cover image The Battle of the Crater%E2%80%A8

The Battle of the Crater%E2%80%A8

Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen. St. Martin's/Dunne, $27.99 (384p) ISBN 978-0-312-60710-4

Former Speaker of the House Gingrich and historical fiction author Forstchen craft an expertly plotted page-turner that examines the events leading up to the Battle of the Crater, a minor Confederate victory that took place in July of 1864 near Petersburg, Virginia. Weeks into the stalemate, some Union infantrymen%E2%80%94former coal-miners from Pennsylvania%E2%80%94suggest tunneling under the Confederate trenches in order to detonate several tons of dynamite under the nearby Confederate fort. The authors make this plan seem ingenious and, if successful, likely to facilitate the end of the war, so that the reader empathizes with General Burnside, Harper's artist James Reilly, and other characters who have faith in the strategy. The authors' writing is clear and concise, though the metaphorical language can occasionally be awkward and ill-fitting%E2%80%94in taking the city of Petersburg, the authors predict that "Richmond will fall within days, like a decaying apple dropping from a tree whose roots have been torn out," which doesn't convey the tactical purpose of engaging in battle. The novel's well-paced plot allows the reader to overlook the occasional unevenness in the writing and enjoy the story as it excitingly unfolds. As with these authors' previous works, this book should satisfy fans of historical fiction and Civil War aficionados alike. Illus. (Nov.)