||Amber Quill Press, LLC
||Mar 1 2000
Best Historical Fiction Nominee -- Eppie Awards 2001!!!
Accused of a heinous crime, a wounded Confederate fights to clear his good name and in the process is forced to reevaluate his father's teachings.
"An incredible debut novel, one that should be express-mailed to every movie producer in the world, Sins of the Father gives new meaning to the word 'history.' Zaber and his muse--probably Calliope, the muse of epic poetry--should be toasted in the vintage of the times--all times. This book will be thoroughly enjoyed and long remembered and should give Zaber the fans he deserves."—Patricia White, Crescent Blues Book Views.
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Jebediah Simpson Ellsworth, a young brigadier general from Vicksburg, Mississippi, arrives in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, seeking not only victory for his army and freedom from Northern tyranny, but also to prove his worthiness to his father's ghost. Instead, his army suffers defeat, he is wounded, and while recovering in enemy territory, is falsely accused of plotting a heinous crime.
With the aid of Faith Bradshaw, a young Yankee woman, and Isaiah Walker, an ex-slave, Jeb embarks on a perilous quest to clear his good name. Along the way, however, he is forced to reassess the teachings of his much-loved father, reexamine the world around him, and reevaluate his own convictions once their foundation starts to crumble.
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For more than an hour, heavy artillery thundered, spewing blazing destruction across the mile-long field. Gray-blue smoke clouds tumbled eastward, swallowing bountiful crops, brimming orchards, and the occasional abandoned farmstead. The mid-afternoon sun, raging in the heavens, pounded down heat like a divine scourge.
West of this bitterly contested no-man's-land where a tangle of woods skirted a ridge, a young man attempted to fill his lungs with air, but the stifling humidity, more than the sulfurous smoke, made the task arduous at best. With a pen, inkwell, and leather-bound journal, he settled his lean, muscular frame on a patch of ground somewhat apart from his subordinates. Resting his aching back against an oak, he thumbed to a fresh page, readied his pen, and struggled to find the perfect words to convey to paper his jumbled emotions.
Words abandoned him. He knew what inevitably awaited him when the earsplitting racket reached its finale. It would be his turn. The moment of truth. His last chance to prove just how qualified he was to fill his father's herculean footsteps. Out of habit, he nervously twisted one end of his thick mustache and combated his frustration. He berated himself. What would Father write? Think! Think!
Then the answer arrived, just as a cannon pumped a final shell into the eastern ridge and the eruption quaked the ground. His gaze descended upon the journal. He gripped the pen, and with a shaky left hand, scratched out the date, July 3, 1863, followed by the three words echoing in his brain.
Today I died!
Historical fiction has a hero in Trace Edward Zaber. In his firstborn novel Sins Of The Father, Trace depicts the conflict between families during the Civil War in such a realistic fashion to make one pine to see it depicted on screen. A lengthy novel of 165,000 words, the reader soon learns that Trace fully utilizes every one of those words in prose that practically dances in expressing the drama of that historical period of time.
General Jebediah Ellsworth and Faith Bradshaw cross paths after Gettysburg when Jeb is hospitalized in the Bradshaw home due to the saturation of the area's hospitals, public buildings and homes with both Confederate and Union wounded. Both individuals hold strong beliefs appropriate to their upbringing in the North for Faith and South for Jeb, instilled in them by their respective fathers. The story line takes these two through the war's end to Sherman's march to the sea and, subsequently, to Lincoln's assassination.
The story line is a familiar one, but it is the poetry of the dialogue and mannerisms that bring this tale alive. Trace has sculpted a Civil War tale using historical accuracy woven with fictitious color through scenes in Gettysburg, Washington, Baltimore, and Atlanta and with characters equally matched to those in North and South and Gone With the Wind. Rhett and Scarlett have nothing over Jeb and Faith. As a matter of fact, the fate of Trace's duel protagonists is much more pleasing leaving the reader with a wonderful sense of coming full circle with lessons learned we can only wish our neighbors today could absorb.
Sins Of The Father represents one of those stories that stays with the reader. And it is one of those rare stories that this reviewer would revisit to see what phrase, nuance, or action was missed the first time around. Such is the richness of this saga, and such is the lyrical wording of this tale.—Reviewed by Hope Clark for Word Weaving.
As one of the staff of literary reviewers at KnowBetter.com, I was handed Trace Edward Zaber's Sins of the Father with the suggestion it was a historical novel. I was chosen because my master's thesis on Thaddeus Stevens and the Civil War included massive research of that time period. However, I found Sins of the Father to be a brilliant synthesis of a war novel, a romance novel, a murder novel, and a conspiracy novel. Each of these plot lines were seamlessly interwoven in a dramatic way, pointing to the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. I read Zaber's novel several weeks ago but the storyline still resounds in my memory. Modern readers love what is called "fast action fiction" that provides momentary escape. Zaber's work, however, leaves long-lasting, meaningful impressions.
The major characters are a fallen Confederate general, a compassionate young lady of Gettysburg, a lead detective in the National Detective Police, John Wilkes Booth, and Assistant Secretary of War, Silas Keats. With remarkable verisimilitude, Zaber links each of these characters--some with the goal of saving the President and others intent on destroying him.
