cover image Manassas


James Reasoner / Author Cumberland House Publishing $22.95 (35

Fans of the Westward and Stagecoach series of western adventures will be pleased that Reasoner has produced yet another storyline ripe for sequels. The first in a projected eight-volume Civil War Battles series, this novel begins as tensions between the North and South are reaching fever pitch in Virginia. Will Brannon, the eldest son of the large, proud Brannon clan, is the sheriff of Culpeper County, a hotbed of secessionist activity. The Fogarty brothers are thieving riffraff whom Will has been trying to arrest for murder and robbery, but the outlaws are always just one step ahead of the lawman. When Will finally corners and kills one of the Fogartys for resisting arrest, a deadly battle erupts, threatening to consume both families. A campaign of arson, ambush and vicious threats forces Will to leave home in order to protect the rest of his family. Fleeing to the uncertain sanctuary of the new Confederate Army, he is caught up in its patriotic fervor. He marches with his regiment to the railroad center of Manassas and the war's first battle, unaware that the Yankees won't be his only enemy on the battlefield. Still thirsting for revenge, the Fogartys pursue him into the carnage of battle, where they assume that his death would not create suspicion. Reasoner spins a lively, suspenseful yarn, albeit in pedestrian prose. With five sons and a daughter in the Brannon family, this Civil War saga could stretch all the way to Appomattox. (Apr.)