For anyone who knows author and historian Ned Huthmacher, they would be hard-pressed to find someone more enthusiastic about Texas history and the siege and battle of the Alamo than him. His life simply revolved around it, so much so that he actually moved to Texas several years after authoring a book titled One Domingo Morning: The Story of Alamo Joe, a novel, and also the first time commander William Barrett Travis’ slave Joe was ever profiled in-depth. Ned is a very easy-going guy who is always willing to talk about anything, especially his love of history. He is a man who can serve as inspiration for those who have a hobby or interest and want to take it to the next level. However, in a step away from his normal Alamo focus, Ned has spent the last several years working on songs to be produced for an album, titled Outside the Alamo, sung and performed by John Beland, who in the past has served as guitarist for several country music legends, including Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Ricky Nelson, and Dolly Parton. While the cover of this album is a vintage photograph of Ned sitting by the outer barrack walls of John Wayne’s Alamo film set, the focus of the songs are quite literally outside the Alamo (with the exception of the song titled the same as his book, which he considers to be it’s “soundtrack”), meaning focusing on his other interests besides the famous battle.
It’s not often that I report on something without having exact information surrounding it, but I have stumbled upon something that could be very exciting for fans of historical film epics. When the 150th anniversary of the Civil War came around, a director’s cut of Gods and Generals was finally released after such a long period of time that people had given up hope we would ever see it. Another recent historical film, The Alamo (2004), has also gone many years without even so much as a Blu-Ray release, much less a release of the director’s cut version. With the 175th anniversary of the siege and battle of the Alamo commemorated last year, one would have thought it was a now-or-never type situation, but we heard nothing, not even a whisper. All hope died down yet again…until now. According to Blu-Ray.Com, there is in fact a movie titled The Alamo being released (date and intricate details TBA), but there is some conflicting information as to exactly which film it is. If you visit the page, you will notice that the technical information (production company, year, running time, etc) are for the 2004 John Lee Hancock version, while the cast listed is for the 1960 epic directed by and starring John Wayne. Neither film has ever been released in this format, so it’s anyone’s guess at to which one is coming out now, unless you want to fantasize about a combo pack, which would make everyone happy.
As my Eastern Orthodox friend would always say on Easter, “Hristos Voskrese!”, which means “Christ Has Risen!”, the most important phrase on the most important day of the Christian calendar. On this Easter Sunday, I would like to extend my best wishes to all of you, as well as to our readers who are in the midst of Passover. Normally, I would devote this time of the year on this blog to discussing some religious movie, perhaps posting a review of one as I usually do, but instead, today I just want to mention one particular scene of a certain film that generally draws laughs. The only problem is, the movie is The Greatest Story Ever Told, and the scene in question is the climactic crucifixion near the end of the film.
Let’s just say that I’ve been on a World War II kick of late, which gives me occasion to post my first movie review in quite some time. Heck, I might even go out and get a pack of Luckies since I’m in such a good mood. So, anyway, it seems that one cannot be considered a war movie buff unless they have watched the 1977 WWII epic A Bridge Too Far. Now that I have finally watched it, my journey is complete, and I must say, it was well worth the lengthy wait. Despite its obvious flaws, many with casting, it is still an outstanding film and one of the best war movies ever made. I consider this to be a companion to an earlier made film, The Longest Day, though the two are not officially connected in any way in regards to the production. However, both are based on novels written by the same author, Cornelius Ryan, and both took the same approach to actually making the film: have a sense of scope that is unmatched for the time, strive for the utmost historical accuracy, and of course, acquire every big name actor you can, pay them whatever they want, and find a role for them. While both films suffered nominally because of the last part, that really is the redeeming quality they have that gets people to say, “Gee, they don’t make movies like that anymore.”
Blu Ray technology has done some amazing things over the course of the last few years, both for the visual and audio experience of seeing a movie as it was meant to be seen, save of course for actually seeing a screening in a movie theater. Though in my last article about Blu Rays, I knocked them a little bit for sometimes not living up to standard (it still amazes me that some films from the 1940′s have better clarity than those made within the last 20 years), ultimately, they have been a pleasant surprise, at least to me, a person that has always been skeptical of new technology and the controlled obsolescent world we live in today. That said, some of my favorite films, as you may very well gather, are war movies, and the HD spectacle that Blu Ray brings is the ultimate treat, because you can see the dripping of blood and grains of dirt on the soldiers’ uniforms, as well as hearing bullets zipping through the air, or the roar of a helicopter engine. All of these items play into the realism, and it is because of this that I make the humble suggestions below, for three war movies that have not experienced a transformation through re-release, to finally have their day. These are three movies that many of us would kill to see in high-definition, and I only hope the interest is out there to make it happen.
3. The Alamo (2004)
Like many of us did for Gods and Generals, in waiting eight years for a director’s cut, there are many of us waiting for one for this film as well. While when the film first came out, there was a lot of promise and hope (including director John Lee Hancock saying he would have the release of a cut put into his contract if he ever directed another film for Disney), it all seems completely dead now, especially with the 175th anniversary of the siege and battle coming without even so much as cough from a studio executive. So, if this is the case, could we at least be gifted with a Blu Ray release of the theatrical version? Despite all its flaws (the more historically accurate one claims a movie to be, the more people find things wrong with it), and the demystification of our heroes, it is still a very good film. Billy Bob Thornton plays one of the best roles in his career, and while I cannot get myself to utter that Hancock is a good director, the cinematography of this movie is superb. There are swooping camera shots, fantastic sets, and a wonderful battle scene (night-time battles look great on Blu Ray, just throwing that out there), and those three should be reason enough to give this film another go. I do not think it is too much to ask for, considering the enormous market in Texas alone, with the rest of general history buffs coming at a close second.
2. The Alamo (1960)
Slowly but surely, it seems that all of John Wayne’s more popular movies are getting the Blu Ray treatment, which actually gives this fifty year old flick a better chance of a release than the one that came within the last decade. Though this film is anything but accurate, it is a classic and war movie of epic proportions. The film erred when it depicted the final battle as taking place during the day, but the visual spectacle that ensued is a part of cinematic history. There are thousands of extras, great pull-away shots, and of course, the many different colors of the Mexican army uniforms. The film on DVD itself was pretty well-preserved, so this seems like a no-brainer. There is a director’s cut of this film too, however, but has only been released to VHS, because the poor quality of the deleted scenes would stick out like a sore thumb if transferred to a clearer medium. Nevertheless, I would buy this the first day it came out. The performances are top-notch, and the story is definitely something to remember.
