« What are the odds on Bhutto? | Main | Inexcusable Negligence at Minot AFB »

19 October 2007

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Peter

Can you post a few pages to tease us, on your pre-publication site, and how do we pre-order??

Larry K

Congratulations, Col. Lang. I was very impressed by the excerpt you posted here some time ago. In particular, it had that crucial thing that is so hard to create in a work of historical fiction -- one believed that these people were alive, thinking, and feeling in that segment of the past in which the novel takes place.

Sidney O. Smith III

Congratulations. I read excerpts of your novel online awhile back and enjoyed it immensely. (I was about half way through the novel when it I lost the link; that may have been the time that your publisher picked it up, but I dunno') Habakkuk wrote, in essence, that your novel has great forward movement. Forward movement translates into page turner, and I agree completely. The plot was unfolding in an exceptional manner, as I found myself delving deeper into the characters and underlying story. I look forward to purchasing the book and reading it in its entirety. Looks like it may go on the shelf next to Killer Angels.

John Hammer

Congratulations and thanks for all you do Colonal. I look forward to the reading and to sharing it with my friends and family.

David Habakkuk

Colonel Lang,

Very good to hear that the novel is coming out.

I would strongly recommend it to readers of SST. It does indeed have a strong 'forward movement', which becomes apparent when one has the full text in front of one, in a way it was not when reading the separate chapters you posted.

Equally important, it may seem natural to assume that your historical interests are somehow separate from your polemics about contemporary American foreign policy. But in fact the two are related, and central themes of the novel bear directly upon current issues. In one way, this may create difficulties, as 'The Butcher's Cleaver' is very much a Confederate's eye view of the Civil War. As a Brit, for whom this is someone else's history, I have been fascinated to see how sparks have flown on SST when questions to do with the Civil War are discussed. It seems, like Vietnam, to be still very much a 'third rail' for many -- not of course that this being so is really surprising.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the novel, to my mind, is the portrayal of the gap between the South as the Northern leaders see it, through the lens of their own ideological preconceptions, and the South as the novel itself portrays it. It is this gap which the novel's protagonist, the Confederate spy Claude Devereux, exploits to insinuate himself into the top Unionist leadership. His ambiguous position as a figure involved in different worlds -- a banker with international connections who is also something of a clan leader -- makes him ideally placed to do this. It means he can cast himself for a starring role in their version of what the Civil War is about, and the historical narrative with which their reading of the war is involved. In this narrative, what the Unionists are fighting is essentially the planter aristocracy, and the secession of the Confederate States is a perverse repudiation of American destiny, caused essentially by the malign influence of that aristocracy.

This narrative requires the existence of properly enlightened Southerners, because they can provide reassurance of its truth -- and because they are naturally to be seen as the proper leaders of the South the Northern leaders hope to create after the war. This is, of course, a South remodelled in the image of the kind of society which the North is becoming. The fact that Claude Devereux and his brother portray themselves as being a kind of Southerner whom the Union leadership needs to believe exists makes that leadership disinclined to ask awkward questions. And that -- together with feuding and political opportunism among Union intelligence agencies -- allows the group of Confederate spies both to penetrate their enemies' inner councils and also (quite literally!) to get away with murder.

Of course, all this takes us into the heart of some of the most contentious issues to do with the Civil War -- as the questions of precisely who in the South were passionately committed to the Confederacy, and precisely why, are very much the stuff of ongoing intellectual battles. But looking at matters with current issues in mind, I have an odd feeling that the whirligig of time has, in a way, brought in his revenges -- as the Clown says in Twelfth Night. My own background certainly leads me more naturally to sympathise with the North than with the South. My father came from industrial South Wales, one of the birthplaces of that industrial and urban world which many in the South saw as a threat (also an area soaked in that ascetic Calvinist culture which Claude Devereux finds so repellent a feature of New England.) And, as a Brit, I am very conscious of the role that the universalist pretensions of American nationalism have played in mobilising American power in conflicts which could had it not been so mobilised have ended very badly for us -- both that against National Socialist Germany, and also the Cold War.

That said, partly I think because of a mindless triumphalism engendered by success in the Cold War, one sees rhetorics with clear roots in those used by Lincoln turning into a kind of a set of rigid ideological schema uncomfortably reminiscent of Marxism-Leninism. And, quite palpably, this creates precisely the kind of incomprehension with which you charge the Northern leadership in relation to the South. Moreover, it creates a need for a certain kind of character to exist. And in turn, this creates an opportunity for characters whose background and education enables them to move easily between different worlds to practice strategies of deception. So, although Claude Devereux is not a convicted felon, like his fellow banker Ahmad Chalabi, the vulnerability exploited is the same.

What such a character has to do is both to provide reassuring confirmation, from within an alien society, for the belief that the realities of that society are as American nationalist ideology says they should be; and also to put himself (or herself) forward as the proper person to bring that society onto what is taken to be the highroad of history. If they do both these things, the temptation to believe and accept them becomes so intense that any attempt to exercise critical faculties in relation to what they say or do is liable to collapse.

Another classic example of this is provided by the so-called 'young reformers' and 'oligarchs' in Russia: a matter upon which incidentally credulity in Britain as quite as great as in the United States. Again, these provided a view of the realities of Russian society which corresponded to what American nationalist rhetoric suggested should be the case -- that is, a view in which only the nefarious activities of 'hardliners' stood in the way of a rapid remodelling of the former Soviet Union on the model of the United States. Furthermore, they presented themselves as the people who were uniquely adapted to perform such remodelling. In fact, simply collapsing the existing structures of Soviet society did not lead to a functioning liberal order arising as by magic out of the rubble -- it led to ruthless struggles over the divvying up of the assets of the old Soviet system, in which the most cynical and and unscrupulous manipulators tended to win out.

