A Separate Country: A Story of Redemption in the Aftermath of the Civil War

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Overview

Set in New Orleans in the years after the Civil War, A Separate Country is based on the incredible life of John Bell Hood, arguably one of the most controversial generals of the Confederate Army--and one of its most tragic figures. Robert E. Lee promoted him to major general after the Battle of Antietam. But the Civil War would mark him forever. At Gettysburg, he lost the use of his left arm. At the Battle of Chickamauga, his right leg was amputated. Starting fresh after the war, he married Anna Marie Hennen and ...
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Overview

Set in New Orleans in the years after the Civil War, A Separate Country is based on the incredible life of John Bell Hood, arguably one of the most controversial generals of the Confederate Army--and one of its most tragic figures. Robert E. Lee promoted him to major general after the Battle of Antietam. But the Civil War would mark him forever. At Gettysburg, he lost the use of his left arm. At the Battle of Chickamauga, his right leg was amputated. Starting fresh after the war, he married Anna Marie Hennen and fathered 11 children with her, including three sets of twins. But fate had other plans. Crippled by his war wounds and defeat, ravaged by financial misfortune, Hood had one last foe to battle: Yellow Fever. A Separate Country is the heartrending story of a decent and good man who struggled with his inability to admit his failures-and the story of those who taught him to love, and to be loved, and transformed him.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Civil War marked many soldiers, but few as visibly as John Bell Hood (1831-79), the battle-scarred Confederate Army general on whom this historical novel is based. After the war, he moved to New Orleans minus one leg and with a useless left arm. (Poet Stephen Vincent Benét paid tribute to him in lines including "Yellow-haired Hood with his wounds and his empty sleeve." No one questioned the Kentuckian's bravery, but in hindsight critics accused him of being reckless and obstinate. In Robert Hick's novel A Separate Country, Hicks survives the war but succumbs to yellow fever and, for a time, to his own bitter hatred.
Washington Post
"Robert Hicks's riveting new novel takes up Hood's life after the war. Anyone who has ever lived in New Orleans must be prepared to be made homesick, and the bizarre cast of characters, including a dwarf, a burly priest and a boy of mixed and mysterious parentage, wouldn't seem right in any city but this one. I read A Separate Country with breakneck speed for that most old-fashioned of reasons: I wanted to see what happened next. And then I eagerly read it a second time to make sure I got the complicated twists and turns. Is there a better recommendation?"
BookPage
"A lovely, richly detailed tale pulled partly from history, partly from his own imagination. [Hicks] captures the enchanting, dark humid soul of post-war New Orleans..."
Booklist
"A powerful epic about how love and unselfish choices lead to personal transformations...Hicks uncovers layers of detail about characters and events we naively thought we understood. A marvelous accomplishment, as beautifully written and heart-wrenching as its predecessor."
New Orleans Times Picayune
"A Separate Country is a powerful evocation of New Orleans as it was in 1879, a book thick with history, rich in atmosphere. The characters walk the city's rough and tumble streets, witness the corruption of the Louisiana Lottery and the toll of the yellow fever epidemic, enact their very human love affairs, hide their secrets. To read it is to visit, for the length of its pages, an all-enveloping, passionately rendered past, beautiful and hallucinatory. 'This city is not for the fainthearted,' Hicks writes."
Miami Herald
"After the War, Hood scampered down to New Orleans in order to try to live as fully as possible. That's where Robert Hicks enters in his marvelous new book, which looks back on the legendary and monstrous general of the Civil War with a brand new set of eyes. Hicks doesn't ever let us forget that this was once a man who 'cared very little for the men [he] ruined.' Yet at the same time, this is a work which seems designed to remember Hood neither as a legend nor a monster but as a man."
From the Publisher
"Robert Hicks's riveting new novel takes up Hood's life after the war. Anyone who has ever lived in New Orleans must be prepared to be made homesick, and the bizarre cast of characters, including a dwarf, a burly priest and a boy of mixed and mysterious parentage, wouldn't seem right in any city but this one. I read A Separate Country with breakneck speed for that most old-fashioned of reasons: I wanted to see what happened next. And then I eagerly read it a second time to make sure I got the complicated twists and turns. Is there a better recommendation?"—Washington Post