1. Waterloo (1970)
Are you an aspiring director who needs inspiration on how to film a battle scene? Well, look no farther than Sergei Bondarchuk’s masterful adaptation of the climactic Napoleonic struggle at Waterloo, between Wellington (the outstanding Christopher Plummer) and Napoleon (an overly dramatic Rod Steiger). Though the first hour of this film is brutally slow, boring, and melodramatic, with some of the worst acting performances I have ever seen, the latter portion of the film with the battle is one of the most memorable, and it will stick with you a long time after. The use of nearly 20,000 extras and helicopter-view overhead shots make you want to get out of your chair and stand up, out of sheer disbelief that something like that could even be captured on film, in a day and age where there were no computer generated effects. What you see is what Bondarchuk saw, and Ney’s cavalry charge against the British infantry squares late in the battle is so stunning, it almost makes you want to enlist in His Majesty’s army. No film I have ever seen starts out so dull and listless, making you want to shut it off, before ripping the remote out of your hand and gluing you to your chair. If you can get past the poor overdubbing, mainly of Jack Hawkins’ character (he lipped the words because his voice box had been removed due to throat cancer) and about a dozen other actors, then this is a film you have to see. It is a sin in itself that this movie only has one or two DVD releases, both being of terrible quality, and containing Chinese lettering on the actual case. The widescreen format is so scrunched together that the viewer does not get the sense of scope and grandeur that the director intended. Restoring this film and putting it on Blu Ray, though, would fix that. This is a piece of cinema that needs to be worked on.
I was going to include Schindler’s List on here at number one, but sources say that the film is getting worked on, and will hopefully be released next year. As of right now, there is no release date set.
About eight years ago, I remember as a kid, gathering all my VHS tapes together and selling them on Ebay, in order to get money to buy those same films on DVD. My parents could never understand my affection for actually owning my favorite movies—my father has never been a movie fan at all, while my mother is one of those watch-it-once types, except when it comes to anything starring Gregory Peck or James Mason. But for me, when I have a movie that I really like and know I will watch again, why bank on getting an un-scratched, actually playable disc from Netflix, when I can just own it? Say what you want about Wal-Mart, but that is where I buy the majority of my movies, or at least I used to. Their bargain bins and constantly discounted racks are a haven for any film buff, and if you go every so often, the selection changes with a decent regularity. But now, here I am, finding myself doing the exact same thing I did back then: I am selling my DVDs on Ebay so I can buy Blu Rays. My movie collection may not be the biggest ever, and I have not made an exact count, but I estimate it to be at least 100, counting both forms of discs, and some ultra-rare films on VHS that escaped my purge, because they were never transferred to any other medium.
As someone who always scoffs at new technology (I have had the same cell phone for three years now, while people around me seem to change bi-annually), do not take it lightly when I say that Blu Ray actually is the way to go, if you have or want to make the investment in an HD TV (an investment I would definitely push you to make). I am not a fan of the in-today, out-tomorrow controlled obsolescence that dominates the technology market, but being that I will never find myself interested in this new 3D gimmick, something that I think will go the way of the 8-track in years to come, because parents will see their young children’s vision impaired by the glasses, and all other sorts of health risks, I am now going to focus solely on Blu Ray.
However, there are risks involved in making your purchase, ones that were not present for VHS and DVD. The fact of the matter is, some films just do not make the high-definition transfer well, especially older films. You have to realize, that back at that time, before there was any type of home viewing device, filmmakers did not count on people being able to sit ten feet away from a screen, which is why so many goofs can now be caught. But that aside, a lot of times, the simple issue of taking care of the celluloid has doomed these older movies. There are plenty of exceptions, though, as I was absolutely blown away by the Gone With the Wind 70th Anniversary Collector’s Edition (1939). Even though I have grown to dislike the film, seeing it for the first time in a few years, when I actually did like it, I could not help but be amazed at the work that went into the transfer; or what went into the initial preservation—Casablanca (1942) also looked exceptionally well. This is why the purchase-factor is so difficult, because you cannot automatically assume that an old movie might not be worth watching. The 1991 film, JFK, had such an awful video quality that I actually returned it to the store, because it was like I was watching a glorified DVD. What went wrong? Could it have been avoided? All I know is, it made me think twice about purchasing this newer technology—I had the same problem with the Roman Polanski horror/thriller The Ninth Gate, which was made even later in 1999.
The other issue with older films was the “state of the art” technology used to make them in the earlier days of Hollywood. Matte effects for backdrops are even more easily recognizable than in other versions on DVD. This is because of what I mentioned earlier, in that no one ever imagined a viewer being able to watch something on his television or computer, and be able to pause, rewind, and zoom in to find mistakes. There are still some of those older technologically driven films that stand the test of time, such as 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) which was made for high-definition, and the astonishing transfer is just like everything else in the film: groundbreaking. In fact, every Kubrick film I own on Blu Ray has impressed, which includes The Shining, Full Metal Jacket, and A Clockwork Orange, all made before 1987. I am still waiting to add Barry Lyndon (the excellent cinematography will only be magnified in HD), Dr. Strangelove, and Eyes Wide Shut.
Even with the films I have had problems with, the one aspect that never ceases to come across as well-done is the audio. With the Gods and Generals Extended Director’s Cut (and this was even mentioned in reviews of the original cut), the audio was so spectacular that you actually felt you were in the middle of battle. The same goes for Kingdom of Heaven, with the vibration-causing clang and clash of swords thrusts and slashes, and even the John Wayne Vietnam film The Green Berets, which features plenty of explosions and lots of action. The only downside to the higher quality of audio, involves a visual tie-in. Most films, at one point or another, have over-dubbing used in some way. Perhaps an actor made a mistake, did not speak English well enough, or simply, the director decided to change the dialogue, but in any instance, this is now very easily seen. The audio level is a little bit different from the rest of the film, while the clarity on-screen can show lips moving at a different rate than the words he or she speaks. Older films, such as the John Wayne classics they are now starting to transfer, have fallen horrible victims. The over-dubbing mistakes in Rio Lobo were downright terrible (~80% of them having to do with Jorge Rivero’s character), and something I did not notice as much on the VHS version I previously had. This same issue was present in The Green Berets and even a little bit in Big Jake. However, The Searchers seemed to escape this with not much prevalence. Newer films too are noticed here, and even in the EDC of Gods and Generals, during Abraham Lincoln’s one talking scene, you can hear him speaking as he is climbing off the carriage, but if you look closely, his lips were not moving. Watch it again on the DVD version, and it is much less noticeable—but that is the price to pay when you put out a film with such high technology.
