Sunday 24 May 2015

Blog Tour Guest Post - Storm in the Valley by Lee Passarella

Storm in the Valley
Author: Lee Passarella
Genre: Historical Civil War Fiction
Length: 134 pages
Release Date: February 25, 2015
ISBN-13: 978-1508414209

Book Description:
Townsend Philips, a.k.a. Monk Phillips, has soldiering in his blood: his Uncle Lucas, who raised him, was a colonel in the Mexican-American War, and Monk’s older brother John Tyler is a cadet at the famed Virginia Military Institute. With his uncle’s blessing, in the summer of 1861 12-year-old Monk enlists as drummer boy with the 51st Virginia Volunteer Regiment.

Throughout the war, the Phillips brothers despair of ever seeing each other again. Then, in spring of 1864, the 51st faces the task of driving superior Union forces out of the Shenandoah Valley.

On the eve of the Battle of New Market, Monk is overjoyed to find himself unexpectedly reunited with John. But the circumstances that join them are also unexpectedly perilous for both.

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Guest Post

Storm in the Valley: The Civil War Revisited

The American Civil War has been an on-again, off-again (mostly on-again!) interest of mine since I was around the age of my novel’s hero, Townsend Philips. Fifty years ago, the U.S. celebrated the Civil War centennial, and there was a flood of newspaper and magazine articles as well as books about the war, plus the first wave of Civil War reenactments, one of which took place on the athletic field at my high school.

Now, my high school was built a long time after the war, so it couldn’t have been the scene of any Civil War battle or even skirmish. But in those days reenactments took place just about anywhere crowds were sure to form, including stadiums big and small—in other words, far away from the original battle sites. And reenactors were just as casual about the equipment and attire they brought to their ersatz battlegrounds. Blue jeans and work boots were often standard issue, and the weaponry included shotguns and .22 rifles (unloaded, of course).

Since then, Civil War reenacting has grown up; the modern-day reenactor can buy period-authentic uniforms, accoutrements, and rifle muskets that look just like they were made back in the 1860s. I know this because I’ve been reenacting for almost twenty years now. I belong to a Confederate unit, Company A of the 42nd Georgia Volunteer Infantry Regiment. We also “galvanize,” which means we sometimes put on federal blue and fight as Company B of the 125th Ohio. And when we reenact battles such as Chickamauga, Shiloh, or Atlanta, we do so in terrain near the original battlegrounds. Today, authenticity is the name of the reenactment game.

My interest in the Civil War was one of my motivations for reenacting, but I also wanted to do some first-hand research for a book I was writing titled Swallowed Up in Victory, a fictionalized account of the siege of Petersburg, Virginia, in the last two years of the war. My inspiration for that book went all the way back to my first encounter with the Civil War in eighth grade, when my class learned about the ingenious plan to tunnel under and blow a hole in the Confederate lines that encircled Petersburg. The tunneling and blowing up went according to plan, but the Union attack that followed was a fiasco. General Ulysses S. Grant called it “the saddest affair I have witnessed in the war. . . .” However, it made for a great story, and I tried to tell it from the angle of those on both sides who fought what came to be called the Battle of the Crater.

In the course of my reading and research, I came across another fascinating episode of the War Between the States, the Battle of New Market. Here, 247 cadets from the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) fought alongside veteran Confederate infantry units and helped win the day against overwhelming odds. This was a good story in and of itself, but I got to thinking that it held the potential of an even more interesting one. What if the battle brought together two brothers, one from VMI and one from those veteran units that fought in the battle?

To tell the story, I went back to the beginning, to the first year of the war, 1861. The older of my two brothers, John Tyler Philips, is headed off to VMI, where he will learn to be a military leader like his Uncle Lucas, who has raised the two boys following the death of their parents. John Tyler’s younger brother, Townsend Philips, has his own plans for joining the military and convinces his uncle to let him join the 51st Virginia Infantry Regiment as a drummer boy. My story follows the course of Townsend Philips’ training and service from 1861 to 1864, from the early Battle of Carnifex Ferry to the Battle of Fort Donelson and finally to the Battle of New Market in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. Along the way, Townsend Philips gets a new nickname, Monk, and meets another musician, Bummer Crosse, who becomes his best friend.  Together, they lead the soldiers of the 51st Virginia into battle. To Townsend Philips’ surprise, his big brother John Tyler joins him on the field of battle as well.

I’ve endeavored to make my story as realistic as possible, drawing on my years of research and reenacting. However, I wanted to make it a human story as well. I hope you will learn something from the history behind my storytelling, but even more I hope you’ll enjoy the characters and the action of Storm in the Valley.

About the Author
Lee Passarella acts as senior literary editor for Atlanta Review magazine and served as editor-in-chief of Coreopsis Books, a poetry-book publisher. He also writes classical music reviews for Audiophile Audition.

Passarella’s poetry has appeared in Chelsea, Cream City Review, Louisville Review, The Formalist, Antietam Review, Journal of the American Medical Association, The Literary Review, Edge City Review, The Wallace Stevens Journal, Snake Nation Review, Umbrella, Slant, Cortland Review, and many other periodicals and ezines. He has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize, and his work has appeared in several anthologies as well.

Swallowed up in Victory, Passarella’s long narrative poem based on the American Civil War, was published by White Mane Books in 2002. It has been praised by poet Andrew Hudgins as a work that is “compelling and engrossing as a novel.” Passarella has published two poetry collections: The Geometry of Loneliness (David Robert Books, 2006) and Redemption (FutureCycle Press, 2014). His poetry chapbook Sight-Reading Schumann was published by Pudding House Publications in 2007.

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