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Fathers, Sons and Brothers
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An action packed account of the Civil War as seen through the eyes of a Patriot.

Title: Fathers, Sons and Brothers
Author: James Gus Filegar

Publisher: Publish America (January 2004)

Genre: Historical Fiction

ISBN: 159129908X

Paperback: 192 pages

Price: $19.95


Rating: Highly Recommend


June 29, 2004


I had the pleasure of reading an excerpt of this novel during the pre-publication stage and I am delighted that I've been given the opportunity to share with you my feelings about the book. First of all, the vibrant cover of the Union Soldier in front of the Stars and Stripes made this book jump off of the shelves. To look at the cover is to be invited inside to journey back into time.


Fathers, Sons and Brothers is a story told from the vantage point of Nathan S. Clark. Clark is an Irish immigrant and patriot that left home soon after his marriage to the woman that he loves to fight for the country in the Civil War. He is a member of the Twentieth Main Infantry Regiment and he is seen as a leader by his superiors from the beginning. He feels that the war is just, even though he does not savor the fact that he will be taking lives, he is determined to carry out his orders.


He and his regiment battle the weather, disease and fear as they march towards their objective. His service is dotted with several skirmishes and a first hand view of the horrors of war. However, Gus Filegar will show you the human side of this struggle. With the violence that is a part of any war, he will also show you compassion and mercy for those who take up arms on opposite sides of the battlefield.


The writing is extremely descriptive and the vivid details will take you as close to the battle as you would like to go. You see the men charge into battle, you see them fall on the battlefield and you see the medics struggle to piece together the mutilated parts to make the soldiers whole again. You see the sacrifice and feel the pain. You enjoy the small comforts that the men enjoy such as hot coffee and stale bread. You travel into a world where soldiers die on the battlefield due to the munitions or the biting cold.


As you read this you realize that these things actually happened. A country united once to escape from the watchful eye of Great Britain now drawing a line between the North and South and battling for independence from the others ideals and beliefs. This book has it all and it will pique your curiosity and perhaps you will go on a fact-finding mission to learn more.  While on that mission you learn of the plight that every soldier faces as they lay down their lives for a cause and develop a new sense of respect for this "career".


Read this book and digest every word, just as I have, and you will appreciate the level of craftsmanship that this book contains. It is well worth one or two evenings to travel with the Civil War historian Gus Filegar and perhaps understand why he had to write this book. It wasn't just for him; it was for all of us.


Reviewed by Tyrone Vincent Banks


An Interview with James Gus Filegar




To start this off, why don't you give an idea of what the book is about?


My novel, Fathers Sons and Brothers, Book one revolves around a Union Volunteer; a citizen soldier, one Nathan S. Clark, his new bride Sarah, and his best friend George Buck. It is July 1862. On Sunday July 27th, he marries his sweetheart Sarah Couperthwaite. The following day, Nathan volunteers as orderly sergeant of the Masardis Maine militia to help raise men from his locale to answer President Lincoln's call for 300,000 more soldiers to put the rebellion that has torn these United States apart for the previous two years. They would ride off to Bangor Maine a few weeks later, where they would become part of The Twentieth Maine Regiment.


Follow Nathan and these men of Company H on to Antietam Creek Maryland in September 1862 where they would witness for the first time the horrors of war. Then, in the cold December of 1862, these citizen soldiers show their mettle, bravery and undaunted courage outside a small Virginia town; Fredericksburg, Va. On through the disease-ridden camps during that winter, they meet another enemy besides the Minnie balls and canister they have survived; the unforgiving ailments that would follow these men and sometimes even take them to the beyond. A long hard tramp through Maryland in late June 1863 would find Nathan and his comrades in a desperate fight outside a small town in Pennsylvania; Gettysburg. Here they would fight not only a regiment of determined Confederates for over 2 hours, but they would fight for each other as well.


Based on the diary/ journal of Nathan S. Clark, and his pension records, this novel is truly historical fiction. The main characters in the novel actually lived during this great conflict. I have made an attempt to bring these folk to life; to be remembered for what they did, and what they were; Americans with a patriotic stripe that would drive them on, not only on the battlefield, but in the memory of those left behind back at home also. I have also tried to leave another impression on the reader; that the soldiers, these citizen soldiers on both sides had an important common thread; they were all Americans.