Overall, I would highly recommend moving to Blu Ray if you have not already. This will not be like my VHS purge, because all BR players play DVDs, which is another reason to make the purchase (some films are even starting to offer both BR and DVD in the same case, which saves money and gives you both). Granted, some movies are not worth getting rid of to buy another version, because they may not be something special about it, to you. There is also a common misconception that they are more expensive. This is true, but only in some instances; you just have to shop around, or buy online. If you are a Costco member, you can get many films, mostly older ones, for between $7.95 and $9.95, while newer ones are still under $20. You can also take advantage of the double-packaging as mentioned previously. If you have a favorite film, or you want to be treated to a spectacular viewing experience with a science fiction or outer space film, then Blu Ray is definitely the way to go about it. Just keep in mind that some transfers may not be anything to write home about, and you will be alright with making your new purchases. Take it from someone who hates new technology: invest in this one.
In celebration of Easter weekend, I thought I would give you my favorite religious movies, and believe me, they are more than wide-ranging. Even though I have come to be weary of all religion, my own included, how can we not love a good religious epic from the 50′s and 60′s, the decades that spawned some of the best? If only for some good action scenes and maybe some inspiration, religious movies have a place in cinematic history, and below are my favorites, in no particular order.
Life of Brian
(1979; Directed by Terry Jones) Some call it blasphemous, I call it absolute genius. A true man of religion should be able to step back and make fun of himself every now and then, and this Monty Python spectacle, to which they actually received death threats, does an excellent job at that. Paralleling the life of Jesus Christ with a man named Brian, who is mistakenly thought of to be the messiah, and actually crucified in his stead, this film mocks anything and everything to do with religion. Okay, so the final “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” scene may have overdone it, but this is still a great film that should be enjoyed by all, fanatics aside. The only movie this team of British comedians did better was Holy Grail, but somehow, that does not leave a lasting impression like this one does. And of course, do not forget, “Blessed are the cheese-makers!”. 7/10 stars.
The Ten Commandments
(1956; Directed by Cecil B. DeMille) In a world where television does not accommodate religious themed movies, this epic film finds a way to be screened annually on ABC every Easter Saturday. Not many films from that time period age well, but this is an exception. Aside from Charlton Heston being one of my favorite actors, and Yul Brynner nailing the role of Ramses, the supporting cast of this film is even better. Vincent Price, who I always thought of as typecast, was able to morph his horror/science fiction personality into the role of Baka, while Edward G. Robinson is absolutely superb in the role of Dathan, the slave overseer. And one still cannot watch the parting of the Red Sea scene without wide eyes, even more than fifty years later. 8/10 stars.
(1959; Directed by William Wyler) This film is not one of my favorite religious movies of all time. It is one of my favorite any movies of all time. Period. In the dictionary, next to the term “epic”, you would expect to see this film’s poster. Winning 11 Oscars, this film has everything you could ever want—outstanding performances, breathtaking scenery, and of course, first-class action by way of a naval battle and one of the most exciting scenes ever filmed, the famous chariot race. This film also indirectly follows the life of Jesus through the life of Ben-Hur, as they cross paths several times, including at the crucifixion. The one thing about this movie that always stood out is the fact that the audience never sees Jesus’ face. It is either a shot from the back or from the front at a distance. This was done by the director intentionally, so that the audience could have in their own minds what Jesus looks like, and Wyler felt that he could not do it justice by personifying him. The same thing went for when this was a play, before the film was made—the character of Jesus was represented by a beam of light, that shone down on the stage. 9/10 stars.
The Greatest Story Ever Told
(1965; Directed by George Stevens) I always loved this movie, despite what most of the critics said, who ripped it apart when it first came out. I do understand their concerns, because one is pretty much spot on, and that is the director taking every big name actor he could find, and stuffing them into this movie in some way. That includes John Wayne, whose Midwestern drawl nearly ruins the climactic scene in the film, when Jesus dies on the cross. Nevertheless, if you can get past that, you can see what a beautiful movie this is. Max Von Sydow does an excellent job as Jesus, and gets plenty of supporting help from the likes of Charlton Heston (again!) as John the Baptist, Claude Rains as King Herod, Telly Savalas as Pilate, Sidney Poitier as Symon, and Donald Pleasance as Satan—you could make a who’s who guessing game out of a viewing of this movie. The music is also very good, and for years, I wondered what music was playing as Jesus was carrying his cross through the streets. I searched all over the place, even for the soundtrack of this film, and found nothing. Then one night, I was listening to Verdi’s Requiem, and sure enough, that was it (the opening Kyrie movement)—a truly haunting and appropriate piece 0f music. Every year, I try to watch this film on Good Friday, or at least the ending. That’s my tradition. 8/10 stars.
The Passion of the Christ
(2004; Directed by Mel Gibson) Say what you want about Gibson’s politics and his overuse of violence in this film, but it is still one of the most accurate movies ever made having to do with Jesus. Though I must admit, when I first saw this when I was 13, I was sick to my stomach and never wanted to watch it again. But then I rented it a few years later, and developed an appreciation for it. James Caviezel breathes a breath of fresh air into the Jesus character, as finally we have someone who comes close to looking like him. He is very tan, has long, dark brown hair, and digitized brown eyes—a far cry from the blond-haired, blue-eyed Jesus that early Hollywood liked to show off. What gets my attention in this movie is not the endless scourging scene, one that makes you want to get up and leave the room, but the opening scene of the agony in the garden. There is such an intensity to this quiet, unassuming scene that gets the film started on the right foot. There is also one more, a little bit later on in the film, where Jesus flashbacks to himself building a table and talking with his mother, who he splashes water on as a joke. This is probably the most humanized Jesus has ever been shown. I only wish we could have seen more of that instead of the violence. 8/10 stars.
The Gospel According to St. Matthew
(1964; Directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini) Out of all the films on this list, this is probably the only one where you are going, “I never heard of it.” Filmed in Italian by the legendary and controversial Pasolini, who gave us shocking and depraved films such as Salo, this is probably the most down-to-earth film about Jesus that you will ever see. Filmed using a massive cast of locals and people who had never acted a day in their lives, Pasolini is able to accomplish sheer brilliance. Jesus, played by Enrique Irazoqui, for the first time, is seen as a simple man and not an all-knowing robot. The dialogue is taken directly out of the King James version of the bible, which can lead to some boring lapses over the stretch of this two-hour plus film, but if you can get past the sermon on the mount scene, you are in for a treat. Pasolini even cast his own mother as Mary, because he loved her so much that he equated her to such a high level of standing. Over the years, the Vatican has gone out of their way to support this movie, citing how spiritual it is. At the end, you will sit in amazement at how beautiful a film this is. Then you can amaze yourself further when you learn that Pasolini was actually an atheist. 8/10 stars.