"A lovely, richly detailed tale pulled partly from history, partly from his own imagination. [Hicks] captures the enchanting, dark humid soul of post-war New Orleans..."—BookPage

"A powerful epic about how love and unselfish choices lead to personal transformations...Hicks uncovers layers of detail about characters and events we naively thought we understood. A marvelous accomplishment, as beautifully written and heart-wrenching as its predecessor."—Booklist

"Hicks follows his bestselling The Widow of the South with the grand, ripped-from-the-dusty-archives epic of Confederate general John Bell Hood...Hicks's stunning narrative volleys between Hood, Anna Marie and Eli, each offering variety and texture to a story saturated in Southern gallantry and rich American history."—Publisher's Weekly

"A Separate Country is a powerful evocation of New Orleans as it was in 1879, a book thick with history, rich in atmosphere. The characters walk the city's rough and tumble streets, witness the corruption of the Louisiana Lottery and the toll of the yellow fever epidemic, enact their very human love affairs, hide their secrets. To read it is to visit, for the length of its pages, an all-enveloping, passionately rendered past, beautiful and hallucinatory. 'This city is not for the fainthearted,' Hicks writes."—New Orleans Times Picayune

"After the War, Hood scampered down to New Orleans in order to try to live as fully as possible. That's where Robert Hicks enters in his marvelous new book, which looks back on the legendary and monstrous general of the Civil War with a brand new set of eyes. Hicks doesn't ever let us forget that this was once a man who 'cared very little for the men [he] ruined.' Yet at the same time, this is a work which seems designed to remember Hood neither as a legend nor a monster but as a man."—Miami Herald