But crooks like Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Boris Berezovsky are still able to convince very many in alike in the U.S. and Britain that they are the latter-day equivalents of Andrew Carnegie, and that the Russia of the Yeltsin years was really on the right course, from which it has been derailed by the malign influence of the former KGB man Putin. Having recently been trying to make sense of the extraordinary facts surrounding the death of Alexander Litvinenko, what is quite remarkable is how claims made by Boris Berezovsky are accepted without question by most people here. It is not even necessary for the Berezovsky people to tell credible lies for these to believed -- the narrative of Putin as a reincarnation of Lavrentii Beria which they have devoted to much attention to creating fits so easily with what people's general ideological convictions incline them to believe.

And here, one comes up against another unfortunate effect of our willingness to accept the claims of those who will play to our ideological fantasies. At least Claude Devereux is someone who does have credibility in his own society. By contrast, Chalabi and the exiles had minimal support in Iraq, and Berezovsky is almost universally hated in Russia. The effect of accepting people who play to our fantasies as the natural leaders of foreign societies actually tends to be to create the impression that our talk of 'democracy' is bogus -- that our idea of a 'democrat' is someone who does what people in Washington or London think he should do, rather than what his own people think he should do. And such impressions, I think, contribute greatly to the progressive loss of the very great moral authority the United States enjoyed at the end of the Cold War -- a loss which I think has been one of the major tragedies of my lifetime.

Anyhow, this diatribe has gone on long enough. But I hope at least I have made the point that the issues dealt with in Butcher's Cleaver are not merely issues of the past, but also ones of the present -- and that a great deal of food for thought, as well as pleasure, can be gleaned from reading your novel of the Civil War.

lina

What's the release date?

(don't make me read the fine print).

Looking forward to it (though the U.S. Civil War is a period I usually skip). All I read is historical fiction. You can get it reviewed by the Historical Novel Society here:
http://www.historicalnovelsociety.org/hnr-online.htm

W. Patrick Lang

All

The book will be available in both hard and soft cover in November or early December depending on how speedy I am in proof reading. I wii put up a notice when it is released. pl

Leila

Congratulations!!!

I'm very pleased for you. Good luck selling lots and lots of them. I hope you bring copies to your speaking engagements... people will want to buy them. And you know how the book world is these days: unless you're Steven King, you have to do some of the hawking yourself.

Mostashari

Pat,

Is this the MS with the French officer seconded to the CSA? Congratulations!
I told you long ago that it was a good story that deserved to be published. Lucky for me I stiil have it on 3.5" disks

Bill

William R. Cumming

Just don't let the lucre and fame of being a novelist distract you too much from your important blooging and thinking about NOW!

Dustin Langan

Many congratulations, Pat! I know how easy it is to criticize a novel, and how difficult it is to write one. I am looking forward to reading it. Best of luck!

taters

Kudos Col. Lang.
I anxiously look forward to purchasing my copy, sounds like a great Christmas gift. I would be less than honest if I didn't say I'm hoping I can get my copy signed.

hwanganloa

i had converted it to mp3 and listened it to on the road. But alas my puny hard drive ran out of room and deleted it- so don't worry about copyright violations.

Piotr

bydeway when will be this novel publish in Poland?

Piotr

Colonel what is you opinion about this Annapolis conference. In my opinion Palestyńczycy will be this side which will be damaged. There will be of cource medial hum but final of this conference is foregone. Bush and Olmert will be told many beautiful words about Palestinian and peace but nothing will change the wall will be grown and there never will be Palestinian State because no Israel will allow on it nor israeli lobby in USA in which pocket are all american politics

W. Patrick Lang

Piotr

See my posts on the Annapoiis meetings. pl

Sometime-CIA-Defender

Congratulations, Col. Lang.

Sorry to ask such an ignorant and semi-unrelated question here (but I don't see an email link for you), but I have read that Wild Bill Hickok was supposedly a spy/assassin for the Union. Do you think that this was this just more tall tales from him or "Calamity Jane" Cannary-Burke, or have you run across anything that would substantiate this?

Again, wonderful that your book is published!

Charles I

Congratulations Pat. Thank you for your generous contributions to culture and discourse. It shall be a treat to experience your mind in a new context about an old drama.

Will

David Habakkuk has an intriguing observation in his Amazon site book review. He posits the American Civil War as a continuation of the English Civil War- landed Cavaliers vs. Roundhead Puritans.

William R. Cumming

Historian John Lukacs 2005 book "Remembered Past" about how history is studied and historigraphy points out the now two hundred year old links between the development of the science of history and historical novels. Commend it to readers and participants of this blog and PL!

taters

Great posts and the Season's Best to all. Got my copy delivered today and I'm anxiously looking forward to reading it.
Again, kudos Col. Lang.

W. Patrick Lang

All

I was pleased to learn today that TBC is for sale in Australia, New Zealand and the UK. pl

Martin K

Sir. If you post/mail the adress where it can be purchased, I will hear with my local specialist shop Tronsmo about ordering a few. Would you be interested in PR/doing interviews for norwegian media?

W. Patrick Lang

Martin K

The book can be had at "WHSmith" and "Foyle's Bookstore" on-lne in the UK and from a company called "Fishpond" in NZ and Australia.

I would be happy to be interviewed about the book in any language that I speak. pl

W. Patrick Lang

Martin K et al

There is a button on both blogs for writing to me off the blog about things like interviews. I do a lot of print media and radio interviews. I have pretty much stopped doing TV because it is just too much trouble, travel to studios. etc.

I am willing to answer questions about foreign policy, the wars, the book.

I am not interested in endorsing someone for president of the US for any interviewer. pl

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

May 2020

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
          1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30
31            
Blog powered by Typepad