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27 February 2021


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Larry Kart wrote

Colonel -- Ashamed to say that I haven't yet read "Down the Sky" or "Death Piled Hard" (though I have bought "Death Piled Hard"). My reasons are perhaps peculiar and also perhaps a tribute to the power of the series. Feeling fairly sure where the series was going in the broad sense (it is of course outwardly constrained by historical fact) and also so moved by the personal fatality and nature of Devereux after reading volume one, I've not yet been able to move on to the stresses and strife that I know is to come. In effect, I've been reduced here to the sort of reader I sometimes was as a child, unwilling to endure the account of a grave eventual loss. That it will be a fictional one doesn't make it any easier for me to contemplate, because the "fiction" of volume one feels more real than any h istorical account of that time I know. But I will move on eventually.


Larry Kart wrote

Ordered "Down the Sky" the day before yesterday. That should do the trick.


Mark Logan wrote

Larry Kart, Col., I had thought I was the only one who swore not to read DPH until I had the third book was under my elbow. It sat in it's box at the bottom of the stack too. However, I would characterize my reason for doing so a bit differently. I had become so intensely worried about Claudes state of mind at the end of TBC, that I was just a bit cross at having it end right there. It isn't a feeling of dread at finishing the series for me, not at all. Took me awhile to figure out how that was done. I tip my hat. I can't even imagine attempting to transmit the numbness of a broken heart in such a way. I re-read TBC a couple of times afterwards. I really enjoy the way it puts me back in the time. A very pleasant feeling, one like being in a very interesting place, yet with the leisure to let ones eyes wander, and pause on, whatever they will. If that makes any sense. Thanks.

William R. Cumming

About to order DOWN THE SKY!

Note for the record classical Greece involved slavery.


hot damn. just snagged "down the sky" Kindle from Amazon for $3.99. i love the cheap old kindle b/c it has text to speech feature. on long drives, i just let it read books to me on the truck radio.

i didn't see the first two books there, tho.



They are all on Kindle. Read them sequentislly. pl


i found another one, b/ no butcher's cleaver

Kindle Store ›
"w. patrick lang"
Down the Sky: Volume Three of the "Strike The Tent" Trilogy by W. Patrick Lang (Kindle Edition - Mar 7, 2012) - Kindle eBook
Buy: $3.99
Auto-delivered wirelessly
Death Piled Hard: A Tale of the Confederate Secret Services by W. Patrick Lang (Kindle Edition - Apr 2, 2009) - Kindle eBook
Buy: $7.96
Auto-delivered wirele....


The measure of a great classical symphony, like those of Beethoven, Schubert and Brahms, is the way that the separate movements all strike a common theme, and then resolve in the most spectacular way in the final movement. This quality of thorough composition is also the hallmark of Col. Lang's trilogy. Volume one established the complex characters and the setting of Civil War Washington, D.C. and Virginia. Volume two brought the reader into the front lines of some of the most important battles of the Civil War, providing an incredible sense of the "fog of war" while never losing the theme of character development and building tragedy. The third volume brought together the critical themes developed during the first two volume with a degree of suspense and drama that frankly caught me completely by surprise.

For those who are fixed on the great American drama that was the Civil War, this is a walk through history that is not to be missed. For those who wish to understand the psychological complexities and the trade craft of the espionage business, this is a primer of the first order.

While each of the three volumes of the trilogy are self-standing as great works of historical fiction, the whole is far greater than the individual parts. Once you have read volume one, you will not want to stop. Col. Lang has given us a wonderful gift, that should not be missed.

Brooke C. Stoddard

You’ve never seen the Civil War like this and probably won’t again. Combat veteran, VMI graduate, Special Forces-trained, intelligence expert and deeply knowledgeable about the Civil War, Pat Lang presents both sides of the conflict in a unique way. Down the Sky mainly follows July 1864 to April 1865 as the South desperately tries to find any formula for thwarting a Union strategy of massing materiel and men until the Confederate armies are crushed. Claude Devereaux, lover, spy, and kin to the slaves his father set free, moves between both sides. Lincoln befriends him and circumstances require that on occasion Claude even takes up arms in Union uniform. But Claude Devereaux is only a portion; this rich volume also holds splendid and unusual portraits of George Custer, Jubal Early, Phil Sheridan and John McCausland, the Rebel destroyer of Chambersburg, Pa. You’ve never read the Battle of Cedar Creek like this, nor the assault on Fort Fisher. Unusual for a novel, Down the Sky intersperses the text with photographs of historical persons in the novel as well as a couple of maps of the battles. All in all a unique and rewarding thread through the final year of America’s tragic war with itself.

