Madison Avenue claims historian's office

There is an history author you've never heard of. He has sold millions of books to a mass, popular audience and to critical acclaim; one title alone sold over 3 million copies. His best selling historical novels have covered topics like slavery and the Civil War.

His name is Christopher Collier; he is a retired professor who has served as Connecticut's state historian for two decades. His best sellers are for juveniles.

He's typically interested in and researches deeply (for himself) such stuff as the effects of Revolutionary War inflation and the historic links between Connecticut and the Hamptons; he says his aim in taking the unpaid state post was to "bring sophisticated history to the general public."

To "bring sophisticated history to the general public" is not a recipe for success in Civil War literature. So when he was not amusing himself with adult-level studies, Dr. Collier pitched historical fiction to schoolchildren. The children would get the sophisticated history.

This is quite unlike the James McPherson formula for success, where you drag post-graduate complexity down to a seventh-grade level for lazy adults. Collier took the "sophisticated history" to audiences of intellectually ambitious kids and was crowned with great success.

But the times move on:

The new state historian will be Walter Woodward, a former advertising executive. Perhaps he can use his promotional skills to tell Connecticut's great stories.

This seems like one of those cases where a model or rock star takes on a serious acting role. It certainly answers the animatronic/touristic challenges of history with which Richard Norton Smith so nobly grapples at the Lincoln Library.

The editors of the Hartford Courant put it in perspective:

But today, we salute Mr. Collier with the certainty that not a single journalist in the state will delete his phone number.

No offense intended to history-minded admen, you understand, but somebody ultimately has to write the words - or vett the words - in your tourist brochures.