The three most important parts of a book are: a well constructed plot, compelling characters, and a satisfying conclusion.

Monday, January 19, 2015

GLORY IN THE NAME: A Novel of the Confederate Navy By James L Nelson

Publisher:  Harper Perennial
Publication Date:  2004
Pages:  432
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Reviewed By WC

About the Book: Then call us Rebels if you will we glory in the name, for bending under unjust laws and swearing faith to an unjust cause, we count as greater shame. -- Richmond Daily Dispatch, May 12, 1862
April 12, 1861. With one jerk of a lanyard, one shell arching into the sky, years of tension explode into civil war. And for those men who do not know in which direction their loyalty calls them, it is a time for decisions. Such a one is Lieutenant Samuel Bowater, an officer of the U.S. Navy and a native of Charleston, South Carolina.

Hard-pressed to abandon the oath he swore to the United States, but unable to fight against his home state, Bowater accepts a commission in the nascent Confederate Navy, where captains who once strode the quarterdecks of the world's most powerful ships are now assuming command of paddle wheelers and towboats. Taking charge of the armed tugboat Cape Fear, and then the ironclad Yazoo River, Bowater and his men, against overwhelming odds, engage in the waterborne fight for Southern independence.

WC's Review: 
Any fiction book written about American history is good. Any fiction book about the years of American ignominy between the years 1860 and 1865 is particularly good. This book is better.

Author James L Nelson is familiar with the glorious tragedy of the American Civil War, specifically the war of the ironclads. This familiarity makes for a readable book in that most students of the Southern War for Independence have a meager knowledge of naval warfare. The story of the scrap between the Monitor and the Merrimac is about it.

Nelson goes beyond giving a memorable history of refurbished tugboats and frigates into monstrous ships of impenetrable iron which, on both sides, gave their all on the Mississippi. The folks involved are real people.

Master mechanic Hieronymous Taylor, aboard the revamped Yazoo River tugboat, outshines Captain Samuel Bowater, although Bowater wins the girl. Taylor's proficiency with engines, pistons, drive shafts, and boilers takes center stage with his mastery of the violin.

Supporting characters are alive and serve a purpose. Moses is a deck hand, a master coal shoveler possessed with a rich baritone voice. If "Old Man River" had been written, Moses would have opted for a role on a showboat.

Robley Paine, Sr., is memorable in that he takes the battle of the mighty river into his hands after losing his sons at Bull Run. His three sons eagerly pursue the cause of the South as do the motley collection of deck hands under the guidance of the resilient Taylor.

About the Author: 
James L. Nelson (1962-) is an American historical nautical novelist. He was born in Lewiston, Maine. In 1980, Nelson graduated from Lewiston High School. Nelson attended the University of Massachusetts, Amherst for two years, and then transferred to UCLA, with the ambition of becoming a film director. Nelson, his wife, Lisa, and their daughter Betsy lived for two years in Steubenville, Ohio, while Lisa attended Franciscan University. They also have two boys, Nate and Jack. They now live in Harpswell, Maine, where Nelson continues to write full time.