Charlotte Hays
…riveting…Anyone who has ever lived in New Orleans must be prepared to be made homesick, and the bizarre cast of characters, including a dwarf, a burly priest and a boy of mixed and mysterious parentage, wouldn't seem right in any city but this one. I read A Separate Country with breakneck speed for that most old-fashioned of reasons: I wanted to see what happened next. And then I eagerly read it a second time to make sure I got the complicated twists and turns. Is there a better recommendation?
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Hicks follows his bestselling The Widow of the South with the grand, ripped-from-the-dusty-archives epic of Confederate general John Bell Hood. The story begins with Hood, on his deathbed with yellow fever, dispersing a stack of papers to former war nemesis Eli Griffin, urging him to publish the general's “secret memoir.” Hood's story picks up in 1878 as he, nearly broke, reflects on the past 10 years' dwindling fortunes. Now, with an artificial leg, a bum arm and nearly no money, he and his wife, Anna Marie, live in diminished circumstances in New Orleans. Over time, their once passionate relationship grows mundane as Hood “watched the years wrench devilry and lust and joy from her face.” Things are also complicated by the violent death of Anna Marie's best friend and the reappearance of former comrade Sebastien Lemerle, who holds a nasty secret he holds about Hood's past. Meanwhile, Hood's marriage and business failures pale in comparison to the yellow fever epidemic that decimates the area. Hicks's stunning narrative volleys between Hood, Anna Marie and Eli, each offering variety and texture to a story saturated in Southern gallantry and rich American history. (Sept.)
Library Journal
After the Civil War, Confederate general John Bell Hood retired to New Orleans, where he became a businessman, married Creole belle Anna Marie Hennen, and fathered 11 children. This second novel from Hicks (The Widow of the South) opens in 1879 as Hood lies dying of yellow fever. His deathbed wish is to see his "private" memoir published in lieu of his earlier detailed accounting of the war. Hood enlists the aid of Eli Griffin, a young Tennessean who had come to New Orleans in 1875 to kill the man who led the South's defeat at the Battle of Franklin and later became enmeshed in the lives of the Hoods and the tragic events surrounding longtime friends of Anna Marie's and a former subordinate of the general's. VERDICT Suffused with racial tension, brutality, sweltering heat, and sickness, this is the tale of a warrior knowing "nothing about death, only killing" who finally seeks love and a reconciliation with God. Readers must see past the bugs and the stench of New Orleans to unravel the puzzle of these picaresque characters. Recommended for Civil War buffs and those who appreciate precise, evocative writing. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/09.]—Bette-Lee Fox, Library Journal
Kirkus Reviews
A tale of mixed-up foolscap, dark secrets, a dwarf and a wharf. Tennessee-based Hicks, who debuted with a Civil War novel (The Widow of the South, 2005), ventures here into Reconstruction-era New Orleans. His hero is real-life Confederate warrior John Bell Hood (for whom the Texas fort is named), who settled after the Cause was Lost in New Orleans, where he had 11 children and otherwise kept busy. In Hicks' tense and tasty account, one of Bell's occupations is fending off the plague of unwanted characters who seek in one way or another to capitalize on his wartime renown. One is a mysterious chap named Sebastien Lemerle, a companion at arms from antebellum days. "In Texas I was young," Hood remembers. "I wanted to fight. I wanted to fight Comanche. Sebastien Lemerle and his squad came with me." For his sins, Hood gets his wish, and plenty more fights to boot. Somewhere along the way he also earns the continued attentions of Lemerle, who comes sniffing around Hood's door all these years after the Civil War has ended. Not far behind is a "little man" named Rintrah who has his fingers in many a pie, as well as a priest decidedly not on priestly business and a few assorted members of the proto-KKK, to say nothing of the foppish Beauregard, gone from Civil War hero to New Orleans wheeler-dealer and publisher, in whose hands is a manuscript of Hood's that Hood does not wish to be there. Thus the plot thickens, and Hicks spins a taut tale, told in many voices, of tangled webs, vengeance and other unfinished business. Expertly written, with plenty of unexpected twists-a pleasure for Civil War buffs, but also for fans of literary mysteries.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780446581653
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • Publication date: 3/10/2011
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 465,992
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.80 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert Hicks
Robert Hicks has been active in the music industry in Nashville for twenty years as both a music publisher and artist manager. The driving force behind the perservation and restoration of the historic Carnton plantation in Tennessee, he stumbled upon the extraordinary role that Carrie McGavock played during and after the Battle of Franklin. He is the author of The Widow of the South.

Biography

The Widow of the South is based on the true story of Carrie McGavock, whose house was commandeered as a field hospital during the 1864 Battle of Franklin, a Civil War bloodbath in which over 9,000 Confederate and Union soldiers were killed in one afternoon. Over a thousand of them were eventually reburied on the McGavocks' land, Carnton Plantation, and Carrie McGavock devoted much of her life to tending their graves.

Author Robert Hicks, a music publisher, art collector and preservationist, felt the story of Carrie McGavock needed to be told, but he wasn't sure at first that he should be the one to tell it.

"I tried to foist and pawn the idea on others, collaborations, walk away from it and read Russian novels -- anything to keep me from tackling it," he said in a Barnes & Noble interview. "Then one day I knew I had to do it."

Hicks, a native of South Florida, moved in 1979 to an 18th-century log cabin near Leiper's Fork, Tenn., where he still lives. In 1987, he joined the Board of Directors of Historic Carnton Plantation, where he has done everything from house restoration to hauling out the trash.

As his connection with the historic site grew, so did his curiosity about its former mistress, whom Oscar Wilde once described as "the high priestess of the temple of dead boys."

"Around the time we were seriously beginning a state-of-the-art restoration of Carnton's house and grounds, descendants of the McGavock family, who had moved out of Carnton in 1911 and had lived in the same house in Franklin ever since, opened up their family archives to us," Hicks explained in an essay on his publishers' Web site.

The scrapbooks and papers, he said, "began to suggest some answers, even while I found myself asking more questions." Among the papers were obituaries from newspapers across the country for Carrie McGavock.

"The obituaries clearly linked Carrie to the creation and maintenance of the Cemetery, but no journals or diaries were left to explain her motivation -- so, in the end, I felt that I had to sit down and explain, for myself, why she did what she did."