Where did you grow up and was reading and writing a part of your life?


I was born and raised in a small town located in Northwestern Pennsylvania; Cambridge Springs. I must confess that when I was younger I did not read that much; for whatever reason it did not click with me. Oh, I read that which was required in school, but on a personal level, I just did not read much. I was a bad boy! I do remember though there was a time when I wrote songs; ballads mostly, as guitar was a large part of my younger life. Probably could have been another James Taylor or Steven Nash…who knows?


Reading did become important to me in my later years though. I would say since I was 30 or so, reading newspapers and keeping up with current events became second nature to me. There is one book I do remember reading when I was about 14 or 15; Mr. Lincoln’s Army by Bruce Catton. The way he wrote impressed me; he put drama into non fiction! From that, and other influences came my interest in the Civil War.




Who were your earliest influences and why?


As I mentioned above Bruce Catton. James McPherson, a highly regarded Civil War historian, has been a huge influence on my study of the great conflict. I would have to say the one person that had the greatest influence in my life was my Brother Ray. He took my Mother, Father and me on many junkets around Petersburg Virginia. The Crater, Cold Harbor, Spotsylvania, the Wilderness campaign; I could go on and on here. He planted the seed that has grown to what it is today, not only from the Civil War perspective, but from life’s perspectives also.



What would a typical day be like for a writer?


Well, not having quit my day job yet, I can only tell you what it was like writing Fathers Sons and Brothers. Allow me to set the scene; In January 2001, I was laid-off from my place of employment. I knew it was gonna be a long one and by February, Ground Hog Day to be exact, I saw an opportunity to do some serious writing.


5 AM. Up with the birds, our dog and two cats!  On, to the computer. Fire her up, then to the coffee maker of course. Look to the pine tree in our backyard; sip a cup of Joe, Rio, whatever I felt like calling it that day! The computer has completed loading. Time to bring up word and start typing. Some days are good, some are lean. For the most part, I was very successful and before I knew it, the first draft was done. Of course my Wife did not have a clue to what was taking place! While I wrote, my Honey Do list grew and grew!


I remember when I showed her the first chapter; she was amazed at what she was reading! “Did you really w rite all this”, she asked. “Of course I did . . . why?” I replied. “Well, I guess I just never thought of you as a writer . . .”.





How long have you been writing and in what capacities?


I have written off and on for the past six or seven years I guess. Mostly short essays on my thoughts regarding the Civil War. A few editorials here and there too, I suppose. No major articles or anything such. Fathers Sons and Brothers is the first out of the corral. Hopefully, Lord willing, more will follow. I am working on Book two as we speak. It is about two thirds finished, and I have a couple more projects in the works also. Oh; did I mention I was called back to work in September 2003? That is a good thing I guess, but the writing schedule is a whole lot different. Oh yeah; and between three kids, my wife, a dog, and a cat it does get hectic schedule wise!




Which is more difficult to write - Fiction or nonfiction and why?


This is a tuff question, as I have only really written historical fiction to date, with the exception of the short essays I mentioned above. For me, it was not that hard to write historical fiction, which I would say is a combination of both actually. I guess if you are not up on your history, historical fiction would be a hard genre to write compared to non fiction. With non-fiction, you are gathering facts, digging for information to paint a picture of an event or events that happened. Bruce Catton comes to mind here. Although he wrote about the Civil War from a historical POV, he had the talent to add drama to what might be a dry read from another author. James McPherson is also a favorite of mine for that reason.


With historical fiction, one is taking those facts and information and developing a character to fit those timelines, thus bringing the two together. I take pride in the fact that Fathers, Sons, and Brothers is historically accurate. That has involved years and years of research. I must say this; it was a challenge for me to bring drama into the life of the citizen soldier! Although they fought bravely and with courage, valor, and honor for the most part, most of their soldiering life was a bit on the mundane side. I would like to delve into the non-fiction, and have an idea on the board; to write a biography of Nathan S. Clark, on which the novel is based. Actually, if the truth be known, as it will here, that was my original intent before the novel came about! I had originally sat down to bring the information to together about Nathan, his wife, and brothers. But, my imagination got the best of me I suppose! That is how Fathers, Sons, and Brothers came to be born.




