Member Blogs > Books Tell You WhyMichael and Jeff Shaara: Masters of Historical Fiction

  • Thu, 23 Jun 2016 08:00:00    Permalink
    Michael and Jeff Shaara: Masters of Historical Fiction

    The title of Michael Shaara’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Civil War novel The Killer Angels (1974) comes from an exchange between between Union Colonel Joshua Chamberlain and his father which appears relatively early in the book. Hearing Chamberlain recite a line from Hamlet that likens man to angels, his father responds, "Well, boy, if he's an angel, he's sure a murderin' angel." The title is deeply ambivalent. The ‘killer angels’ are, notably, still called angels despite being killers, and vice versa. On some level, this ambivalence is the true appeal of Shaara’s writing. He trains his sights on one of the most divisive eras in American history and refuses to allow for the presence of men and women who are either exclusively angelic or exclusively murderous, choosing instead to foreground the sheer flawed humanity that exists on each side of the conflict. The fact that he pulls off this balancing act speaks volumes.

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