Change of Kinds | Journal-news

As an old man, I fight change as much as the next person. But sometimes change surprises me and happens when I least expect it. In this case, the change was gradual and because I wasn’t listening, the change had happened. In fact, it worked well.

It may surprise my regular readers that this Civil War author doesn’t read Civil War books. My reasoning is because I don’t want to add anything, even unconsciously, to my writings that I might have read elsewhere. An accusation of plagiarism is something an author fears like the plague.

That said, my occasional reading is often about hardships. I have always been intrigued by trials and have read trial transcripts throughout history, including the trial of John Brown, the trials of the Lincoln conspirators and others.

This led me to the idea that some historical figures from the era I am writing about have never been judged for various reasons. Several were deceased and therefore could not be brought to justice. One was incarcerated for nearly two years but never brought to trial. Another character was never charged, but perhaps should have been.

I am now writing a series of five books (at least for now) about the historic trials that may have taken place. Several of these books have already been published. Several others are mostly complete and require further research. The fifth book even ventures into my normal Civil War genre, but I’m sure it will be interesting.

Here is how I researched these books. I found the thoughts and ideas of various witnesses that were written down during their lifetime. I put them on the witness stand and had them present their ideas as testimony. Even though the book is fiction, their testimony in each case is true to what the witnesses had said while alive.

I can bring in witnesses who are long dead, because after all, I write historical fiction. One of my witnesses was the Chinese general Wu Sun Tzu, a military type who died in 496 BC. Obviously, he could not have testified in other circumstances. Another witness I use is William Shakespeare, who lived between 1564 and 1616.

I even took the liberty of calling myself into the witness stand because in this particular trial I had relevant information that I could provide to the prosecution that no one else could provide.

I thought long and hard about who would be the best prosecutors and defense attorneys for these trials. One of my favorite defense lawyers defends a notorious criminal in the first book of the series. For the defense it’s Clarence Darrow. Darrow was known as the “advocate for the damned”. His client, John Wilkes Booth.

In this same trial, I am using Francis Scott Key – yes, the same Key who wrote the national anthem, but was also a prominent lawyer in his day – as a prosecutor.

In an essay book, I needed to bring in some of the founding fathers as witnesses. It was important for the court to hear their thoughts on the legality or illegality of secession – an important issue in the Civil War. It may surprise you (it surprised me) that the Founding Father did not agree whether secession was legal or illegal. The issue of secession was extremely important to the defendant – in this case Jefferson Davis.

Since the books started appearing in bookstores and on my website, several people have suggested other historical people who should be brought to justice, which I am considering.

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