Tunnel to Glory

F. L. Kafka, Author
F. L. Kafka, Author Lyford Books $19.95 (249p) ISBN 978-0-89141-442-1
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Real and imaginary characters mix in a first novel about the Union Army's failed attack on Petersburg, Va., whose impregnable array of fortifications stood in 1864 as the primary obstacle to General Grant's advance on Richmond. In plodding fashion, Kafka explains how Union soldiers dug a tunnel beneath the Confederate embankments, packed the space with tons of black powder, then attacked minutes after the subterranean bomb exploded. He also recounts the Union men's tragic end, as they died en masse when the high, slippery walls of the resulting crater stopped their advance within range of the counterattacking Confederates' guns. Displaying a keen knowledge of Civil War minutiae, Kafka proves more talented as a student of warfare than as a novelist: his style is often prosaic, the dialogue doesn't always ring true, and the plot regularly disgresses to give long biographies of key characters. Despite such flaws, arden Civil War buffs may enjoy this earnest re-creation of the North's bold scheme. (Nov.)
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