Officially launched: “Jackson Speed at the High Tide”

conf sharpshooter at gburg

“The home of a Rebel Sharpshooter, Gettysburg” photograph by Timothy O’Sullivan, Civil War battlefield photographer.

When I was a small child I used to look through my father’s books about the War Between the States, in particular those that bore lots of photographs and maps. I would guess they were probably Time-Life books that I dragged out of the bookcase and sat on the floor and looked through. I remember the first time I saw the photo “The Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter,” a photo by battlefield photographer Timothy O’Sullivan.

I vividly remember the way that photograph captured my imagination. Maybe I was 5-years-old. Maybe six.

In the photo is a dead Confederate soldier in among the boulders of the Devil’s Den. His musket is propped against some stacked rocks – rocks that presumably the soldier put there to protect him and failed in their task. The lifeless body never seemed real to me.

Some years later, when I was a teenager, I visited Gettysburg with my parents. It was a stunning thing to me to be walking in among the rocks at Devil’s Den and find myself staring at the exact spot where the photo was taken.

I had spent so long when I was little staring at that picture of death that could clearly see the body on the ground, the gun propped against the stacked rocks. The stacked rocks, to this day, remain in place.

This is Gettysburg – a place that haunts the American conscious. It is remembered as the “Bloodiest Battle” of the War Between the States. When old veterans of the war held reunions, those reunions at Gettysburg were the most prominent. Presidents attended reunions at Gettysburg.

Gettysburg marked the time and place that the Confederacy was at its highest point – it’s High Tide – and it was the moment that the fortunes of war began to turn in favor of the Union.

Argonne in World War I, and Battle of the Bulge and Okinawa in World War II were worse than Gettysburg in terms of total American deaths, but the 3-day battle at Gettysburg saw 51,000 casualties and some 8,000 Americans killed. It was the “bloodiest” battle of the Civil War, though Sharpsburg (Antietam if you’re reading this from north of the Mason-Dixon Line) was the bloodiest single day battle.

But Gettysburg, for some reason that I don’t know I can even articulate, holds a place of prominence above all those in the hearts and minds of the American people. Perhaps the only battle that stirs our collective soul more than Gettysburg is Normandy.

When I sat down to write about Jackson Speed at Gettysburg, I knew I was heading into rough waters. If you want a fictional character to tear down your most revered places, Jackson Speed is the character to do it. And, truthfully, I doubt there are many people who revere Gettysburg more than I do.

So I went into the writing of “High Tide” with an internal conflict.

Also, you know I am a fan of George MacDonald Fraser’s Harry Flashman and you know that Flashman was a huge inspiration for Jackson Speed. In the Flashman books, Fraser often implied that there would be a “Flashman at Gettysburg” novel, but he did not live to write that tale. (Interestingly, I read an interview where Fraser said he really wasn’t interested in writing about Flashman in the American Civil War because the subject bored him!)

I’m certainly not suggesting that “Jackson Speed at the High Tide” is the Flashman book Fraser never wrote, but I will say that in writing “High Tide” I did feel I owed a certain respect to Fraser.

So I went into the writing of “High Tide” more than a little intimidated.

I’ll leave it to readers to decide if I managed to tell a story that entertains while respecting the revered status of Gettysburg and honoring the memory of Fraser and the character he created.

But I will say I’m pleased with the thing.

Heavily footnoted (there are 78 footnotes), I dug into my research pretty heavily. I cite Glenn Tucker and Shelby Foote in the acknowledgements, but I can’t imagine the numbers of books and articles I referred to in the writing of this book. One of the real joys for me was going to original sources. I read tons of material from people who lived in the town of Gettysburg – civilians during the battle. How fascinating that was! I went directly to Longstreet, Pickett, Doubleday, Oates, Chamberlain and many others to get their first-hand accounts of the battle.

Without intending to, I built a case that Ewell could have won the battle of Gettysburg for the South if he had pressed his advantage on the first day of the battle – at least, that was Speed’s opinion. Speed also spends a fair portion of the book defending Longstreet, and – as is his way – puts all the blame of Confederacy’s loss on Robert E. Lee for engaging the Federals at all.

Maybe the most fun I had was writing about the day Early’s troops came through Gettysburg a couple of days before the battle. They rode through town making a nuisance of themselves, and you’ll read where Speed has a conversation with a couple of Early’s men. It still makes me laugh and I’ve read it a dozen times to anyone who will listen (mostly my wife and children because they can’t escape me).