Kingdom of Heaven
(2005; Directed by Ridley Scott) The only film to crack this list where Jesus is not a character, though he is the focal point of the story. Set more than a thousand years after his death, in the middle of the Crusades, we have a fantastic film that examines the life of Templar knights and their allegiance to their religion…and their own conscience. The reason why this film does make the list is because it aligns with my ever-changing view-point of religion. Throughout the film, we are showed these God-fearing knights doing un-Godly things, such as murder, and how those around them react. Balian, played by Orlando Bloom, struggles with his inner longing of wanting to be the perfect knight. In a world where we are surrounded by religious fanaticism, both Christian and Muslim, this is an important film to see. My favorite quotes comes from Hospitaler, played by David Thewlis, when he says, “I put no stock in religion. By the word religion I have seen the lunacy of fanatics of every denomination be called the will of god. I have seen too much religion in the eyes of too many murderers. Holiness is in right action, and courage on behalf of those who cannot defend themselves, and goodness.” Sound familiar? We also have a star-studded cast that includes Liam Neeson, Jeremy Irons, and Ed Norton. The cinematography and battle scenes are some of the best, and along with the theme of Bloom’s character just wanting to do good for God, even if it means going against his own religion, will really hit home with many viewers. It also tries very hard to show how Christians and Muslims can coexist in peace after all. Perhaps someday, that will be more than just wishful thinking. 10/10 stars.
As an honorable mention, I will throw in the Franco Zeffirelli mini-series “Jesus of Nazareth” as well. I remember the days when the History Channel used to play it every Saturday before Easter, but those days are long-gone. I hope everyone here has a very Happy Easter!
Two weeks ago, one of my political idols, the no-nonsense, anti-partisan, former governor of Minnesota, Jesse Ventura, went on The Joy Behar Show to talk about his new book, 63 Documents the Government Doesn’t Want You to Read, and also the day’s current events. I have long been a fan of his ideologies, even though I despise pro-wrestling and never saw Predator in its entirety. Whenever I hear him speak, I find myself sitting there nodding in agreement with most of what he says. I am a pretty hardcore independent, much like he is, and I am starting to wonder if that is where it came from.
I was never overly enthusiastic with any political party growing up. My father votes for who he thinks is best, party aside, while my mother is so disgusted with politicians in general that she says she will not vote in 2012, regardless of who is up for nomination. That being said, I was never inspired by any family member to lean a certain way. Sometimes I like a Republican candidate, sometimes I like a Democrat. But recently, with the way this country is heading, I too am becoming disgusted with everyone.
Seeing Obama and his contingent running the country in the White House is like watching a blind squirrel trying to find a nut in my backyard. Meanwhile, at the same time, the vehement attacks by Republicans on his every single move are doing nothing to ameliorate this dire situation. When will people put their party aside and help one another for the good of the country? Obama and John Boehner could not agree on the time of day if they both synchronized their watches in unison, and that is what the real problem is with this country.
People blasted George W. Bush day in and day out, and while I do not particularly care for his social views and getting us embroiled in a war overseas that we have no chance of winning, he did not deserve all the criticism he received, though he does deserve more than Obama. We must all remember that Obama inherited this disaster from someone else. We did not wake up one morning out of the blue and find ourselves with high unemployment, an economy in the crapper, and people fearing for the jobs they currently hold. This was building for years, and now Obama is the scapegoat. Not to defend Obama, who has proposed this ludicrous health-care plan that he attempts to ram down our throat every chance he gets, but there are plenty of people out there who act like there were no such thing as taxes before he took office (see: T.E.A Party). I hate to bring race into the equation, but something tells me that if his name was Barry O’Neil, this would not have been added to the situation.
The T.E.A Party, or whatever they decide to call their posse of gun-toting, hate mongering lunatics, goes around the country organizing rallies decrying Obama as the next worst thing since Satan, trying to spread fear and get you to want to join their little movement. Listening in on one of their meetings/speeches sounds like a Nazi rally from the 1930′s (and mirrors the John McCain presidential convention in 2008). These people think they are patriots yet engage in smear tactics to get people to go their way, because they don’t have any substance to what they are saying. People have been crying for lower taxes since they were first created, all to no avail. These nut-jobs are not going to make anything better. This includes trying to prove that Obama is not a U.S citizen, something that even Donald Trump is parading around the country. I actually liked Trump for a moment, when he said he was thinking about running for president in 2012, but after this, I will not, just out of principle. Do we have to stoop so low to try to say someone is not even an American citizen? And if he isn’t, what exactly can we do about it? It is a bush-league move (no pun intended) that just reeks of people having too much time on their hands with nothing better to do. Then again, Sarah Palin is their poster-child, so I would expect nothing less.
Then again, part of me wants Palin to run against Obama in 2012. Could you imagine those two going head to head in a debate? The result would be the first live-television murder since Ruby killed Oswald in 1963.
Here is another thing; I understand that both liberals and democrats have their own share of nuts on both sides, but how come it seems that the conservative ones just come across as more wacky? It is the same people who claim that being a conservative is about limiting government, that when you actually get them talking, find that their motives are completely the opposite. Sounds like a great idea on paper, because who does not want smaller government? Yet, when we get to social issues, they seem to forget what that statement means. I would guess that 90% of conservatives are against gay marriage, with even more than that against abortion. There is also a large percentage against the legalization of marijuana. So, the people who want small government want to have the right to tell consenting adults who they can/cannot fall in love with, tell women what they can/cannot do with their own bodies, and tell people that they cannot smoke something that’s effects are less dangerous than those of alcohol. I just do not get it—hypocrisy in action?
Let’s take another look at social issues, because if you read my blog on a regular basis, you know I very rarely tackle politics, and if I do, it is more than likely about gay marriage. Before I get into an actual candidate for 2012, let me just say that when it comes down to gay marriage, I am once again, disgusted with both parties. The Democrats are usually seen as gay rights supporters, because they love to talk the talk. Yet when it comes time to actually get down to the nitty-gritty, where are they? It’s like they only stick up for gays in public to get votes, then throw that away as soon as they are behind closed doors. At least the Republicans are kind enough to spread their hatred and bigoted beliefs on a national level so that we may all see how backwards they are. Remember what Rick Santorum, who is a 2012 Presidential hopeful, said in 2003?