Has there ever been a time when you wanted to throw in the towel and give up? And if so, how did you defeat those instincts?


Not really. Writing has been a pleasure for me. The frustration I do experience has to do with not finding the time to write steadily as I did with Book one. I have quite a bit dine on Book two though; more than I had really expected, given my schedule now. Plus, as it deals with the later stages of the Civil War, there is a lot more information to cipher, as the Fifth Corps and the Twentieth Maine I have found were heavily used from November of 1863 on up to Appomattox




What is the hardest part about being a writer?


Finding the time to write!




Do you have any hobbies? What are they? How do they enhance your writing?


As one might surmise from the previous answers that the study of the Civil war is one; and by that they would be absolutely correct. Within that realm, I do have one other passion also; living history and re-enacting. My family and I joined a Twentieth Maine unit in 1998, Company H. We had already become acquainted with this regiment through the movie Gettysburg, and Joshua L. Chamberlain had been a favorite study of my Brother Ray. It was the perfect match for me. We are now members of Company E, Twentieth Maine, and have participated in many living history events, as well as re-enactments.


This ‘hobby’, for the lack of a better word, has given me insight into the life of the soldier from two points of view. The first would be that of a soldier’s life in camp situations. I try my best to emulate how they lived; I eat what they ate, from salt pork, to berries to self ground coffee and even hardtack. I sleep as they did; on the hard ground, sometimes with a painted blanket under me, sometimes with the wool blanket only between me and God’s Earth; sometimes just on a hard flat rock, to keep me warm on a chilly early summer night with just the sky between me and the stars.


From the re-enacting side of this, being on the field in “battle”, mock battle that is, I have also drawn some insight to what the citizen soldier might have heard, seen and felt. Confusion for the most part. Once the “battle” begins and the noise from hundreds of muskets being fired and numerous cannon, the orders are sometimes impossible to hear, and even the captains are not sure what the order is. I joke about this all the time; “You know, one would think we would get it right, for you see, we have the script . . . we know how the battle scenario is supposed to turn out!”


So the short of it is; I have been able to come to empathy for the Civil War soldier. There is one part I nor any other re-enactor could ever experience. That would be the actual sound of Minnie balls zipping, whizzing if you will, through the air in close proximity to one’s head and shoulders. Nor can we experience the ‘red mist’ that would rise above the field of battle from soldiers being hit by these menacing projectiles. Fortunately, the bursts from cannon are not live either. That part is left to the imagination. Alas, this has helped me to bring to life the soldiers and civilians in my novel, Fathers, Sons, and Brothers.




Articles and media alike make it sound as though the only way to rise to the top is to sacrifice. What do you find to be good sacrifices?


Money . . . time . . . ego . . . and last but not least, biting your tongue when it is almost impossible to do so! The money part; when you need a review copy into one’s hands immediately. There are times when an opportunity comes when the reviewer needs that copy now! So, it comes out of your own stock. Time comes in when you need to stay a bit longer at that book signing than scheduled, or you need to wait that extra half hour to speak to someone about having your work placed in their inventory. Ego comes in to play when you know your work will sell hands down, yet you need to be politically correct in how you go about selling not only the work, but yourself also. I hate being politically correct! Then there is the time when you have been told; “yes we would be glad to carry your work”’ only to find out on a later follow up they have either lost your press release you left with them with all the information about your novel and yourself, or they just have not had the time to look at your release! But, you suck it up, are pleasant with whomever, and go on being persistent and consistent with your pitch.




What question do you get asked more than any other?


Two actually; one is “How does one get published?” And; “Isn’t that wool coat really hot in the summer?”




What’s the coolest thing a reader has said to you?


“SO, when does the movie come out?”




What has been your feedback from readers? What do they say to you about their interpretations of your book?


