Grant biographer - and Pulitzer winner - William McFeely has issued a picture book, a la McPherson, through the trade publishing house Norton offering about 160 pages for $32.50 list. (Here's the link to Amazon, but please, just look, don't buy.) The only step lower than this is to include a Cracker Jack prize free with every picture book.

This being such a brazenly commercial proposition, I don't want to spend time on the obvious side of it. What interests me is the Civil War reading public's response to such a naked commercial appeal.

For our purposes "public" will mean Amazon reviewers. Each of these is from a different person. On one level, they are scathing:

* "I'm really not sure why this was published. The collection of photos (which, one would think, is the main point of the book) is pretty uninteresting, and the essays only prove that McFeely hasn't learned any more about Grant since he wrote that overrated bio over twenty years ago."

* "... the words are the only thing to recommend the book. The photos are non-existent! I don't know what the publishers were thinking. I have seen all the photos in here a million times."

* "This is touted as an album of Ulysses Grant photographs. It is marketed as such and sold with this inherent promise. It is with stunned surprise to report that there are exactly twelve photographs of Grant within this book. Yes, I counted them: twelve actual photos."

* "I would've liked more pictures instead of drawings."

I think this list represents everyone who posted an opinion about the book. I'm amazed that these people could disregard the commercial signals surrounding this work, buy the book at a premium price, then complain about not enough interesting photos.

Is this the coffee-table end of the ACW bookbuying public? I don't think so. I think this is part of that great mass audience that drives the Pulitzers. I think McPherson and McFeely understand something we don't, that you can get rid of 90% of the text in an ACW history and still capture enormous sales.

Civil War readers scare me to death.