“If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual gay sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything…”
He also went on to say that consenting adults do not have a constitutional right to privacy in regards to sexual acts. Okay, so now it’s not just a gay issue, but an everyone issue. He wants the government to be able to come into your bedroom and tell you how to live. Hooray for smaller government!
This almost makes me want to laugh to keep from crying, to think someone this misinformed actually made it to public office. Conservatives seem obsessed with a hatred towards homosexuals, and try to dehumanize them every chance they get. With the economic state this country is in, you would think that Boehner and the GOP would be trying to fix it, yet they are busy hiring lawyers (to be paid with taxpayer money, of course) to defend the “Defense of Marriage Act”, like there isn’t anything more important on the agenda. It all plays on people fearing what they do not understand, and the last time this was taken to heart on a large enough scale, the holocaust happened—perhaps we should all inform ourselves to not buy into propaganda, coming from any party, lest we want to hear the old cliché, “History repeats itself.”
When 2012 rolls around, I do not see myself voting for anyone on a partisan ticket. The only major possibility out there that I would consider would be Ron Paul, but only if he runs as an independent. He would further get my backing if Ventura ran as his Vice President, something he alluded to considering if Paul ran as an independent. Between Ventura’s anti-party politics and Paul’s knowledge of the constitution, I think they would make a formidable team. Should they not run, then I will either write in Mickey Mouse or John Wayne, in what will be the first election I will have been old enough to participate in. (Hey, if Chris Christie ran as an independent, he might get my support too.)
This begs the question, “Why is there no ‘None of the Above’ option on ballots?”. This is something Ventura brought up two weeks ago, and I don’t know if he was joking or not, but it seemed like the most sensible idea I have heard in a long time. How many times have you went into a polling place, torn between which candidate you hate the least, rather than who you like the most? Could you imagine running for office and losing out to a ‘None of the Above’?
I just look at the list of 2012 hopefuls and cringe that this is the best we can do as the supposed “greatest country in the world”. I will surely not be voting for the returning Obama, who I think will win out over whatever loon the GOP throws out there (the lesser of two evils?). If Sarah Palin does find a way to run, then it will probably spell the end of the GOP, knowing if she is the best they can put out there then they must really be hurting.
Then again, what does GOP stand for? “Grand OLD Party”. Do we really want a party whose values are based on archaic laws and ideologies running a country that has been sliding into the dumpster for years? For the people who are supposed to be the patriotic ones (remember, liberals are evil and anti-American; don’t take my word for it, just ask a conservative) they make me more embarrassed to be an American than anyone else. A country should be judged partially by the caliber of the candidates that run for office, and if that were to hold true for America, the caliber would be less powerful than a water gun. America being the leaders of the free world and a beacon of light for humanity is nothing but hundred year old bullshit rhetoric, but we can change it. If just one person at a time decided to really put their country first instead of their party, then we might actually accomplish something.
I want you to think about that next time you head to the polls, prepared to vote for a candidate that you do not entirely agree with. Ask yourself if you are really helping. We should not have to settle for someone, just because we do not like who else is out there, but actually have a choice of good, honest people that we can vote for proudly. That probably will not happen anytime soon, but I can assure you, that should there be a ‘None of the Above’ option placed on polls, not only would people not be hesitant to vote that way, but they would do it with a smile on their face.
If you have time, please check out Jesse Ventura’s new official website. I just love the title: We Ain’t Got Time to Bleed!
Can you believe that Gettysburg was not nominated for one single award in 1993 or 1994? Watching this film leaves me frustrated every time, because the movie is so full of great performances. I know it did not get much time in theaters because of its running time, but I still consider it a travesty that this movie was ignored by every motion picture association, even though it stayed in the Box Office Weekly Top Ten for a time, an incredible feat when you consider it could only be shown twice a day.
Even the critics who did not like Ron Maxwell’s epic 1993 Civil War film Gettysburg still agreed one on thing, that it was just that, an epic. From the costume design to the size of the cast, right on through to the scope of the battle scenes, it is fair to say that this movie is a one of a kind in the subject field it tackles, and is also the last of the good old-fashioned epic war films. No longer are movies made with a cast of thousands—the humans have been replaced by animatronic figures or computer generated images. No longer are battlefields used, where the soldiers march actual distances—there is now only a small area of real ground surrounded by green-screens. This is why Gettysburg stands out to me, that and the fine acting performances all around, given by Tom Berenger as James Longstreet, Jeff Daniels as Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, and Martin Sheen as Robert E. Lee, but there are also a few others that stand out and go underrated when viewing this film.
The entire group of Virginian brigade commanders have an excellent chemistry that unfortunately could not get any more screen time in this film already loaded with speaking roles. A young Stephen Lang (who actually grew his own beard, according to Bo Brinkman) plays the division commander of Andrew Prine (Garnett), Royce Applegate (Kemper), and of course, Richard Jordan as Brigadier General Lewis Armistead. While Lang plays Pickett’s eccentricity and personality to perfection, and the others combine to be humorous and serious as the film progresses, it is Jordan who steals the show as the passionate commander who loves his men and his Confederate country, but also loves his best friend, Winfield Scott Hancock (played by Brian Mallon) who is fighting for the Union.
Armistead recollects the time he spent with Hancock, and the last night they were together before they went off to fight against each other in the War Between the States. They were at the same house with their wives, when Myra Hancock sang “Kathleen Mavourneen” and played it on the piano, and they all began to cry. It is here when Armistead swears to Hancock that he wishes the Lord would strike him down if he ever has to fight him on the field of battle. While both soldiers faced off against one another at Fredericksburg (in the same exact way, just in reversal of who had the stone wall), their troops did not directly clash with each other. But at Gettysburg, Armistead is worried that he will have to “raise his hand” against his old friend, and in a very emotional conversation with Longstreet, gives him a package to be delivered to Myra in the event of his death. It seems that the only two times in the film where I teared up are when Jordan is on the screen. The first is this scene, and the second is as he lays dying on the battlefield.