I guess of there is a scary side to all this it is, “Oh . . . what will they think about my novel?” with trepidation on my soul! So far, the feedback has more than positive; it has been very uplifting to me as an author. I have found that I achieved my goal to bring Nathan Clark to life. I have been told everything from, “This should be required reading in history class”, to “You know, I was never into history that much, but your novel has ignited the spark in me to learn more.”


One of the best reviews I have received came from another author that equated my writing to that of Bill Mauldin; the author of a couple of books about WWII. One that comes to mind is “This Damn Tree Leaks” This author compared my two characters, Nathan and George to those in his book; Willie and Joe. It was a great compliment.


Mostly, my descriptions of the battles and what Nathan and his comrades go through during their trials, as citizen soldiers are what a lot of readers compliment me on.




Do you think that as a writer you are more prone to watching what goes on around you and observing behaviors than most people are?


Yes, definitely. It seems I have acquired a sixth sense at times.




Who are some of the authors you consider to be "don't miss"?


From historical fiction, I would definitely recommend Michael Shaara’s Killer Angels. A Pulitzer Prize winner in the eighties, it is what the movie Gettysburg was based on. Also, Charles Frazier, Cold Mountain, and Owen Parry, Faded Coat of Blue, and Call Each River Jordan. You will enjoy his character Abel Jones! One More; Newt Gingrich co-wrote a wonderful alternate historical fiction about Gettysburg.


Regular fiction, H.G. Wells, Stephen King, and Tom Clancy; although I look at him as “pre historical fiction” from this point of view; he writes of what ifs that might happen, based on a lot of facts available!


Historical Non-fiction; Bruce Catton, James McPherson, Tom Desjardin, John J. Pullen, and Jay Winik.




If one were looking to start his/her own career as a writer, what would you suggest his/her first step to be?


Three r’s here; READ, READ, and READ some more. In order to be an effective writer or author, and there is a difference, one needs to read and be able to interpret what they have read into their own words. I would not be the writer I am now, had I not started to seriously read when I did. They do say; “A picture is worth a thousand words.” My response to that is; “But, if no one knew how to read, what would the picture say?” You may quote me of you wish!




What kind of movies do you enjoy?


Action/ drama, Historical, comedy/romance.




What is your favorite city to visit, but one that you wouldn’t want to live in?


Washington D.C.




What’s the strangest question you’ve ever been asked in an interview?


This is my first real interview, and so far no strange questions!




What’s the best part of being about being a writer?


Well, first off, as I said above, there is a difference between being an author and being a writer; in my humble opinion of course! The difference being this; a writer writes, as in articles, op eds, or essays. An author brings together these opinions and facts into a story line, be it fiction or non-fiction.


So, being an author, the best parts are this; bringing my work to publication through a publisher that believes in your work and effort, not only pre publication, but the uncounted hours promoting your own work through any and all venues you can once it has been released. Now, the absolute best part; doing book signings and meeting the actual readers of your work! If it were not for them, what good or accomplishment would there be in being published. To all my loyal readers a great thank you for having confidence to buy and read Fathers, Sons, and Brothers.




What's next?


Fathers, Sons, and Brothers, Book two is in process; probably two thirds complete. So be patient my loyal readers! You will be able to go beyond Gettysburg with Nathan and his comrades and see how Sarah comes into more focus in Book two!


There is also the biography of Nathan I mentioned above. And; there is corroboration between myself and my son Michael that is on the drawing board also. He gave me the idea, so, unbeknownst to him he will help to write it too! (Whoops… if he reads this I guess the cat is out of the bag eh?) It will be somewhat a paranormal experience historical fiction with a great suspenseful story line.


I do have a few more Civil War stories in mind also. I will give a clue here; one has to do with the mine explosion at the Petersburg defensive line in July, 1864, which might be a spin off of what I write in Fathers, Sons, and Brothers, book two. Another has to do with the diary/ journal I have, but from a fictional point of view.


Thanks again to my publisher Publish America, and all my loyal readers. Without you, there is no one to read my writings.



This has been an interesting interview! Betsie's Literary Page wishes Mr. Filegar great success.