From the Publisher
“Max Byrd’s historical novels about the third and seventh presidents bring both men alive in ways that only a literary imagination can.”—George F. Will, The Washington Post
“With Jackson, [Max] Byrd has vaulted . . . into the front rank of American historical novelists.”—The Wall Street Journal
“Vivid and compelling . . . a convincing and intriguing portrait of Jackson as he might have been.”—The Plain Dealer
“Full of action, emotion, and insight, Max Byrd’s Jackson deserves to stand with the finest works of historical fiction.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“Grounded in excellent, detailed historical research, Byrd paints a rich, multilayered portrait.”—Chicago Tribune
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Adultery, murder, conspiracy and land fraud are the scandals laid at the feet of Andrew Jackson in 1828 as he runs for president against John Quincy Adams. Byrd's second historical novel (after Jefferson) presents the adult life of Old Hickory as seen through the astute eyes of a young and hungry writer, David Chase, who is commissioned by an anti-Jackson partisan to write a book that will expose the candidate's stained personal, professional and political life. Eventually, a clear picture emerges of the man who would become the seventh president: coarse, hot-tempered, politically radical, a brawler, a war hero, a devoted husband and a very sharp politician. Slogging through the muck of political skullduggery and the barnyard intrigues of early Washington, D.C., Chase learns the truth of Jackson's rumored adultery, his famous and bloody duels and his involvement with Aaron Burr's wild plot to establish an empire. Finally, Chase falls under the spell of this charismatic man, and so is faced with any journalist's greatest dilemma. Young America comes alive here through a cast of famous players including Jackson, his confidant John Coffee, Burr, Henry Clay, Sam Houston, John C. Calhoun and others. Deftly balancing fact and fiction, Byrd invests his tale with color, emotion and grand historical drama. (Feb.)
This work is a well-written biography within a fairly well-written novel. The novel segment opens in 1828 as Andrew Jackson is making his second run for the presidency. David Chase has been commissioned by a William Short to write a "true" biography of Old Hickory. Many biographies have been written of Andy Jackson, and all are flattering. This is not what the John Q. Adams people want, however. Chase is supposed to tell about all the men Jackson has murdered in duels and how he stole his wife, Rachel, away from her husband and lived in sin with her for two and a half years. Chase was to report on Jackson's rages, how others ridiculed his bad grammar and spelling, and how his minions rewrite all his speeches, letters, and memos. But as Chase researches and writes about Jackson, a flawed hero emerges. It comes down to whether the aristocracy of New England and Virginia will continue to rule the new country or yield to a man of the common folk. This book is for everyone, whether student of history or not, for its wonderful insights into the people and times of our infant republic.-Dawn Anderson, North Richland Hills P.L., Tex.
In some ways a sequel to his well-researched Jefferson (1993), Byrd's latest is a superior novel to that earlier effortlusty and lively in its view of the American political scene, circa 1828, yet also keenly aware of the underlying issues gripping the nation as it expanded westward.
As Andrew Jackson squares off against incumbent President John Quincy Adams, having won the popular vote but lost the electoral vote in 1824, the split between eastern elitism and western democracy seems more pronounced than ever. David Chase, a young expatriate writer, has been lured from Paris to Boston with a tempting commission to do an "honest" biography of Jackson, although the anti-Jackson sentiments of his patron are no secret. Chase visits Washington to seek sources for his book and to meet Hogwood, his predecessor, whose infirmity has cost him the project Chase now pursues. Sucked into the whirl of life in the capital, befriended by the president's dissolute son Charles, smitten with Hogwood's lovely daughter Emma, Chase can't seem to put pen to paper before his patron comes to town and puts him on the stage to Nashville: Jackson country. There, he meets Old Hickory, whose right-hand man allows him to become part of Jackson's entourage, until a long-kept secret about certain youthful, adulterous indiscretions by the candidate's wife threatens to come to the surface. Since the indiscretions involve the brother of Chase's patron, the writer instantly becomes persona non grata; but, left to his own devices, he tracks down the letters that will undo Jacksonand then has to make the painful decision about whether to use them.
Jackson proves less a figure than a figurehead here, while fictional characters are given the run of the story, which may disappoint historical purists. But the zeitgeist is embodied to perfection, and the result is a truly, and substantially, entertaining tale.