The sadness is escalated, perhaps, because Jordan himself was dying of brain cancer while filming this movie, and actually had to be hospitalized for a brief time at Gettysburg hospital. To keep this in mind while watching Armistead’s final on-screen moments (the general would live only three more days in real life) makes it even worse, and it is possible that Jordan was able to play this to perfection because he knew that he was dying. In a way, this all has to do with fate, and you can see in Armistead’s eyes before the charge that would kill him, that he knows he is not going to live. It is because of this belief that he was able to fight so bravely, and when getting to the Emmitsburg Road on his way to attack the Union line, he sees his men have slowed down, but he stands up, sticks his hat on his sword and yells for his Virginians to follow him. They do, prompting a roar from Pickett, and a final push that actually broke through the Union line. Unfortunately, just as it seemed the Confederates would accomplish what they set out to do, the Union would send in reserves to quell the attack. It is here that Armistead would be shot, in his upper chest area, before falling down next to a cannon. Even so, it was his men that would get farther than any others in “Pickett’s Charge”.
Every time I visit Gettysburg, and go near “The Angle”, where Armistead fell, I have to stand next to his monument that looks very plain, and simply reads, “Brigadier General Lewis Armistead Fell Here. July 3, 1863″. I stand there for a few moments, after placing a small Confederate Flag at its base, and try to take in all that he accomplished, how he could be so brave to run in front of his men, and lead them straight into a barrage of a thousand firing rifles. I always ask myself, if I could do what he did, and my answer is always, “I don’t know”. I like to think I could be as brave (I think we all do) but I just do not know. We are in a much different time frame and society, and the answer is unknown to us all. But when I pause, I am just not remembering Armistead, but the man who personified him, Richard Jordan, who did not get a chance to see the finished product of his performance, because he died in August of 1993 (Gettysburg premiered in October). Here was a great actor, who gave what I feel is the best and most complex performance in this mammoth film. According to IMDB, Ron Maxwell actually got the news of Jordan’s passing while editing Armistead’s death scene, which just adds to the irony.
And so, I make the case, nearly eighteen years later, for Richard Jordan to have received an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. It does nothing now, to sit here almost two decades later, but it brings awareness to the fact that sometimes the best films/actors/actresses do not win, no matter what the case. If you have not seen Gettysburg, then obviously I encourage you to do so, because no film has had a greater impact on my life than it, and if you have seen it, then watch Jordan’s performance even closer next time, because you may be amazed at the high level of acting that can so easily be overlooked. Jordan’s performance is equal to that of John Wayne’s in The Shootist, in terms of “farewells” and that makes it all the more special.
Rest in peace to both Lewis A. Armistead (1817-1863) and Richard Jordan (1937-1993)
There are people who know their stuff, and then there are people who really know their stuff—Jeff Shaara would fall into the latter category. It was an incredible opportunity to be able to interview the author of Civil War novels Gods and Generals and The Last Full Measure, both of which have reached the New York Times Bestseller List. Jeff Shaara has been lauded by readers and historians alike who appreciate his epic style of storytelling, that has included nine novels spanning the American Revolution, Mexican-American War, Civil War, World War I, and World War II, with the fourth part of his WWII series coming out in May. I really learned a lot today, not only about history in general, but what goes into writing a book and how that gets transformed into a film. I also had to ask about his late-father Michael, who wrote the Pulitzer Prize winning historical-fiction novel The Killer Angels, which was turned into one of the most successful war films of all-time, Gettysburg, in 1993.
I knew the interview would be great because right off the bat I told Jeff to feel free to talk as much as he would like, and he jokingly said he felt a bit intimidated by that, and I explained that sometimes interviewees give only a one sentence answer. His response was, “I never do that.” Our main focus today was the Civil War but we covered all aspects of American history in our interview below:
GC: I just want to start off by asking you about your father. I read somewhere that you and him were not close while he was writing The Killer Angels. Is this true?
JS: Actually, the chronology of that is a little bit inaccurate. During the writing of The Killer Angels, we were extremely close. I was a teenager at the time and we went to Gettysburg together and worked on some of the research together, and I stopped way short of taking any credit for the book, that’s not what I’m saying. During the time writing the book, he was suffering physically because of his first heart attack and there were a lot of things, particularly on the battlefield of Gettysburg, that he could not do such as climbing the Round Tops and things like that. I was the kid, so that was my job to go around through the bushes and climb the hills looking for things that he was trying to find. After the writing, when the book came out in 1974, he and I, by that time, had parted ways, so when the book was published we had a very difficult relationship. He had a difficult relationship with almost everyone including his brother and father. He was very dramatic in the way he approached relationships and if you didn’t live up to his expectations or do things the way he thought they ought to be done, he had a tendency to react very dramatically and write you out of his life. He was a difficult man, he was suffering from the effects, not only of his heart disease, but of a motorcycle accident that had happened in Florence, Italy, in the early 1970′s that really cracked him on the head badly—he was in a coma for several weeks and the effects of that changed his entire life; it changed his brain, the way he wrote, the way he thought about things and it really affected his relationship with everyone.
GC: What inspired you to write the prequel and the sequel?
JS: It began, and you probably know some of this, with the film Gettysburg. It was this film being such an enormous success, and for my family, it propelled The Killer Angels to number one on the bestseller list, and it had never been a bestseller at all. When it won the Pulitzer Prize in 1975, the book was never successful, which was really a blow to my father. He expected greater things to come from that. Any writer who receives the Pulitzer Prize has the right to believe that his ship has come in and that all the doors will fly open and he can do anything he wants now, and that didn’t happen to him. So it was very ironic and very bittersweet to my family that in 1993 and 1994, when Gettysburg was such a monumental success, he missed all that. He died in 1988 and didn’t live to see any of it. And so when I learned that Ted Turner wanted to do more Civil War films, the idea would be to take my father’s book and go before and after it with some of the same characters. I had never written anything before, I was not a writer, I never wanted to be a writer. I was actually a dealer of rare coins and precious metals down in Tampa, and the idea of continuing his work, the whole point was for me to tackle this, but it was always about a film, about doing the background and research, creating a story that someone else could adapt for a screenplay. Because I’m representing my father’s estate in New York, and the heirs are my sister and I, my sister being an anthropologist, she said to just handle it and that she wasn’t interested in the business side of it at all. Well, I’d been a business man all my life so it was natural to me. So I’m dealing with the publisher in New York, Random House, who now has this number one bestseller, and so they’re taking my phone calls and I’m getting to know these people up there, and when I told them I was working on the prequel to The Killer Angels, their response was, “Send it to us and we’ll take a look at it.” That totally surprised me because I had no expectations. I’m often asked, “How did you know how to write a book?” I had no clue, and secondly, “Were you intimidated by trying to follow your father’s footsteps?” The answer to that is no, because I had no expectations. Ron Maxwell and I agreed that if whatever I wrote was lousy, nobody would ever see it. It would go in the trash can and that would be the end of it. I attacked this with really no sense of destiny or any of that. All I was trying to do was put a story together with the same kind of research my father had done, which I learned with walking with him at Gettysburg, was to put a story together that could be adapted to a screenplay. When I sent the manuscript to Random House in September of 1995, and I’ll never forget this, the phone call I got from Claire Ferraro, who was the publisher then, said, “We don’t care if it’s a movie. We like the book. We think you’re a writer, here’s the contract.” That changed my whole life.