The resulting novel made it to the number five spot on the New York Times bestseller list. Kirkus Reviews called The Widow of the South "an impressive addition to the library of historical fiction on the Civil War, worthy of a place alongside The Killer Angels, Rifles for Watie and Shiloh."

"You'll swear you were smelling gunpowder and blood, and you may shed real tears," wrote Jeff Guinn of the Dallas Star-Telegram.

Hicks is pleased with the success of his book, but his work as a guardian of Tennessee history isn't done. More recently, Hicks has headed up Franklin's Charge, a coalition dedicated to preserving the remaining open space on and near the Franklin battlefield as a historic site.

"Why do we want to save it?" he asked in a National Geographic interview. "Because in the South's loss at Franklin, all of us won. This is where the Old South died and we were reborn as a nation."

Good To Know

"My first job was in a bookstore during college. I got the job to make enough money to pay for a dinner party for 50 friends of my parents in honor of their 25th wedding anniversary. I didn't want a penny to come out of their pockets, so I got a job."

"My passion for many years has been the preservation of Historic Carnton Plantation. It is the site of most of the novel. Simply put, Carnton, Carrie McGavock, and her cemetery are the inspiration of my writing."

"I live in a magical place: my cabin, 'Labor in Vain,' my community, the green hills of Middle Tennessee, and within my head. The entire world, both within and without, is surrounded by the stories from my father, older relatives, strangers, books, and movies. I was raised surrounded by storytellers. They've made the world I live in forever magical and rich, even within the solitude of my cabin walls."

"I am forever a southerner. By this I mean to say that I remain forever eaten up with religion, passion, history, the past, the land, and stories."

"I'm passionate about travel, but always return to my cabin and to my past. I claim little connection with Faulkner, other than the hold that the past had on him and has on me. Like him, I remain optimistic about the future, despite the turmoil of the world."

"I am a collector by nature. I've collected since I was a kid. It began with fossilized shells from our driveway to rocks and leaves and baseball cards to books, 18th-century maps of Tennessee, Tennesseana in general, southern decorative arts, to outsider art. I am surrounded by collections. A friend says that the next thing I bring home must come with a crowbar -- to get it into my cabin."

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    1. Hometown:
      Franklin, Tennessee
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 30, 1951
    2. Place of Birth:
      West Palm Beach, Forida

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 39 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(14)

4 Star

(10)

3 Star

(7)

2 Star

(3)

1 Star

(5)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 39 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 15, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Robert Hicks does it again

    I read the previous book A Widow Of The South and loved it.I read A Separate Country and fell back in love. This is a story of the South,post Civil War.The characters tell the reader of how life in New Orleans was during the days following the War and through plagues and how the racial issues continued.
    This is a love story between a beautiful Creole girl and a disabled,war ravaged General.It's told in various perspectives.If you are a fan of historical romance or the old South,you should read A Widow Of The South and A Separate Country.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 30, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A Separate Country

    Eli Griffin has been given a special task by General Hood. A task that will take him deep into the Hood family's history and open a whole can full of mysteries and intrigue. General Hood and his wife, Anna Marie, have both written their histories down and we follow their tale as Eli reads through it, with the occassional jump back to the "present" as we see the effects their stories have on the man.

    General Hood is not a good man and has done things that lead to the deaths of many people. This is his story and how he comes to terms with his past and tries to make up for what he has done. While I did not like General Hood in the beginning, he seemed to be a callous and cruel man, by the end he had earned, at least, my respect. Respect for accepting the consequences of his actions and learning from them. Respect for trying to change his life.

    I'm a little at a loss as to what to think of Anna Marie. I had a very hard time relating to her as a woman, mother, or wife. She seemed to be constantly trying to overcome something within herself, something similar to selfishness, that she could never quite master. This seemed to hang over her head too often to allow me as a reader to get too close.

    Eli Griffin, the main narrator, was an odd man, and I'm still not quite sure what to think of him. He changes and grows in ways that are surprisingly familiar, but I can't seem to put my finger on why.

