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    A Thought on THE BLACK RUSSIAN and Novels

    THE BLACK RUSSIAN "flows as well as any novel," or so says Marina Maxwell, a reviewer for the Historical Novel Society

    This review, which just came out, was a very pleasant surprise for me, especially because it appeared on the site of an organization that normally focuses on historical novels, as its name and mission indicate.  I did try to tell Frederick Thomas's story as engagingly as possible in my book, and it's very gratifying when someone says I've succeeded. 

    I might mention, or confess, that I was conscious of a severe constraint when trying to use novelistic techniques in fashioning the book's plot, characters, and settings.  Most importantly and obviously, this was the need to be absolutely faithful to the facts; to have done anything less would have been to betray my subject.  But this also meant not yielding to the temptation to indulge in stylistic embellishments that were not warranted by the data I had discovered.  In a non-fiction book, an expressive or dramatic style has to be undergirded with factual details.  Style is, or should be, a correlate for substance.  If I did not know what Frederick Thomas's reaction was to some major or minor event, but only that the event had happened and that he had witnessed it, I did not feel free to project my, or someone else's, reaction onto it.  At the same time, I didn't want to narrate the event in a dry and bland way.  Walking that ridge was frequently a challenge.

    In lieu of continuing Frederick Thomas's story this week, I thought I'd post the complete review and a link to the site where it appeared.


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