5.0 out of 5 starsEqual to Cain at Gettysburg, Takes Fact-Based Fiction to New Level, May 13, 2013
I started this book, having given a rave review to Cain at Gettysburg convinced that the sequel would disappoint, as most sequels do. Although I counted only five goosebump moments in this new book (Cain had six, The Killer Angels: The Classic Novel of the Civil War By Michael Shaara only had one), I have to rate it the equal of the earlier book, and also the linch pin book in what should be a series of at least four books, each – as the first two have been – a detailed study of men at war at all four levels (strategic, operational, tactical, technical). The concluding sentence in this book is brilliant, and it left me with precisely the sense of angst and anticipation for the next campaign as the author no doubt intended. If Cain was the thunderclap of divine providence, then Hell is the tough hard slog through mud during which the North adapts and learns lessons while Lee’s health worsens substantially, his weakness all the more grave because Longstreet is wounded and Stuart killed, leaving Lee with no bench, less Gordon as a late bloomer too easily ignored by his elders.
There is little doubt that with this book Ralph Peters has established a nearly impregnable position as the leading practitioner of historical fiction, taking it to a new level of accuracy and relevance to the military and political professionals who wage war, setting the gold standard for factual historical fiction that reveals the soul of those making history.
If I were to sum up the book in three words it would be leadership, logistics, and learning.
5.0 out of 5 stars Spectacular Blend of Rigorous & Populist History,February 24, 2012
I have read The Killer Angels: A Novel of the Civil War (Modern Library), which the author himself acknowledges as one of the best books about Gettysburg – but also one that bought into the prevalent myths. This book is the equal of Killer Angels in its atmospheric electricity, certainly the equal if not more moving with respect to “aha” professional insights and “feeling in the fingertips” gut-wrenchers (I counted six goose-bump moments reading Cain, I recall only one in reading Killer Angels), and vastly more important than Killer Angels in the grand scheme of things because this author and this book have restored the reputation of General George Meade at his finest hour – given the Army THREE DAYS before Gettysburg, and leading that Army to the single most important victory of the Civil War, however one may view that war while also instantly assessing and correcting the mistakes of his predecessor, the most important being a scattered leaderless army.
This is a book written by a professional military officer who is also a historian, a brilliant and often poetic author of both non-fiction and historical fiction better than dry academic texts, and an adventurer who knows the world from gutter to grand salons.
The book concludes with a very clear explanation of how General Meade’s reputation was ruined by a scheming General Sickles, and how some of the main characters fared after the war of secession. More to the point, this is the definitive book that rescues the reputation of General Meade. While there are many other books, one in particular being Meade: Victor of Gettysburg (Military Profiles), no other book can match the eloquence, authenticity, and level of detail of this ultra-historical and poetic work of redemption.
Here are some of the professional highlights that I noted down – I do not report the goose bump moments–for those, buy the book.
5.0 out of 5 stars Six Star Epilogue, the Capstone Work, September 26, 2011
I have been a fan of Ralph Peters for over fifteen years now, going back to the early 1990’s when the US Marine Corps was trying to get the Secretary of Defense (then Dick Cheney) to focus on most likely vice worst case threats. Having been the senior civilian responsible for creating the Marine Corps Intelligence Center, and the Study Director for the flagship study, Planning and Programming Factors for Expeditionary Operations in the Third World, I recognized both his deep integrity and his broad intelligence, both so uncharacteristic of the near-venal to all-banal US secret intelligence community that I had served since 1976.
This is his capstone work. Below are a few of his most notable recent works, there are many others, and I also recommend his Owen Parry series on the Civil War. If you only get one book by Ralph Peters, this is the one to buy.
2012 in my view is a turning point year for America, and I pray that it is the year that citizens with integrity kick politicians without integrity (all of them) out of office and get a clean sheet fresh start in recreating a government of, by, and for We the People instead of what we have now, what Matt Taibbi describes so well in Griftopia: A Story of Bankers, Politicians, and the Most Audacious Power Grab in American History, “a highly complicated merger of crime and policy, of stealing and government.”
Ralph Peters is an acquired taste for some, an addiction for others. I am in the latter camp and read everything he publishes, with a strong preference for his non-fiction books about reality, war, and the general lack of integrity across both governments and corporations.
The book is full of gifted phrases and insights, a few of which stick with me now:
— Staff officer’s smile
— Idiocy of military classifying a BBC documentary
— How far the mighty can fall
— Army swooning for computers, losing its collective mind
— Broken promises (or lost integrity) = men die
This book, while good, is not as good (at least for me) as his first military-industrial complex book, Traitor, where the detail was chilling and compelling. I also liked The Devil’s Garden This particular new book is certainly a good read, and I endorse the other positive reviews, but for Ralph Peters at his very best, I recommend his non-fiction and his Civil War novels, the latter written under a pseudonym.