The number of celebrity Civil War authors seems to be multiplying.

* Ex-congressman Newt Gingrich has been on a book tour for his novel Gettysburg.

* Ex-congressman Robert J. Mrazek, who scored a hit and a lit prize for his novel Stonewall's Gold in 1999 is back with another novel, Unholy Fire.

* Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist is being published in March: his nonfiction title will be The Disputed Election of 1876, which despite the date in the title is most assuredly about the Civil War.

And then there's Ben Stein, of Win Ben Stein's Money on TV.

I read my first copy of The Alternative in 1970 when it was a broadsheet. There was no "Ben Stein's Diary" column then, but there has apparently been one in nearly every issue since then. The Alternative some time ago changed its name to American Spectator (bad idea), got involved with George Gilder, and launched a website, not necessarily in that order. All that to say Stein's column does not run on the site. You have to buy a mag to read it.

In the paper edition of his column in the October issue, Stein reveals his upbringing near the Monacacy battlefield by Frederick, MD, and his deep love for battlefield preservation. He asks a series of questions and answers them: "Did the Civil War have to be fought? "Why is the Southern cause so compelling even now?" You get the idea.

In the next days I'll examine some of these questions from the perspective of ACW history critcisism. The questions naturally reflect the answers already found in books, books that may be more than a little suspect..