This Friday, May 10, NewSouth Books will release the paperback edition of Skip Tucker's novel The Pale Blue Light, a blend of historical fiction and spy thriller about the life and death of Stonewall Jackson. The pub date also happens to be the 150th anniversary of the Confederate General's death by friendly fire at the Battle of Chancellorsville, a fact that neither author nor publisher wanted to pass up.
|Skip Tucker, holding a copy of Pale Blue Light, with Civil War re-enactors at the Chancellorsville battlefield.
On April 29, Tucker set out on a 1,500-mile journey starting in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, through which Jackson campaigned in 1862. Last Saturday, he held a press conference at the Chancellorsville battlefield, now called the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, during a three-day commemoration and reenactment of the 1863 battle. Also on the schedule: yesterday another press conference at the Georgia Capitol Museum in Atlanta before an appearance at Confederate Memorial Hall in New Orleans on Thursday.
"It feels like all the stars are aligned," said Suzanne La Rosa of NewSouth Books. "So many things are going right."
NewSouth publishes between 20 and 25 books per year, and operates with a staff of nine people. The press gravitates, in La Rosa's words, toward material that fosters "understanding and discussion of racial, ethnic, religious and sexual identities." In recent years, NewSouth has also skewed more and more toward history, biography and memoir, although it does, of course, still publish fiction.
La Rosa called The Pale Blue Light "not simply straightforward literary fiction. There's a lot of history, and it's full of Civil War details, but the jumping off point is a big 'what-if' question. He weaves a very believable, even sexy story about the possibility that Jackson maybe did not die by friendly fire."
Although La Rosa has grown more "gun-shy" regarding fiction in recent years, she found The Pale Blue Light and Tucker's suggestion of an elaborate, if somewhat unusual, promotional campaign to be "almost irresistible."
"Fiction is very competitive, and it's hard to do things right when you're in a crowded marketplace," said La Rosa. "But I was really convinced that he was on to a fantastic idea. And it's not just about doing unusual things [to promote books], it's about doing the right things."
La Rosa described Tucker, whose background is as a journalist, as easy-going and affable. "He's very excited for the trip. He told me in an e-mail that he's bringing Jack and Jim with him--Jack being his dog and Jim being Jim Beam." --Alex Mutter