Friday, January 20, 2023

7 Questions With Christopher C. Gorham, Author of The Confidante


CHRISTOPHER C. GORHAM is the author of THE CONFIDANTE: THE UNTOLD STORY OF THE WOMAN WHO HELPED WIN WWII AND SHAPE MODERN AMERICA (Citadel Press, 2023). He holds degrees from the University of Michigan, Tufts University and Syracuse University College of Law. After practicing law for over a decade, for the last several years he has taught Modern American History at Westford Academy, outside Boston. His writing has appeared in the Washington Post and online publications. THE CONFIDANTE is his first book. He and his wife, Elizabeth, live in Watertown and Chatham, Massachusetts. The book will be released February 21, 2023, published by Kensington Publishing.

1. How and when did you get hooked on history?

As far back as I can remember, I've been fascinated by history. My grandfather, who I spent a lot of time with as a kid, had been an infantry officer in WWII. In fact, his division, the 69th, was the one that made contact with the Russians in April of 1945. But I didn't know that level of detail when I was young. I just knew he had a cigar box of old photos, army patches and medals, and newspaper clippings from the war--I was mesmerized by these things and by his (sanitized) stories. And it wasn't just WWII! This same grandfather every summer would take our family from suburban Detroit, where I grew up, to Boston, where he grew up. We'd walk the Freedom Trail, see Concord and Lexington--me wearing a tri-corn hat from some gift shop--and I just absorbed it all. I dreamed of one day living in Boston, amidst all that history.

2. What role does history play or has it played in your personal life?

Well, my wife and all our friends kind of see me as the history guy, so I get a lot of questions about historical patterns and how the past informs the present or how the present reflects the past. One example would be today's political attacks, where baseless accusations are thrown about in an effort to tarnish or end careers. We really haven't seen that since the 1950s. Also on a personal level, my middle name "Courtenay" was based on General of the US 1st Army in WWII, Courtney Hodges. So as I tell my students, my middle name is History. 

3. How does history play a part of your professional life/career?

After graduating college with a History degree, I went to law school. I practiced for almost 15 years, but every day I felt a tinge of regret that history wasn't part of my life. One day, my wife and I decided I'd leave the law, get my Master's degree and teach history. Besides asking my wife to marry me, it was the best decision I ever made. Teaching Modern American history to 17-year-old juniors taught me to be a storyteller--it also keeps me young and engaged!

4. Why is studying/knowing history important?

As the French thinker, Jean Bodin, said, "Studying history is the beginning of wisdom." Before we can know anything, we need to know who we are, what is our shared story, who are our heroes (and villains), how do we individually fit into narratives of locality, state, nation? I see basic historical knowledge as foundational to living the examined life.

5. What is your favorite period or aspect of history to learn about and why?

The Great War really has always grabbed me. The pathos of these young men, who expected Napoleonic valor and cavalry charges, and who got rats and trench foot. The tomato-red trousers of the French in 1914 and the shiny brass buttons went into war as if they were in the 19th century and they discovered a 20th century industrial war. The class issues of the war--Pal's Battalions sent to die by monarchs who were all related. And because it was a war of attrition, the men had lots of time to write. The poets and novelists of WWII are to me an enduring reminder of the sadness and pointlessness of the war.      


6. What attracted you to Anna Rosenberg's story and why is it an important story to tell?

Anna Rosenberg is like Zelig or Forrest Gump in that she played a role in so much history! From a suffragist to pioneer woman campaign manager, from New Deal director to one of the architects of the Arsenal of Democracy, Anna was there. And WWII was just the first act. She attained her highest position in the Cold War, and advised presidents from FDR to Lyndon Johnson. From presidents to generals to Marilyn Monroe, her career reads like a roll-call of history. 

7. Are you at work on other projects that we might look forward to in the future?

Yes, I am working on my second book. I'm going to be canny and not give too much away, but it is safe to say the subject is better known that Anna Rosenberg, but the slice of life I focus on is not well understood.

Friday, January 6, 2023

7 Questions With Cody C. Engdahl, Author of Historical Fiction


Cody C. Engdahl was born and raised in Detroit but lives in Nashville, Tennessee. He's a practitioner of the "Southern Gentlemanly Arts." In addition to writing a series of historical novels focusing mostly on the Civil War, he is also an amateur fiddler, cook, whiskey connoisseur, and armchair historian.  

                                                                                                                                                                                                           1.   How and when did you get hooked on history?

I’ve been into history for as long as I can remember. I think it must have started when I was a child watching old swashbuckling movies. I remember making swords out of sticks and pretending I was a knight, a Roman legionnaire, or Errol Flynn on a pirate ship. I remember thinking that I had been born too late as I fantasized about the time when men wore swords on their hips and had dashing adventures.

2. What role does history play or has it played in your personal life?

It’s the source of all my entertainment and passion. I feel sorry for my girlfriend because I never want to watch anything unless it has swords or possibly spaceships. All the novels I read are historical fiction. I can spend hours online looking at the succession of English kings or reading about some ancient battle for no other reason than satisfying my own fascination.

3. How does history play a part of your professional life/career?

It’s at the core now of my professional life. I started writing historical novels after I left my career as a TV reporter. Researching, writing, editing, and marketing take up much of my time. I also do as many book talks and signing as I can. I play old-time fiddle, which works nicely with the era in which I write. My banjo player and I play a lot of gigs at historical events and sites, often in period clothing. I typically play my fiddle at Civil War shows as well to attract people to my table. It helps me sell books!

4. Why is studying/knowing history important?

History is the story of who we are and how we got here. It’s difficult to solve the problems of today and tomorrow if we don’t understand those two things. You can also see repeating patterns in history and human behavior. The study of history is really the best way of predicting the future.

5. What is your favorite period or aspect of history to learn about and why?

That’s the toughest question yet. I like it all! My writing focuses on the “Long 19th Century,” which is roughly the French Revolution to the onset of World War I. It’s the story of modernity. Most of our worldview is born from this age. It’s a time of great turmoil and transition. It’s both familiar and exotic to us. 

I’m also very much a twelve-year-old boy at heart so I tend to obsess over military, weapons, war, adventure, and honor culture. But that’s just because I’m immature and not for any profound reason.

6. What drew you to writing historical fiction in general and about the Civil War in particular? 

Because I’m a fan. Like many historical novelists, I am a big fan of Bernard Cornwell as well as too many others to name, but I must say it was Arturo Perez-Reverte’s Alatriste series that finally prompted me to write. I felt the American Civil War was the best place to start because I was familiar with it, there's a ton of resources, and a huge built-in audience. I practically live on a battlefield. 

7. Please tell us about Mexico, My Love, your latest novel?

That’s a prequel to my Civil War trilogy that I had planned from the very beginning. You can see me setting it up in Chapter One of my first novel, Rampage on the River: The Battle for Island No. 10. It’s the story of the parents of my main character in the trilogy. It’s about how they meet, fall in love, run away together, and go on a grand adventure that’ll take them through the deserts of Africa, across the pirate-infested seas, and ultimately to the Battle of Mexico City in the Mexican-American War.