    I enjoyed reading the book, but there were times I had to put it down, especially near the beginning, because the scenes were a quite disturbing. They were there for a purpose, and the book wouldn't have been the same without them, though.

    4/5

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 28, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Fascinating Historical Fiction

    In A Separate Country, Robert Hicks takes the reader to post-Civil War New Orleans. The book follows the life of General John Hood and his family in this period. General Hood came to New Orleans as a feared and respected man, a Confederate general who led forces and unleashed chaos upon the land.

    After the war, he flounders trying to find what his new life will be. Grievously injured with one leg missing and one arm that won't work, he isn't sure he even knows how to fit into society when he isn't needed to lead men to war. He finds his purpose when he meets and marries Anna Marie Hennen, a famous New Orleans society beauty. Hood and Anna Marie have eleven children.

    Hood introduces the reader to the intricacies of Southern society. There are cotton brokers, lotteries, freed slaves now attempting to make a living, and men in societies formed for the sole purpose of refusing African-Americans their rights. There are many orphans who also claw and fight for a chance at a new life once their family ties have been cut asunder by war. There are men that learn to fit in, and those who are so damaged by the war that they never find redemption.

    This book is highly recommended for lovers of historical fiction. It is rife with complex characters. There is Rintrah and Pascale, orphans who run away from the orphanage and carve out lives for themselves. Pascale has both black and white heritage and sometimes passes as a white man, a scheme for which he pays dearly. Rintrah is a dwarf who fights and schemes until he controls much of the underworld of the city. Father Mike is a priest who isn't priestly, except when the yellow fever plague arrives. He recruits all these characters along with John Hood to fight the plague and try to save the poor people of the city who are it's first and most severely affected victims.

    Hicks has created a city where the reader feels they could walk down the streets and encounter people they know. The characters are intricate and Hicks outlines the various relationships that tie them together. He explores what it means to be a man at war, and a man who seeks redemption. This is an extremely satisfying book, and readers won't be disappointed.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 4, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Really Enjoyed This Book

    I read Robert Hicks other Civil War Book "Widow of the South" and enjoyed it so much that purchasing this book was a no brainer. And....I wasn't disappointed. I like how you slowly learn the personality of each character in the book and Mr. Hicks write so vividly that I could just picture New Orleans so long ago. I also enjoy that he writes about strong women! Great book and would highly recommend it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 20, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Another great book by R. Hicks

    I originally found Widower of the South by accident. I was looking for a new genre - and found that his writing style is very good. I loved that book and thought he is a great storyteller.

    A Separate Country is no different. The characters are very good and the writing is superb. I would recommend this book who wants to learn about the South after the war and of personal redemption, love, and struggle.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 14, 2009

    i am divided about this book

    This book as some beautiful descriptive writing. The best characters are Yellow Jack (Yellow Fever) and the weather in New Orleans. What a horrible way to die; as Hood's wife, oldest daughter, and himself do at the beginning of the novel.

    Think of New Orleans without air conditioning and our modern dress or the bugs with no bug spray.

    My problem was the with the portrayal of General Hood and his wife. Anna Marie Hennen was young, lively, bright, and lovely. Well stationed in society, she could have her pick of men. Yet she spots a man sitting off from the group, with his artificial leg off. She was attracted to him?

    Here was my problem, human nature has not changed a lot since the Civil War. Lots of people would not ventured toward this man.

    How should I know? I am disabled and have been around disabled veterans a lot. They and I have experienced negative reactions from able bodied people. It is a sad commentary but true. I talked to my 90 yo mother to see if I was wrong about how people reacted to people wounded people when she was a young Child of the Confederacy, a wife during WWII and Korea. I know about the survivors of Viet Nam. Things have not changed. My problem; inability do see her action. Much less, the General taking off his artificial leg in public. As an officer and a gentleman of the South, this would be totally inappropriate.

    The more I read about General John Bell Hood, the less I believed in him and the harder it was to read this novel. I had to stop reading. I read other's glowing reviews. I had to be nuts.