The promise I’ve always made to my readers is that the Jackson Speed novels will be historically accurate, and with the exception of the presence of Speed, I think you’ll find “Jackson Speed at the High Tide” is more accurate than your average textbook.

Can you learn something from reading this book? I promise you can. Even if you think you know Gettysburg, I can almost guarantee there is some historical fact in here that you’ll not have already known.

Can you find some entertainment from reading this book? I certainly hope so. If you have no sense of humor or you don’t care for a cowardly scoundrel, then this book probably isn’t for you. But if you enjoy novels that don’t take themselves too seriously, if you’re even slightly interested in history, and you can enjoy the tale of a rascal whose only interests are pretty women and not getting shot, then I think you’ll find that reading “Jackson Speed at the High Tide” is a worthwhile use of your time.

Also … in formatting the ebook, I learned how to create links for my footnotes. This was a huge discovery for me, because the footnotes add so much to the story (you should read the footnotes). Because something more than 90 percent of my sales are ebooks, I really wanted to figure this out for those readers. So moving between the footnotes and the body of the novel is a simple thing now. Though it’s time consuming, I may at some point try to do this for the previous books, but I will definitely do it with all future books.

At The High Tide FinalAs always, I hope you enjoy the book! If you do, please leave a review at Amazon.com. Reviews help me sell books. And if you want to get in touch with me, please do that, too. I ABSOLUTELY love to hear from the people who enjoy my stories. Every time I get an email from a reader who enjoyed one of my novels, it makes my day.

So, without further ado, I’m officially smashing the bottle of champagne against the bow of the ship “Jackson Speed at the High Tide.”

Whether its paperback or Kindle ebook, go and get you one of these and learn a little bit and have a laugh and enjoy getting lost in the world that plays out in my head!

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Coming Soon: Jackson Speed at the High Tide

At The High Tide FinalOne hundred and one thousand, six hundred and thirty one words is the final word count on Jackson Speed at the High Tide (less footnotes and introduction). It tops out at a good 30,000 words more than any of the other Speed books.

I’ve finished the final edits this afternoon, and it is no lack of modesty that forces me to say it is a brilliant piece of fiction.

Fans of Jackson Speed have waited an interminable amount of time for this book, and you have my deepest sympathies. It has been an unbelievable challenge for me to get this book written and I have been as expectant as you. But, it is finally done and dusted!

And truthfully, I think you’ll find that Volume IV of the Jackson Speed memoirs was well worth the wait.

In the coming days I’ll have more information about the release date. I have to finish out some of the footnotes (there are 78 footnotes!) and the maps – which are a huge job – and then I have to do the formatting. So there is still work to be done, but the writing, edits and rewriting are complete.

My hope is to have the book published by July 1, which is the anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg and seems a fitting time to release the book.

Above you can see the cover for the book. I’ve written about it before, but the cover was designed by Alex McArdell who is an amazing and gifted illustrator. I encourage you to check out his other work. Alex did an amazing job with the cover and I’m beyond thrilled with the way it turned out.

Fans of Jackson Speed will know that Volume IV consists of Speedy’s adventures at the Battle of Gettysburg, and they will know, too, that our cowardly hero switched sides multiple times at that battle. Alex did a masterful job of capturing the spirit of the book – the Union coat pulled back to reveal a Confederate coat; Speed’s beloved slouch hat; the tempting Jenny Rakestraw clutching at the chest of a heroic Jackson Speed. He even managed to work in the cupola of the Seminary in the background. Oh! It is brilliant!

I am so excited to get this book into the hands of readers who have come to love Speedy the way I do. In High Tide, readers can join with Jackson Speed as he flees his way from one end of the three-day battle to the next, always looking to save his own skin and, wherever possible, get belly-to-belly with whatever beautiful young woman is available. Speed takes readers from the Seminary cupola on the first day through the streets of Gettysburg as the Army of the Potomac runs for the safety of the hills south of town; he takes them up Little Round Top where he comes face-to-face with the famed 20th Maine; and on the third day of the battle, Speed takes readers across the mile-long wheat field in Pickett’s Charge to the famous Angle where the Confederacy reaches its “High Water Mark.”

And throughout, readers are treated to the humor of Speed’s unique perspective and single-minded purpose of saving his own neck. This “picaresque romp through America’s bloodiest battle” truly is magnificent.

In the meantime, if you have not yet read Jackson Speed on the Orange Turnpike, you should. High Tide will pick up immediately where Orange Turnpike leaves off, and Orange Turnpike is where I introduce the character of the lovely Jenny Rakestraw – the woman for whom Jackson Speed deserts his way into America’s bloodiest battle.