Charles R. Bowery Jr. has a very nice publicity apparatus representing him as author (Lance Vargas of paitronsaintpr.com). Unfortunately, Mr. Vargas alerted me to Maj. Bowery's new Civil War business book, LEE & GRANT: Profiles in Leadership from the Battlefields of Virginia.
If I read a bad Civil War book, I suffer deep annoyance:
McClellan, Pope, and Hooker were inflexible to a fault; as professional soldiers ... They went beyond disagreement with Lincoln into open and acrimonious arguments that were inappropriate for all concerned.They had acrimonious arguments with Lincoln? You've given me a sense of your ability to accurately generalize. Not a good sense.
If it's an ACW business book, there's a business layer to add to the noise:
Using your authority in an autocratic way, a "my way or the highway" approach, might be within your prerogative but would do more harm than good in the long run.Not quite. As we used to say at the Infantry School, that depends on the situation. And there are, after all, fortifications that need to be charged.
I wonder about the worldview of people who can take simple observations, develop them into ironclad paradigms and then try to apply them to a series of straw-man business constructs. The business book writer seems like a child who has learned One Great Thing in school today and is running around the house teaching everyone. Go back to school. Get some context and perspective. Respect your audience a little.
In Civil War publishing, the pattern is eternal. A reader absorbs a single view of events and makes himself champion of that view. Maj. Bowery's publisher well understands this:
That's a naive view of the book's merits, but the observation of Civil War authors praising one general and vilifying the other is perfect. It is Symptom A that someone has run to the market with first impressions, regardless of how much reading followed that impression.
Christina M. Parisi, an editor at Amacom, said most Civil War books tend to praise one general and vilify the other. Bowery's book, however, "offers a truly unique look at the two men, focusing on the face-off between the generals in their most important series of battles and giving an honest appraisal of their leadership abilities.
I once heard a newspaper editor say that her paper avoided ACW book reviews because reviewers, who tend to be buffs, simplistically praise one general and vilify the other.
The whole upside-downess of ACW literature is captured in Civil War business books when bad history is combined with bad business. We as readers are a major part of the problem; the Civil War writer starts as a reader and often starts wrong. Here's a new writer with advice that illustrates our topsy-turvy tendencies:
"The hardest thing about historical fiction is that you have to be accountable for historical detail," Barkley said. "When I let a Civil War buff read my manuscript before it was published, I learned that the description of a uniform button was inaccurate. A tiny detail like that can ruin a book’s authenticity."This followed an admission that:
Barkley based the characteristics and personalities of the [Civil War novel's] brothers on his real life brother, Travis, and four of his college friends. Some of the commanding generals and officers in his second and third books may be reminiscent of his own law professors at Campbell...You're writing about a button. Okay. Maybe it's a plot device. But then you populate your world with 21st Century personalities. You've got something there, but it's something I'm not buying.
Can a business ACW book be half good? Can the ACW part be sound and the biz part not? Vice versa? Or are the insights that make one half sound preventative of the other part being bad?
Let me know if you ever find a half-good or all-good ACW business book.