THE EXILE

Richard S. Wheeler, Author . Forge $24.95 (336p) ISBN 978-0-312-87847-4

Real-life Irish patriot and American hero Thomas Francis Meagher (1823–1867) is the subject of this fine fictional autobiography by Wheeler, prolific author of westerns and historicals (Sun River , etc.). Wheeler brings his protagonist to vivid life, telling Meagher's remarkable and tragic story so clearly and convincingly that the blending of fact and fiction is almost seamless. Meagher was an Irish rebel convicted of treason in England in 1849 and sent into exile in Australia. The book begins with his escape and flight to America, where he is welcomed as a hero among the Irish immigrants in New York City's slums. A man of passion and vision, he becomes involved in corrupt Tammany Hall politics and marries a rich man's daughter, but is restless and cannot hold a job. When the Civil War breaks out, Meagher forms the famed Irish Brigade for the Union Army and leads it bravely at Manassas, Antietam, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, where the Irish soldiers are slaughtered and he is wrongly criticized as a coward and drunkard. Following the war, Meagher receives a political appointment as the secretary for the Montana Territory, a wild, lawless place where cruel partisan politics and vigilante groups are in control. Despite all his efforts, Meagher cannot hold his own against a growing list of enemies, and he finally disappears mysteriously in 1867. Wheeler's exemplary portrait of Meagher depicts a flawed man whose dreams and schemes always fell short, but who never quit dreaming and never ran from his enemies. (Dec.)

Reviewed on: 11/03/2003
Release date: 12/01/2003
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