Down the Sky

by W. Patrick Lang
FT Review by Chet Richards

Did you know that late in the Civil War, July 1864 to be exact, Lt. Gen Jubal Early and his Confederate army made it to within six miles of the White House, coming down from the Maryland side? Well inside the Beltway, as we say today.

Would you like to ride along? How about accompanying the Union counterstrike a few months later, when feisty Phil Sheridan’s famous ride turned the tables on Early and for all practical purposes eliminated his army as a fighting force? Want to know how the Confederates could have saved Ft. Fisher, which defended their last remaining port (and what really destroyed it after the battle)?

Still demand more? I don’t blame you — how about following a Confederate spy as he worms his way into the confidence of the President of the United States? Now, I have to tell you that the spy in question, Claude Devereux, is not a totally likeable person. What kind of man would cheat on his mistress, while also still sleeping with his wife? But spies are not like you and I, and Pat Lang should know. As one of the country’s premier spymasters, when it comes to intelligence, he knows whereof he speaks.

Down the Sky is Lang’s third in the “Strike the Tent” trilogy. Although he says that it stands alone, I think you’ll find the experience much more satisfying if you start with The Butcher’s Cleaver and proceed through Death Piled Hard to this one.  There are a lot of characters, and like in any good spy novel, they do a lot of confusing things. There is a list of characters in the back — bookmark it.

So you’ll get a great intelligence thriller, a vivid work of historical fiction, and a lot of maps and pictures of real people.  You’ll also get some insight into the motivations of the ordinary people of the period, particularly in the South, and including both blacks and whites. You’ll understand better why the poor farmers of the South — few of whom owned slaves — fought on, desperately, long after the Confederacy had any chance to achieve its goal of independence. People just don’t like to be occupied, a lesson we might pay more attention to today.

Is it good literature? I’ll tell you this: I downloaded it from iUniverse to my iPhone and read it on a recent trip to New York. Late into the night. When I was supposed to be preparing presentations. It works fine as an ePub on the iPhone, but a larger screen would make the maps more legible and cut fewer generals in half.

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