 Larry Kart

Am finally reading "Death Piled Hard" (with great pleasure -- what a character Balthazar is!) and will move on directly to "Down the Sky." It's much clearer to me now that Claude has more than few screws loose psychologically, but why should he be that different from the rest of us? Will have more to say after I've read "Down the Sky," but these are remarkable books. I particularly admire -- in literary and emotional terms -- the pauses, the moments of near stillness, that the Colonel can bring to a narrative where the temptation might be to cram events in or to rush onwards to the next battle or crisis that we already know about. But even the best-informed men and women involved don't know what's going to happen next -- though of course it's Claude's business to attempt to find out -- and the Colonel's awareness of what might be called the "fog of life" principle adds a great deal to the books. No doubt he has this in part because he himself grappled with the fog of life, often with great urgency, in the field and as a Defense Department intelligence officer, but that's only in part.


Larry Kart wrote:

Finished "Down the Sky" today on a United Airlines flight from Newark to Chicago and am sending some thoughts by email because they may run a bit long for a blog post. If they don't run too long, feel free to post them there if you wish and to eliminate any of plot-killing details I might mention.

The final resolution was not quite what I had envisioned but very satisfying and just; I wouldn't have wished it otherwise. Claude was too compromised in virtually every way -- by his family heritage and his personal emotional history, by his historical place and his placement in the flow of events by others, by the flavor and intensity of his need for women and the flavor and intensity of their need for him, by the anger that so many aspects of his nature and identity inspired in other men -- for him to ever get out of this in one piece; nor was it possible, I now see, for him to have engineered the assassination of Lincoln, which was what at one point I had thought was going to happen.

A few quibbles now: I don't recall that in "Death Piled Hard" there any passages (or if there were, they weren't as noticeable as they are in "Down the Sky") where the narrative flow pauses as the reader is brought up to speed on what happened in the past (which of course means the prior volumes, and maybe it's that pointing to the books as books that is a bit troubling, because up to those moments one doesn't quite feel that these are books are quite books anymore) . Can't say for sure, but I doubt whether any of explanatory passages is really necessary. If someone has read that far, he or she is almost certainly with you; and if the reader encounters something that at first glance might seem for the moment to be a bit elliptical, I think that one's almost inevitable desire (and resulting ability) to fill in such blanks can be an aesthetic pleasure in itself. One then participates in the life of the book, becomes a bit of a map reader and measures what one thinks the map says against the actual revealed terrain of what happens next.

Second quibble -- and again I don't recall this from "The Butcher's Cleaver" or "Death Piled Hard" -- the inverted quotes that are placed around so many ordinary metaphors or even what are in effect non-metaphors. Annoyingly, I left my carry-on bag at the airport, with my copy of "Down the Sky" inside, so I can't cite that many examples, but why are told, for example that Hope's face "shines" at IIRC that 1864 Christmas party? That is, "shines" is placed within inverted quotes so that -- what? -- we don't think that her face shines as literally as a waxed table top does? Who, reading that her face shines, would think that it meant anything other than that her was relatively radiant, aglow with excitement, intensity, etc. Likewise with Balthazar's men often being referred to as "ruffians" in inverted quotes. Having read along as we have, we know in just what sense they were literally ruffians or close to ruffians at one time and now are ruffians no longer, even though others may still think them so at times. In virtually all these cases, the explanatory pointing of the inverted quotes stops the flow and either explains (actually, here it would be fitting to say "explains") something that we already know or don't want or need to be told. If you agree and there is a second edition of the book (and there should be), getting rid of almost all those inverted quotes should be an easy fix.

I may have said this before, but speaking of what happens next, I can think of very few modern novels of the top rank where what be called the "poetic" element of the book lies as much in the unfolding what happens next as is the case in the "Strike the Tent" trilogy. I suspect this has something to do with your having been a soldier, because it reminds me of the work of the marvelous (albeit little known in the English speaking world) Austrian novelist Alexander Lernet-Holenia (1897-1976):


who served as an officer in the Austro-Hungarian Army in World War I and briefly in the Wehrmacht in World War II. I particularly recommend his "Baron Bagge" and "Mars in Aries." Claude Deveraux could fit right into Lernet-Holenia's world, and his characters could fit into Claude's. In fact, thinking of Balathazar and Farinelli, that marvelous pair who are not really a pair, and the crucial, almost eerie, role that the latter eventually plays in the course of things...

