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.

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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.

The Battle of the Boat video

When writing the Jackson Speed novels, I try very hard to find interesting, unique, and often forgotten episodes from history to slip into my plots. When I was writing the first of the Jackson Speed novels, I stumbled upon the story of the Battle of the Boat, and I knew immediately it was the exact sort of disaster in which Jackson Speed should take part.

Unfortunately, there are not a lot of sources about the event, but there were enough that I was able to piece together a pretty thorough approximation of what happened.

In the video above, I discuss the Battle of the Boat and what took place on the Rio Grande to make General Taylor decide that he was not taking any of the Georgia militia units into battle with him during the Mexican-American War.

If you enjoy reading historical fiction and like your heroes to be on the scoundrel side, please check out the Jackson Speed Memoirs. And if you enjoy the novels, leave a review on Amazon!

Also, go and “like” the Jackson Speed page on Facebook where I am regularly posting short videos in which I discuss my research and the novels.

Jackson Speed: Not really like other historical novels

Billy Oates, Alabama governor, Confederate colonel who led his men up Little Round Top on the second day of Gettysburg. Some of the humor of the Jackson Speed novels comes from putting a character like Ol' Speedy next to a man like Billy Oates.

Billy Oates, Alabama governor, Confederate colonel who led his men up Little Round Top on the second day of Gettysburg. Some of the humor of the Jackson Speed novels comes from putting a character like Ol’ Speedy next to a man like Billy Oates.

A few years ago, when I wrote the first Jackson Speed novel, I was talking to a buddy of mine and trying to describe the book to him.

It’s easy if someone is familiar with George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman Papers, because then I can just say, “Well, Jackson Speed is similar to an American Flashman.”

But my friend wasn’t familiar with Flashman.

“Is it like Shaara’s books?” he asked.

“Um,” I hesitated. “Not really.”

Of course, Jackson Speed is almost nothing like the historical fiction of Jeff and Michael Shaara.

The father and son writers do a magnificent job of interpreting history through their stories, and if you have an interest in the Civil War and that time period, I highly recommend them. I’ve also enjoyed reading Bernard Cornwell’s Starbuck series (although I like his Sharpe series better).

Jackson Speed also isn’t much like Horatio Hornblower or Jack Aubrey.

These are all great historical novels well worth reading.

The history in them ranges from precisely accurate to complete fiction, but they are all wonderful novels that tell really entertaining tales and, for the most part, offer readers mini-lessons in history.

I hope that Jackson Speed also entertains, and I know that there are history lessons hidden within the fiction. But with the exception of Fraser’s Flashman, all of these books take a pretty stoic view of history. Their heroes are heroic. Even when these authors allow their protagonists to be flawed, the flaws are overcome and the heroes find redemption.

Jackson Speed is without redemption, and his flaws run deep, but the thing that drives me when I write these stories is a desire to not take any of it too seriously. I write about horrible times and terrible events, but what I like about Speed is that so long as he escapes it, none of it matters much to him.

When he sees a man shot in the gut in battle and the guy is dying a slow death with his intestines leaking out on the battlefield, Speed is just thankful it wasn’t him who was shot.

When he is forced to give a thought to the institution of slavery, he’s ambivalent because he ain’t in chains.

Of course he’s also horrified by all of it, and scared to death. Part of what makes Jackson Speed so awful as a person is his willingness to succumb to his fear. While the brave men he meets (typically real people from history) charge into battle or do the duty, Speed is crouched behind a tree trunk praying for safety. I love the juxtaposition of Jackson Speed and, for instance, William Oates of the Fifteenth Alabama on the side of Little Round Top on the second day at Gettysburg.

Oates – both the Oates in Jackson Speed at the High Tide and the real Oates of history – was a tough and fearless man, and the men of the Fifteenth Alabama only left that hill when they were nearly out of ammunition and exhausted from terrible fighting, a 20-mile march and climbing up the side of Round Top. And then there’s Jackson Speed, and you’ll know how he escaped that ferocious battle in the woods on the side of that famous hill.

And then, because we see all of this action through Jackson Speed’s memory, these stalwart men of history are viewed as maniacs and imbeciles. And that just amuses me to no end.

So if you’re looking for historical fiction that casts these characters in a stoic and properly respectful attitude, there are some great books out there that I highly recommend.

But if you think you’d like a little humor in your historical fiction, a little coward in your hero, some pinched nipples and slapped butt cheeks, then you might want to give Ol’ Speedy a read.

Is it farcical? Yes.

Is it absurd? Sometimes.

Is it interesting and informative? Absolutely.

Is it like most other historial novels? Um. Not really.

Typical Jackson Speed readers are Flashman fans

Jackson Speed

The Jackson Speed novels often get compared to George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman series.

I am a fan of the Flashman novels, and I readily admit that Speed was significantly influenced by Flashman. Many of the emails I receive from readers of the Speed novels or the reviews that readers leave on Amazon refer back to Flashman.

It was never really my intention to court fans of the Flashman novels, but I think it’s accurate to say that the typical reader of the Jackson Speed Memoirs is a fan of Fraser’s Flashman novels. Probably he has read all the Flashman novels twice, and he’s looking for books similar to the Flashman novels – books that are historically accurate and feature a comical anti-hero rather than the archetypal hero who is bold and daring.

My goal, when I started writing the series, was to write novels set in 19th Century America that I expected would appeal to an American audience. I wanted to write accurate portrayals of historical events and include in them a scoundrel, a cowardly womanizer whose motives are never glory or honor but purely selfish. I wanted to create a character in the Flashman mold but put him in the period and place of history I am most familiar with.

In my research, I look hard to find the obscure stories from American history where I can insert my roving rascal, and my expectation is that even a lot of well-versed armchair historians will learn something.

Whether you’re a fan of the Flashman novels and you’re looking for a character similar to Fraser’s cad Flashman, or you just enjoy humorous historical fiction, I’m just thrilled that every month it seems new readers are discovering and enjoying the Jackson Speed novels! I don’t get a lot of reviews on the books, and I only occasionally hear from readers with an email, but the fact that all four of the books continue to sell consistently suggests to me that people are enjoying the books, and I’m grateful that are!