Some book reviews are positive, some are mixed, and some are negative. This is true for nearly all books, and that's the nature
of the beast and goes along with the territory.
All any publisher and author ask is that a reviewer actually read the book before reviewing it, and then assess it honestly for what it is, and what it is not.
John Bell Hood: The Rise, Fall, and Resurrection of a Confederate General, by Stephen Hood, raises the hackles a lot of people because it calls out many academicians and general students of the war by name and produces one example after another of sloppy scholarship, reliance on secondary sources that are themselves incorrect in matters of fact, mistakes, misrepresentations--and in some cases, even worse.
Readers will decide whether the author makes his case or not. It is interesting to note that of the 60 or so reviews floating around thus far, not a single one alleges or points out that the author was wrong in how he cited a historian, or that a footnote (of which there are about 1,000) was wrong, or that a quote was wrong, etc. Not a single one.
Carole Emberton, an associate professor of history at the University of Buffalo (SUNY), recently reviewed John Bell Hood for The Civil War Monitor (an outstanding publication, by the way). Read her review here. It is a strange review brought to my attention by many readers. It made me wonder, "Did this reviewer even bother to read the book--or even the dust jacker?--before going out of her way to slam it?"
Is that a fair question? Here are two very troubling indicator:
1) She thinks it is a biography (all of you who have read this know it is clearly not a biography in any sense of the word), and she thinks the author is a biographer (ditto).
2) More telling, however, is this little revealing gem:
"In his effort to resuscitate General Hood's reputation as a competent if not talented commander who did his best in impossible situations, the author spends far more time and energy skewering those historians than he does giving the reader a new or at least more nuanced interpretation of General Hood."Why yes, Dr. Emberton, he does "spend far more time and energy" (note the italics above) on what others have written about Hood. As my teenage son might say, professor . . . DUH! In fact, that is the purpose of the entire book. and the book has absolutely NOTHING to do with the part that is in bold-italics above. Nothing. At. All. If she had read the Introduction, the author explains all this there in deep detail, and he mentions it again and again throughout the book.
She even criticizes the way the book is organized, when it fact, it is organized by topic to present how others have covered the topic in question. Again, discussed throughout.
Even the dust jacket explains it.
Now, I don't really give a damn if someone slams one of our books, so long as they have read it, and have legitimate complaints. Cites are wrong? Major collections not included? Too many typos and other mistakes? Incorrect maps? That is fair, and that is how it should be.
But I question whether this professor read this book, because she went out of her way to produce a hatchet job on a book that does not exist. Did she read it? I don't know with certainty either way. Why did she she write what she did (and I urge you to read the entire review) if she read the book. This book is replete with explanations addressing these very things--on the jacket, on the publisher's website, in the Introduction, and scattered throughout.
The author wrote his own rebuttal, which you can find in the same location below her "review." You will have to be the judge whether or not she read the book and whether or not this is fair review.