Tuesday, October 7, 2008
A WW 2 Army Ranger Returns to Saratoga
Each publishing company exists for different reasons. One of my "prime directives" has been to find gems in the rough--unpublished original manuscripts on important topics that deserve a good book--and craft them into books people want to purchase, read, and own a lifetime.
The Road to Saratoga: A good example of the execution of this directive occurred a few years ago when I discovered Jerome Greene's spiral-bound unpublished work on Yorktown. It was produced for park insiders during the bi-centennial years, and so never intended for public consumption. Greene's work was built on a mountain of archival and firsthand knowledge. There was something damn near definitive on those yellowing pages. One need only manipulate, write, add, design, and envision the big picture to produce something worthwhile for general readers and scholars alike. And so I connected with Mr. Greene, and together we collaborated to produce The Guns of Independence: The Siege of Yorktown, 1781 (2005). This title was a book club selection and has been a strong seller. We are pleased to announce our distributor has effectively sold out in hardcover (we have perhaps two cases left--hurry if you want one). It will be reprinted in paperback in Spring 2009.
Discovering Saratoga: John Luzader, a WWII Army Ranger served as the staff historian at Saratoga National Historic Park in the 1960s. During his tenure he scoured archives on both sides of Atlantic, he walked every yard of Saratoga's expansive battlefield (and its related satellite engagements at Fort Ticonderoga, Fort Stanwix, Oriskany, Bennington, and others), and decided that many of the pivotal issues we had been spoon fed by other writers and historians through the years were simply wrong.
John began writing what would become his opus magnum decades ago. His style might be termed "old school"; it drips with charm, verve, authority, and insight. John kept writing, year after year, tinkering, putting it aside, writing, tinkering . . . As bestselling author and former chief historian for the NPS Robert Utley told me, "John just could not let go."
With some prodding from friends and fellow historians (including Jerry Greene), John "let go" of his manuscript to Savas Beatie. A finished copy sits in front of me as I type these words.
Returning to Saratoga: The 87-year-old Veteran of D-Day--still sharp as a tack with a dry wit that is contagious--is on his way back to Saratoga today. He will speak and sign books there and at Forts Ticonderoga and Stanwix over the next few days, and has already been interviewed by several talk radio stations.
John's deep insight into the campaign and its personalities opens windows into the American Revolution in general, and Saratoga in particular, that no other historians have explored as well or as deeply. The book is a treat to read, from the opening chapter exploring the halls of British power and the roots of the 1777 invasion to the final chapter explaining the ramifications of the campaign.
I particularly enjoyed Luzader's ability to peel back the sources and call a spade a spade: he identifies which officers had trouble with the truth, which were conspiring to create problems between Benedict Arnold and Horatio Gates (a long fascinating appendix covers this topic), why Burgoyne ended up where he did, when he did, and why he did, and lets the major participants, whenever possible, speak through their own pens. Luzader offers a fresh, invigorating assessment of Horatio Gates that surely must be closer to the truth than what popular history and glib writers have offered us.
All of us here at Savas Beatie are honored to finally make John Luzader's lifetime of work available to the general reading public. We hope you enjoy it.