Again, if I haven't said it outright, your novels are works of the imagination of the top rank. They stay with the reader (or at least this reader) in a way that few books do. They're nexcessarily very bracing, or bracing in part, but they also necessarily very sad.

Best, Larry Kart


Larry Kart

Thank you for this. I think this is valid criticism. The punctuation thing is something I have puzzled over and will correct in a second edition which seems likely. I am less certain as to what to do about the expository material in the second and third book. You are the first to mention this. Firstly, I am mindful of the need to make these books readable separately. Secondly, I am impressed with the lack of historical matter in people's heads and the shortage of people with enough span of attention to hold this long story in their heads. Thirdly, many people seem to read these in short passages squeezed into a few moments here and there. Thanks again. pl

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I would like to see how I could grab your rss feed to stay updated of any changes on your website, but I cant find it, where is the link for it?



I don't know. I just asked Typepad. pl

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. I think this is valid criticism. The punctuation thing is something I have puzzled over and will correct in a second edition which seems likely. I am less certain as to what to do about the expository material in the second and third book. You are the first to mention this. Firstly, I am mindful of the need to make these books readable separately. Secondly, I am impressed with the lack of historical matter in people's heads and the shortage of people with enough span of attention to hold this long story in their heads. Thirdly, many people seem to read these in short passages squeezed into a few moments here and there.

Al Spafford

I just came across and article re Confederate spy Belle Boyd, who was captured by the Union on this date. Reports have it that she "beguiled" an Union officer to obtain advanced word on troop movements before the First Battle of Bull Run. In the North she became known as "La Belle Rebelle".
Col Land, a character to work into your future writings?


Al Spofford

Ieveral have suggested her. it seems a bit like shootinh ducks n a barrel. BTW it is "Lang," not "Land." pl

Al Spafford

Hit the wrong key-that "D" is too close to the "G" for these old and stubby fingers! Lesson to proof read!

Al Spafford

And, lol, it is "Spafford" not "Spofford"--but that might have just been your intend. I accept the payback if so!


Al Spafford

sorry. pl


I have now finished reading all three books. While the reading alone was a great experience, over this summer, I drove the Shenandoah valley end to end several times and visited many of the other areas of the battles. My visits to these places increased my appreciation to Col. Lang's work. It accurately captures the essence of the confict and spins a great story at the same time.

Thank you for the great read!

One question. Are there any remaining records of the CSA Signal Corp's intelligence operations or any good histories of their activities? The books have whetted my curiosity for the subject.


The best thing on this is "Come Retribution" by William Tidwell et al. The Signal Corps of the Confederate Army
and the civilian intelligence service run by the Confederate State Department were separate services. There seems to have been the usual competitiveness between these services. I tried to make that clear in the trilogy. The Confederates did their best to destroy their intelligence records at the end even as they surrendered a vast amoiunt of their other records. Samuel Cooper surrendered the records. He was Adjutant General of the CSA. Those records are now in the US National archives. Tidwell did a great job of piecing together what was left with an intelligence offcier's sensibilities rather than those of a historian. General Cooper lived here in Alexandria both before and after the war. He lived on Quaker Lane. His great grandson, Samuel Cooper Dawson, who still lived at the same place, told me 25 years ago that at some point in the 20s or 30' he watched his father (SC's grandson) drag two large leather bound trunks out of an outbuilding and then burn the contents; papers and ledger books on a bonfire in the back garden of the house. Dawson asked what his father was doing. His father said that some things must never be known. IMO and that of Dawson, these were the essential records of the Confederate Army Signal Corps which Samuel Cooper had headed as Adjutant General among many other functions. IMO the essential truth of the Confederate Secret Services' role in the death of Lincoln was too clear from those records for them to survive. IMO the Confederate effort to kill or capture Lincoln was a legitimate operation of war. He was the enemy commander in chief and acted as such. The evidence made clear recently by the Smithsonian Institution of Union attempts to kill Jefferson Davis is a reflection of the pressure that ultimately drove Richmond to act against Lincoln. pl


"Strike the tent" would be an order to take down or disassemble the tent. It would seem that Lee was being metaphorical at the time, since he was about to die ...

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It would seem that Lee was being metaphorical at the time, since he was about to die ...



I think he was leaving on his last journey and ordered his camp "struck." pl

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