GC: When you write a novel, how much research do you do and how long does it typically take you?
JS: The research is usually twice as long as it takes to write the book. I typically read 50 to 60 books for each book that I write, and it has to be original source material—the diaries, the memoirs, the letters, the collections of writings of the people who were there. That is a big lesson I learned from my father, stay away from modern history and modern biographies. That does me no good at all. If you’re getting into the heads of a character, and you’re speaking for a real historical character, you better get it right because a lot of people out there will get pretty upset about that. I had somebody actually say to me, “How dare you put words in the mouth of Robert E. Lee?” Well, okay, that’s a challenge and if I dare do that, or put words in the mouth of George Washington, or “Black Jack” Pershing, or Eisenhower, or Adolf Hitler for that matter, I had better believe that those words are authentic to that character because if I don’t believe it, neither will you. Then the book deserves to lose credibility. That’s the point of research, to feel that before I even write the first word, feel as though I know the character and that I would speak for them. Once the reading is done, the other part of it, is again, a lesson I learned from my father, to walk the ground. To go walk in the footsteps of people, see the hillsides, see the battlefields, see the homes, the grave sites, whatever there is out there for me to see, and it’s not that it’s mystical—I don’t go to battlefields and look for ghosts, but there really is something very powerful about walking the same ground as the characters I’m writing about. That’s a crucial part of the research as well. Once that is done, only then do I start writing, and typically, it takes me five to six months to write a manuscript because I’m doing it full-time.
GC: You’ve made hundreds of historical figures come alive in your books, but in your two Civil War novels, which of them has been your favorite?
JS: There are some obvious answers there, like Joshua Chamberlain, and the characters that people latch onto and have made popular, but I love the character of Ulysses S. Grant, and to some people he is sort of a non-entity because he’s not as charismatic as Robert E. Lee, he doesn’t have the young charm of Chamberlain, but Grant changed history. Grant changed the world, and he was responsible, primarily, because you can make an argument that Abraham Lincoln had something to do with it, for winning the war, and a lot of people don’t realize just how powerful his role was. I just love his character, I love his relationship with his wife. Writing his death at the tail-end of The Last Full Measure was difficult, I was emotional about it. I did the same with all three of the characters in The Last Full Measure, Lee, Grant, and Chamberlain, and I said goodbye to each of the three of them but Grant in particular, because he was suffering from throat cancer and dealing with Mark Twain and these magnificent scenes at the end of his life, and boy that was hard. So I would pick him above all others.
GC: What was your reaction when you found out that Ron Maxwell wanted to make a movie out of Gods and Generals?
JS: Well, Ron and I had been talking all the way through Gettysburg and I got to know him during the filming, and so we had talked about this for years. We talked about it from the time it was a success in the theaters and from the time The Killer Angels became a bestseller, we were already talking about continuing with this project. We struggled through several years because this was something we wanted to do and no one else cared. We had a lot of verbal support, and a lot of Civil War groups and reenactors thought this was a great idea, but unfortunately none of them had millions of dollars to make this happen (laughs). Even when we started talking with TNT and Ted Turner’s people it was difficult because none of them really believed in this project. So it wasn’t a surprise to me when we started talking about this, it was the point right from the beginning.
GC: Did you have any role in the production at all?
JS: None. We could expand on that but I don’t know that I want to. To this day, I do not own a finished script, and I made some suggestions that were ignored, little historical things that I thought were problematic, and they listened dutifully and ignored everything I said. I realize at the end of the day, this was not my film—it was Ron Maxwell’s and Ted Turner’s film. I really had nothing to do creatively with the film or physically with the production. I mean, I’m in it, in one scene on camera, but really, it’s not my movie, and if I can add, it’s also not my book. It’s based on my book, despite what some historians say, and I’ll leave that alone, but it is based on my book but it is not my book. It is maybe ten percent of my book, and that was really a shock to me because The Killer Angels is about ninety percent of the film Gettysburg.
GC: Yeah, The Killer Angels is almost word for word.
JS: That’s exactly right, it is almost word for word. In Gods and Generals, there are maybe only three or four scenes taken from my book and put in the film, and that’s it. It’s an entirely different movie than I would have written, and would have liked to have seen done.
GC: My next question was actually going to be, for those that have not read the book, how did it differ from the final print of the film? But I guess that would be too much to go into.
JS: It’s enormously different, it’s radically different from the film. There are characters in the film that do not exist in the book, and a great many characters in the book that never made it to the film. It’s just an entirely different story, and I have to tell you, I’ve heard from literally thousands of people through my website, and I get emails every day and try to be as accessible as I can, and the overwhelming percentage of those that wrote me said, “How could you let them butcher your book like that?” I have no answer to that because I had no control or power to change what came up on the screen.
GC: I know you said on your website that right now, there are no plans to make The Last Full Measure into a film, but if they do decide to make it into a film in the next four years because of the 150th anniversary, will you comply with that and let them use your manuscript?
JS: When you say “they”, that’s the big question. Who is “they”? (laughs) We don’t know the answer to that because there is no “they” right now, but the thing is, there were mistakes made with Gods and Generals that I would not allow to happen again. If a film is going to be made from The Last Full Measure, I will have much more involvement or there simply won’t be a film. I’m not saying it has to be a hundred percent my book, I know better than that, some things don’t translate from the book to the screen, I get that. It’s not about ego, it’s about telling the story. The failure of Gods and Generals was to tell a good story and reach out to the general audience. The enormous success of Gettysburg was that it was attractive to a general audience. You didn’t have to be a Civil War buff or reenactor to understand what was going on, the characters were developed for you so you knew who they were, and it was a marvelous film. In Gods and Generals, the film was almost, and I don’t know this, it is my opinion, as though it was geared to the academic historians and the general audience was ignored. I’ve heard that, it’s not just my opinion, from a huge number of people. Like a guy would go to the film all excited because he knew what the story was about, and he would take his wife and kids and the wife and kids would get up and leave because they had no clue what was going on. That was the problem and it will not happen again. I’m not saying I will write the script, I’m not arrogant to suggest that I’m also a screenwriter because I don’t know that I can do it, but I will have considerable input into the script and will make sure it’s a good story and that it does appeal to a general audience, or there will be no film.
