Saturday, November 04, 2006

Writers to emulate

I am told by readers of my second draft that I have a style. Well researched, sometimes overexplained prose with characters in need of more life.

The trouble is, when I read the stories of my characters, they are alive and vivid in my mind. Translating the characters I see to the written word the reader sees appears to be the problem.

What writers do this well ?

The late Shelby Foote, of course, whose three volume history of the Civil War reads more like a novel than prose.

Howard Bahr, whose latest, The Judas Field, is set in Mississippi and Tennessee, is a wonderfully compelling novelist. His characters grab you in the first paragraph, and hold on to you until the very last. Now that's a style to emulate ! Howard, by the way, teaches at Motlow State Community College in Tullahoma, 70 miles south of here.

Winston Groom, he of Forrest Gump fame, is an extraordinarily gifted writer of histories. Like me, he follows his ancestors as they experienced the wars of America. My ancestors were all enlisted men. His were line officers. So far, he's written on the Battle of New Orleans, The Civil War, and World War II. Great prose. More like I write naturally, I think.

And of course, the two who started it all for me, the late Michael Shaara and his son Jeff Shaara. You could say that Michael was the Stephen Crane of our era. His Killer Angels, modestly successful until the TNT movie Gettysburg, set the standard for modern novels of the Civil War. Jeff completed the Civil War trilogy with the prequel, Gods and Generals, and the sequel The Last Full Measure. Then, he moved earlier to the Mexican-American War, the Revolutionary War, World War I, and now on to World War II. Curiously, Gone for Soldiers, the Mexican-American War novel, covers only the later southern Mexico campaign of Winfield Scott, and leaves the earlier northern Mexico campaign story untold. Perhaps he's leaving it for another writer with time and interest in the Taylor family. I wonder .....

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