The story includes three distinct plot lines. The first encompasses the Civil War itself and is strengthened, along with the rest of the novel, by exhaustive research. The battle of Gettysburg and Sherman's march on Atlanta are described with vivid imagery. Zaber paints striking scenes of this tumultuous period. My favorite scene was the city of Gettysburg after Pickett's Charge up Cemetery Ridge. Often novelists powerfully describe the battle as it transpires with all its destruction and pain. The cannonades and the pitiful cry of the wounded are heard in most depictions. Zaber replicates these scenes but reserves the most gruesome and painful
descriptions for the battle's aftermath when ordinary citizens of
Gettysburg, with little medical help, are left to tend to the wounded and dying.
A second plot line of equal importance is the tender romance between the fallen Confederate general and the young Gettysburg lady who nurses him back to health. Together, they share an exciting and dangerous journey to Atlanta through both Union and Confederate lines. This couple's relationship is so richly and poignantly written, Judith Krantz would be envious.
The third plot line converges on the conspiracy and murder of President Lincoln. All the main characters are present. At the heart of the plot is fictional character Silas Keats, Assistant Secretary of War. Two interesting facts present themselves: (1) Most modern historians suspect Edwin Stanton, Secretary of War, as a culprit in the assassination; (2) The National Detective Police who quickly apprehended the suspects after the assassination were employed in the Secretary of War's department. The way this conspiracy was unearthed by the National Detective Police was purely fictional. However, the quick apprehension of the suspects indicates a previous knowledge of the conspiracy.
Finally, I would note again that Zaber has linked each of the major characters to the conspiracy event--some to preclude it and others to
effect it. Each of these characters is brilliantly portrayed by Zaber and the complex plotline is seamless and mesmerizing...—Reviewed for KnowBetter.com.
Ever wonder what happened to those wonderful historical sagas a la John Jakes and Allan W. Eckert? Once upon a time, store shelves groaned with three-inch-thick tomes like these. If you fear good historical fiction is dead, fear no more. Trace Edward Zaber's Sins of the Father has sounded the opening salvo in the battle to bring this genre back.
General Jeb Ellsworth, his brigade nearly wiped out during Pickett's Charge, lies gravely wounded on the Gettsburg battlefield. He's a long way from Vicksburg, and chances are even if he survives, he'll never see home again. Holding down the home front with her brother Stephen while their abolitionist father is in Europe and their snooty sister Lizbeth hobnobs with the Washington elite, Faith Bradshaw is barely holding her own in the grisly aftermath of the battle. When Jeb is brought to her home from the battlefield, near death, she is determined that even if this man is her enemy, she'll see to it this is one soldier who will not die.
Jeb's long, painful recovery is far from uncomplicated. Not only is he falsely accused of masterminding a plot to assassinate President Lincoln, he finds himself falling in love with Faith. The feeling is mutual, but her father is a staunch abolitionist and her brother-in-law the Assistant Secretary of War. Jeb's beliefs about Negroes and slavery are deeply ingrained, thanks to his father's teachings. Yet Faith and Jeb manage to see past their differences and dream of a life together after the war.
Meanwhile, in Washington, Lizbeth's husband Silas Keats is feeling the heat. Lizbeth is a social-climbing spendthrift. Though he has attained a high post as Assistant Secretary of War, he battles deep insecurity, a legacy from his abusive father. Addicted to alcohol and blind ambition, he will stop at nothing, using anyone and anything, to get what he wants--The White House. Lizbeth becomes an unsuspecting pawn in his scheme, unwittingly putting the rest of her family in grave danger unless Jeb can flee. A cryptic letter from his brother seals it for Jeb--he must somehow find his way to his family in Atlanta, even though he has a price on his head. It breaks his heart to leave Faith behind, but it's for her own safety. Faith has other ideas, and follows. Jeb has no choice but to bring her along, and off they go, unaware the growing pit of plot and deceit they leave behind.
It is difficult to stuff in to a short synopsis the sheer breadth and depth of this book. Don't be put off when you note the number of pages--those pages will literally fly by. Gentle readers are to be cautioned, though--Zaber does not sugar-coat terrifying battle scenes and grisly sessions with saw-happy army surgeons. Civil War buffs who crave accurate detail with devour this book whole. Those who simply love language will revel in Zaber's poetic voice, and applaud his efforts to make not only the spoken dialogue but each character's internal musings authentic with the lexicon of the times. You won't find any of these 19th-century characters speaking, thinking or behaving in 21st century terms! You are not simply someone reading a novel about the Civil War--you are seeing it through the characters' eyes. Though not a classic "romance," the story is undeniably romantic as Faith and Jeb struggle to stay together despite the ravages of war.
Zaber's Sins of the Father shines with terrible beauty. If you love Civil War fiction, don't miss this one.—Reviewed by Lee Padgett, for The BookNook and Compuserve Romance Reviews
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Reader Reviews for "Sins Of The Father"
|Reviewed by Pier Tyler
|Sounds interesting, definitely movie material.|