GC: Well, let’s hope that a producer steps forward and puts down some money because I would really like to see this trilogy complete.
JS: It has to start there, you’re absolutely right. That’s the other thing I hear, and I get letters on this literally every day, people want to know (which was why I put the note on my website) when the third movie is coming out, and it’s like they’re waiting for the shoe to drop because the story needs to be completed. I’ve had people chew me out and say, “Why aren’t you making the third film?” as though somehow I am stopping this. Gods and Generals cost $60 million to make, and if someone comes up with $60 million, fine, let’s talk. But so far it hasn’t happened (laughs).
GC: Could all of this have been avoided if they made Gods and Generals into a miniseries? Say like five parts, or even two separate films which was talked about?
JS: I don’t think the two separate movie idea would have worked, but I do think the miniseries idea would have worked much better. The problem is, you can’t make a ten-hour movie, I get that, but you can make a ten hour miniseries and I think some of the resistance, originally from TNT, and I don’t know this for sure, but some of the resistance was because they realized there was just too much story to cram into a movie that someone is going to sit in a theater and want to watch. Definitely, it could have been much more successful as a miniseries.
GC: You plan on writing another Civil War trilogy, this time on the western theater. Can you tell us anything about that?
JS: Yes, the book I just finished, which will be out in May, is the fourth and final WWII piece, the end of the war in the Pacific. I am working, right now, on the research, for a new trilogy which will be Shiloh, Vicksburg, and Sherman’s March. Each one will be out in the spring, starting in 2012, ’13, and ’14, with each one of those year’s being the 150th anniversary of those events. It’s a challenge because doing a book a year is tough. I have so much research material already that I think gives me a leg up and I’m very excited about this, as is my publisher and people I’ve talked to around the country. This is funny, and I have to laugh, I’ve gotten a lot of letters from people in Tennessee and Mississippi saying, “You know, we’re kind of tired of hearing about just Robert E. Lee and Virginia.” (laughs) There’s a whole lot more story that no one seems to want to find out about. I’ll respond to that and do the best I can.
GC: I just took a Civil War course in college, and I knew so much about the War previously, but this class just opened by eyes to how much more is out there, and not many people focus on the western theater and it’s always Lee, Longstreet, and Jackson in the east, and I think the west would be a very important part of the war that hasn’t been covered.
JS: I agree completely, which is why I’m excited about doing this.
GC: Aside from the Civil War, you’ve written about the Mexican-American War, the American Revolution, WWI, and WWII. Which of those has been your favorite topic to cover?
JS: That’s a tough question, and the problem in answering that is, if I don’t love the characters and period I’m writing about, I’m not going to write a very good book. When I move into a new era, I get totally swallowed up by that era—I’m totally immersed in it and the characters. Of course, the biggest challenge is finding those characters and who the voices are going to be. I’m very proud of the American Revolution series. A lot of people have said this to me, and I don’t judge my own book, I wouldn’t even know how, that my World War I book is my best book. I don’t know if that’s true, but I’ve heard that. The book I had the most fun doing was the Mexican War story, Gone for Soldiers, because I knew the characters so well from being involved in the Civil War and doing so much research, and going back to their early lives, and all of them with the exception of Chamberlain, talk about their experiences in Mexico and the profound effect it had on them. I didn’t know anything about the subject, most people don’t, and I started doing the research, and found a wonderful story and one that I had no idea existed—the heroism of Jackson, Grant, Longstreet, and Lee, was amazing. I didn’t know any of those stories and it was a lot of fun to write, plus I love the character of Winfield Scott and Santa Anna. I had a great deal of fun with both of them.
GC: I’m actually a big Alamo buff, so would you ever consider writing a story about that, since you mentioned Santa Anna?
JS: There have been two stories suggested to me that I should write. One is the Alamo and one is Custer’s last stand. Because they have been done so many times, I don’t know that I could do that. The thing is, the story of the Alamo doesn’t stop at the Alamo. The rest of the story is San Jacinto and Sam Houston and if I was to do it, it would probably be the whole war for Texas independence. I’ve had a lot of people from Texas write to me about that. As you know, the story is not just the Alamo. It’s hard to compete, especially when you have John Wayne’s Davy Crockett, it’s hard to tell a story and get away from that, and I would have to get away from that.
GC: I’m with the people from Texas, I think the story needs to be told, mainly, because no one has ever gotten it right. The John Wayne version was very inaccurate, to say the least.
JS: Absolutely, even the most recent Alamo movie and some of the books, nobody has gotten it right. Right now I have a pretty full plate and what I really want to do after the Civil War set is Korea and a Vietnam story, so I’m not sure when I would do that, but you’re right, it’s a story that needs to be told right.
GC: One last thing, an email question from “Andy”, and he writes, “Do you ever plan to write a novel that does not deal with war?”
JS: I get asked that fairly often, and it isn’t that I’ve decided to do nothing but war stories but my publisher was very clear, and they’ve told me that I’ve built an audience and it’s the thing my father never did. My father always wrote different topics. People are always asking me what other historical works did he write besides The Killer Angels, and the answer is none. He wrote a baseball story, a Hitchcock sci-fi story, he was all over the map. My publisher was clear that I’ve built an audience with this one theme, the epic historical military novel, and as long as there are readers out there who want this, to stick with it. Now there is a story I want to do, and I don’t want to get into too much, because it’s been done a few times, but I would like to do a story of a 1930′s gangster. The other thing, if I ever went outside of the United States and did a foreign story, it would probably be Napoleon. Even though that’s military, it’s a very different story and one that most Americans have no idea about. But for now, my publisher says, and this looks terrible on paper, but, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” That’s the philosophy that they are employing with me right now. I’ve got an audience and the following is there so until that audience goes away, I’ll stick with what I’m doing.
I want to thank Mr. Shaara for taking the time out of his busy schedule to conduct this interview. It truly was an enlightening afternoon and I hope you all enjoyed reading this rather lengthy and extensive piece. I can only hope that The Last Full Measure will be made one day, but until then, enjoy the terrific books on American wars that Jeff has given us, because the book is always better than the film. Also, don’t forget to check out his website.