Marszalek said no one studying the officer's early success could have predicted his later ineffectiveness. "As a commander, he had great difficulty making decisions. "He just refused to take responsibility," he said.
The biographer is faced here with a task: explain how Halleck could transition from a decision-making lawyer/businessman into a shirker. The idea that "no-one could have predicted" suggests a cop-out, an author's refusal to dig deeper. Might I suggest: "No one who understands the workings of the Lincoln Administration could fail to predict a general's reluctance to make decisions." Or more gently: "Halleck's failure as a decisionmaker fits a pattern established for all military men working closely with the Lincoln Administration. Let us look closely now at this phenomenon..."
I'm playing the fool here, drawing conclusions about a book merely from a reporter's few comments about the author, but there are additional warning flags:
The final product is a major exploration into such physical and psychological factors as Halleck's loss of a twin sister at birth, his alienation from his father and ailments that may have included hemochromatosis, which sometimes is called "genetic iron poisoning." "You can tell in photos of Halleck taken just months apart that there's a noticeable mental and physical strain," Marszalek said.
This points towards hypotheticals and rationalizations.
There was a kind of ACW history book published in the 1970s and 1980s the premise of which was this: Everything you, the casual reader, know about this general is fundamentally correct; I, the author, am now going to show you why he was this way.
Another type ran on this basis: Everything you, the casual reader, know about this general is not only correct; I, the author, am now going to show that he was even more like his stereotype than even you could imagine.
Both of these approaches are forms of pandering. Hoping for the best, I will seek out the Halleck book and pass on an infomed conclusion.