About Author - My Writing Journey
I worked for Syracuse University Research Corporation in the 1960's and helped to developed counter-intelligence electronic systems for our government to fight the Cold War between the Korean and Vietnam wars. After a lifetime career in engineering in the Syracuse area, I retired. I went to Columbia College at age 71 to study American history and met Abraham Deng, a new American from South Sudan. Soon after he became my son. I had been writing for several years by then.
For years I wrote political opinion essays and non-fiction articles about concerns I had for the modern era. But the frenzied media and its angry noise taught me nothing of the important things. For those things that matter, I had learned as much as a moth or a goat might. Eventually I began to compile my essays on Americanism and file them away in a collection for posterity.
Then, realizing that not much can be understood without knowledge of the past, I began to take a serious interest in American history and began the accelerated study at Columbia and on my own. Historiography taught me about perspective and put to rest my angst about bias and agenda from both the writer's and reader's viewpoints.
At first, based on the contradictions in secondary and even primary sources, I began to believe the school of history study that concludes there is no truth to be learned from history. Now I know that the lessons of history are the only way the human condition can be understood. The universal truths of human kind are hidden in the past and are revealed there.
Ultimately, I came to realize that fictional literature is always concerned with history and has the potential to offer more truth than non-fiction. Historical fiction draws on the facts, sees the ideas and often finds the meanings. I learned some things from the modern writers - Webb, Foner, Jakes, Shaara and Cornwall - about the history. I learned some more from the late 19th century writers like Stowe and Crane. I learned from the literary writers from the early 20th century generation of Americans like Anderson and Faulkner and more still from even the 21st century authors like Conroy and Doctorow.
My study of American history first turned attentively to the founding era because I believed at the time that was the key period of importance for understanding ourselves as Americans. But I changed that early view when I began to more deeply understand the late Antebellum, Civil War and Reconstruction period for its full effect on all the American people.
At its core, the Civil War was about slavery. In just that regard only - the abolition of human bondage in America - it brought a new birth of freedom and the realization of our founding ideals. But it was about more than that for those who fought in it, and that has been the perspective so difficult for us to understand in historical retrospect. It was the first war of an industrial power asserting its supremacy.
To understand it better, requires two things of critical thinking - the ability to parse related but separate things separately (slavery and racism) and the ability to step outside one's skin and have empathy for the other. Without this, the most difficult challenge to understanding imaginable - for a modern black person to have empathy for a Confederate southerner - is impossible. It is not even enough to know that 98% of the men that fought for the Confederacy were not fighting to preserve the institution of slavery, that less than 2% of them owned as little as one slave, that 20% of the male southern population was killed.
But what must be known is that most of the men who fought for the Confederacy were not the plantation owners - the Anglican Royal Cavaliers who had come from England to create another system of feudalism on their land holdings and to enslave their peasants. They were the Scots-Irish immigrants who were protecting their clan and kin folk against an invading outside powerful force. It was medieval Scotland once again and they had more in common with the slaves than the noble planters. Once again, the English were trying to subjugate them and press their boot on their neck. Once again they faced the world on their feet, never backing down or kneeling before authority. They were the hardest and toughest human beings on the earth. Had it not been for them, The Civil War would have been over in a month as so many people at the time had expected.
The Civil War resolved the issue left unsettled from the first American Revolution. The South forced the issue with the Compromises of 1820 and 1850 subverting the intent of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. At its conclusion, with slavery resolved, it became possible to resolve the next issue of social justice and racial equality. With that accomplished over a hundred years later, the issue of racial harmony remains. Today that has faltered and remains the challenge for our country and the world. Perhaps Robert E. Lee's hope before the Civil War that Christianity might provide the answer will still hold some truth. But separate things separately.
The idea of preserving the southern way of life is just the beginning of that deeper understanding and often distracts us from the rest of it. As historian Shelby Foote has said, for every southern boy, the moment most remembered was the moment just before Gettysburg. The soldiers, at every rank on both sides, understood and had more in common with each other than they did with the politicians and the newspapers. In their nine thousand or more battles including minor skirmishes, they had no time or inclination to consider the benefits or evils of slavery. This war was its own thing, our second American Revolution - a success from one perspective, a failure from another.
I wanted to write about the old verities. I chose the context I understand best to illustrate them. My historical fictional novels have depicted our American tragedy, during the most powerful period of our history, surmounting our greatest challenge, with triumph over horrific circumstances affecting the lives of all our American people. In the end, my books are about hope, conviction and faith, redemption, transcendence, solace, grace, revelation and resolution. All of life comes to these at its conclusion and finality.
The heroes, victims and villains in my books are real human beings - both tragic and triumphant as they have been portrayed in all serious fictional work as a metaphor for life. The fictional characters and historical figures are recognizable as fully human with all the poignancy that implies and without much glamour or mythical treatment. But similar to Homer's Odyssey, our American story is a journey with characters who struggle for meaning and resolution in their lives.
My Personal Background & Ancestry
I'm publishing a short e-book, "My Soul, Oh My Soul" about my personal ancestry. To me it is important because I discovered and confirmed who I am. This helped explain to myself why I have studied what I have studied and written what I have written these last few years. For you., if you are interested, it provides insight into my nature and why I became a writer. It is a bit of genealogy, history and poetry.
Press the buttons below to view my music website, my ancestral chart or a timeline of Scottish history.