipping champagne and accepting attaboys and back pats.

But the truth is, I’m feeling a little under the gun.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00067]On Good Friday I published the second of the Jackson Speed Memoirs. Jackson Speed and the Blood Tubs is now available through Amazon.com.

On Easter Sunday the folks at The eReader Café were kind enough to publish an author interview with me. Thankfully, I’d published Blood Tubs just in time that they were able to use links and cover images in the interview. Whew!

And on Monday, April Fool’s Day, I published Four Things My Wife Hates About Mornings & Other Collected Stories.

In the span of four days, I tripled the number of books I’ve authored and published.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00065]So I am kind of a big deal.

It was chance and chance alone that brought the culmination of both these projects over the same weekend.

My extraordinary editor, India Powell at Lightswitch Communications, finished editing the Blood Tubs a couple of weeks ago. I was going through her edits and formatting the chapters into the book as I received the chapters back from her, so it was all ready to go. Last week, Kate Sherrill – the unbelievably talented artist who did the cover illustration for the Blood Tubs – finished the painting and provided me with a high res digital file.

I also finished editing and formatting my columns for “Four Things” last weekend. The cover photo was shot in December and all that needed to be done was put the pieces together.

My beautiful and talented wife, Jean, who does the cover designs for my books, ended up being the one who decided which book would be published first because she decided to design the Blood Tubs cover and then work on the Four Things cover.

Even though it was by chance, it was still a lot of fun to see the completion of two big projects on the same weekend. I’ve been in one stage or another of working on both of these books for several months, and especially in the last few weeks I was getting increasingly excited to finally have them completed.

So today, as Four Things went live on Amazon, I was sitting here admiring the vast array of books available if you do a search for Robert Peecher on Amazon.com, and that’s when I realized what a dreadful spot I’m in.

I’m dropping books like it’s easy (it’s not, and, oddly enough, it is), but I’ve also got a timeline for the next two Jackson Speed books.

My intention is to have both of these books coincide with the 150th anniversaries of the battles during which they are set.

Jackson Speed on the Orange Turnpike (which sees our reluctant hero stepping out of the woods just in time to send the entirety of the Army of the Potomac back across the Rappahannock) takes place at Chancellorsville. The 150th anniversary of Chancellorsville is now just a month away.

The next book, Jackson Speed at the High Tide, sees Ol’ Speedy fighting for both the Federals and the Confederates at Gettysburg. The sesquicentennial for Gettysburg is only three months away.

The Orange Turnpike is essentially written. High Tide is not quite half done.

I can do it. But it will not be easy. I don’t know about my editor and my illustrator and my designer, but my hope is to get all of them equally excited about sesquicentennials.

Anyway, I shot an email to my social secretary and I told her she was going to have to postpone the New York City parties and the champagne sipping and the attaboying and the back patting.

I’ve got books to write.

Not another Civil War book

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.

Jackson Speed was caught on the cover of Harper's Weekly resting a comforting hand on Kate Cherry's bottom during the bombardment of Fort Sumter.

Jackson Speed was caught on the cover of Harper’s Weekly resting a comforting hand on Kate Cherry’s bottom during the bombardment of Fort Sumter.

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.

Jackson Speed and the Photo Shoot

You ladies are lucky there's no abolitionist poetry around!

You ladies are lucky there’s no abolitionist poetry around!


A friend of mine, Kate Sherrill, will be painting the cover of the next Jackson Speed book. Kate wanted to put together some photographs of people in period clothing, and she will paint from those photographs.

So yesterday I went out to the Dress Up Box in High Shoals, Georgia, where Mary Delaplane dressed me up as Jackson Speed. Kate found some volunteers to stand in for some of the other characters from the novel. Sam Chafin is our chief Blood Tub bad guy, looking all sinister with a switch-blade comb. Jim Kenaston portrayed a disapproving and jealous Allan Pinkerton. And Leah Morris, a student at UGA, stood in for Kate Warne, the female Pinkerton detective who convinces Speed to hang around Baltimore and save Abe Lincoln’s life.

Leah as Kate Warne and Kate Sherrill, the cover artist.

Leah as Kate Warne and Kate Sherrill, the cover artist.


It took Leah 20 minutes or more to get her hair done and the dress on, and we were done taking pictures in about half that time.

We had all kinds of trouble finding a pair of pants that covered my ankles. Everything Mary gave me was much too short. In the end, she handed me a pair of size 38 pants that were enormous around the waist, and so we slid those pants halfway down my hips to cover my ankles and the problem was solved. I was sort of like a Civil War-era gangsta Jackson Speed with my pants pulled down.

Kate checks to see if I broke her camera.

Kate checks to see if I broke her camera.


While trying to find a pair of pants that fit, I was reminded of a story I heard about Abraham Lincoln. As I everyone knows, Abe Lincoln was a tall man, and especially tall for his time. A newspaper reporter once pointed out to him that he was tall, and asked him how long a man’s legs should be.

“Long enough to reach the floor,” Lincoln replied.

I’ve always gotten a kick out of that story.

John and Sam and I examining the Civil War pistol Mary Delaplane brought to use as a prop.

John and Sam and I examining the Civil War pistol Mary Delaplane brought to use as a prop.


I know you’ve heard tales of the high-society, wealth and glamour lifestyle of fashion models. This being my first foray into that lifestyle, I can tell you that our models were well-paid. My wife Jean baked up a batch of brownies that we took to the photo shoot, and I got everyone’s address so that when the book comes out I can send everyone a copy of “Jackson Speed and the Blood Tubs.”

I am working on the final edits of the novel and expect it to be released in a few weeks. In the meantime, if you’ve not yet read “Jackson Speed: The Hero of El Teneria,” I would recommend that you do so. It’s probably the most fun you can have reading about the Mexican-American War.

Our four models portraying characters from the book.

Our four models portraying characters from the book.

Back cover of Jackson Speed and the Blood Tubs

While writing about the night of the red ballot last night, I topped 50,000 words on the next Jackson Speed novel. I’m shooting for 80,000 total, and I feel pretty confident that you Jackson Speed fans will be able to put “Jackson Speed and the Blood Tubs” on your Christmas wishlist.

So this morning I’m kicking around some thoughts for the text on the back cover (because it’s all about the marketing, don’t ye know) and I’ve come up with the paragraphs below.

Here’s what I’ve got for the back cover:

Allan Pinkerton called it “the Night of the Red Ballot.” It was the night that president-elect Abraham Lincoln’s would-be assassin was selected among the members of the Blood Tubs. Seated at the head of the room was a sinister Corsican with round-rimmed glasses and a thin, almost weak frame. Ferrandini had sworn that the Black Republican would never live see the White House and took a vow that he would sacrifice his own life so long as it meant Lincoln’s death.

Among those gathered in the room was Jackson Speed, confident that it did not matter whether he pulled a white ballot or a red ballot, he was in no danger. Ferrandini’s plot had foiled Pinkerton’s plans and Ol’ Jackie Speed had nothing to fear.

Or did he?

America’s reluctant adventurer, inadvertent hero and all-around scoundrel is back, and he’s on a mission. Sent by Allan Pinkerton to save Abraham Lincoln and the Union, Speedy can’t keep his hands off one of Pinkerton’s detectives (and any other belles of Baltimore who cross his path) long enough to stay focused on the plotting of the Blood Tubs.

Can Lincoln survive long enough to make it to the inauguration? With Pinkerton Detective Jackson Speed on the case, it seems unlikely.