I could have written this post

Except the part about sounding snobbish.

Meanwhile, Brooks Simpson says "I wonder whether the general reader or the person whose intense interest in the Civil War is matched only by a vast ignorance of the literature (and perhaps fundamental facts) really cares about whether what they are reading is original."

Indeed, I wonder too.

He raises the possibility that ACW historians are viewed, within the academy, as servicing fans: "After all, if many of my peers outside my field of interest think that all I do is to cater to the undiscriminating palate of wild-eyed buffs (many of whom, I suspect, don’t read much at all), why not simply live down to my peers’ expectations and proceed laughing all the way to the bank?"

Here's a possible answer; as long as you keep a foot in both camps, you should be able to do both without your professional identity becoming subsumed by your popular identity. On the other hand, the professional identity of, say, David Eicher cannot help him. He's an astronomer, so the Civil War author part of his identity will be rooted in pop culture. The same would be true of me - if I went down the pop road to riches, I would have no recourse to a "true" identity as the practitioner of an honest history.

But Brooks Simpson, and many others, are positioned to do both. There will be no harm in it unless they read and believe the rave reviews their pop histories earn; unless they buy into the prizes awarded for trashy nonfiction; unless the bright lights of C-SPAN turn them around; unless they get used to being called the "greatest living" whatever based on sales figures.

And I believe there are historians strong enough to do both things without becoming confused about which part of the work is worthwhile for what ends.