    Then I googled him (http://www.johnbellhood.org/). Both characters are Generals, who were shot through the hand, then had an arm made useless, and then lost a leg while fighting for what they believed was the right thing to do.

    I didn't see the character in the book as the one online. What I read online seemed very real. Did he lose some battles? Yes. Was it his fault? When he lost his money, was he the only one or was it part of the time? What kind of strength must a man have to sustained the injuries Hood did and yet carry on in war and after?

    I must find a way to believe in the major characters to really appreciate a book; no matter how well worded.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 12, 2014

    A work of historical fiction, Robert Hicks wrote A Separate Coun

    A work of historical fiction, Robert Hicks wrote A Separate Country from the perspective of his purported main characters. Each chapter speaks from a different character. However, General John Bell Hood was a real person. This story tells of his life after the war, living in New Orleans with his wife and children. The problem is: how much is the reader supposed to believe? I am not an expert on General Hood, so I don’t know. Hood died in the yellow fever epidemic that decimated New Orleans, but how much else of this story is true? Hicks would have done better to write a biography, rather than attempt a novel with fictional content about a real person in a real place.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2013

    Mr. Hicks once again brings us a story that is aching to read an

    Mr. Hicks once again brings us a story that is aching to read and eye opening to comprehend. John Hood was deeply scarred from the war and 
    very flawed as he goes through all of the hell the aftermath of the war brings forth for New Orleans.  Mr. Hicks writing has come along from his first
    book, and the story is relevant for how we are shaped today.  Really opened my eyes to the issues of the south in a way I had not previously encountered.

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  • Posted March 7, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    I thought this book would be informative and interesting. Instea

    I thought this book would be informative and interesting. Instead it was slow and vulgar. The author carried on about pointless information. I have never actually fallen asleep from boredom while reading...until this book. 




    I say it's vulgar because it seemed every chapter had something about the two main character's sex life...to the point of where it was extremely unrealistic. For example, for a good chunk of the book the story is being told from a mother's perspective in a letter to her daughter. What sane mother would include such heavy details about her sex life? it was disgusting, and a sad piece of historical fiction (as if it had much history in it at all...). 

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2012

    Ok book

    I love reading books about the old south. However this book I gave up on I thought it was rather confusing. I was really disappointed.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 31, 2011

    Very Interesting Book

    A Different view of a hero of the Confederacy.

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  • Posted August 23, 2011

    Southern Read

    If you like stories about the south, it's good. A little slow.

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  • Posted May 19, 2011

    Wonderful!!!

    It's a must read! I couldn't put this book down. I wish to read more like this.

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  • Posted October 12, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Robert Hicks provides a strong look at life in a battered pandemic depressed Deep South

    In 1879 in New Orleans former Confederate General John Bell Hood is dying from yellow fever. He has one death bed wish that his memoir of the past decade instead of his Evil War account be published. He asks Tennessee transplant Eli Griffin, who came to New Orleans four years earlier intending to murder the Rebel general for his defeat at Franklin, to promise he would..

    After the South lost the war, Hood moved to New Orleans trying to make a go as a businessman who lost the use of an arm and had a leg amputated during the hostilities. He married Creole Anna Marie Hennen and they had eleven children together raised in abject poverty, which deletes the élan of life from her. Their relationship took another negative spin when Anna Marie's best friend is murdered and Sebastian Lemerle arrives to extort money from his former commander in order not to reveal an ugly secret he knows about Hood from their Texas days together. Others like Rintah, Beauregard and the KKK forerunner want a piece of the war hero too.

    This is a deep historical thriller told mostly as an autobiographical account of a major Southern Civil war general. The story line is vivid as the audience sees a teetering New Orleans trying to rebound from the defeat, but reconstruction is hampered by racism, cheating opportunism, and overall amoral behaviour that debilitate the energy from those playing fair. Robert Hicks provides a strong look at life in a battered pandemic depressed Deep South.

    Harriet Klausner

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted July 22, 2011

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    Posted January 21, 2010

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    Posted August 13, 2009

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    Posted December 28, 2009

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    Posted September 24, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 9, 2010

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