07/29/15
Not One Among Them Whole, A Novel of Gettysburg, by Edison McDaniels

DNFB review of Not One Among Them Whole

NOATW Sketch Print ad5

A Review of Not One Among Them Whole by the folks at Definitely Not For The Birds (a book review blog)
See the original posting here.

Mr. Edison McDaniels himself brought this novel to my attention; he sent us two pieces of his work for free to be reviewed, something that I am very grateful for.  So thanks must again be expressed to Mr. McDaniels for this.

 

I was lucky enough to read both pieces of fiction, and I am incredibly impressed with McDaniels.  The first work I reviewed, the novella titled Blade Man, (the review of which can be found here) was truly enjoyable.  It wasn’t necessarily as polished as it could have been  (you can refer to my comment in the review) but the writing was still mostly solid and the suspense was expertly crafted.  I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, though. when I turned to begin Not One Among Them Whole. The reasoning for this was that the description of this novel made it sound as though it was nothing like the novella, and I was worried that the novel would simply pale in comparison to the novella. It is, after all, hard to excel in two different genres and styles.  I feel confident in saying that my worries were unfounded.  This novel, although very different from McDaniels’ novella, is still very well done.

The Good:
The tagline for this novel is as follows: A Novel of Gettysburg

Immediately, I imagined a rather painful historic account with bland characters drenched in stereotypes.  It really added to my hesitation to read the novel after I had already read the wonderful novella.  However, the impression that the tagline had instilled in me was entirely wrong.  The character are very well developed and although there may be a stereotype here or there (not many), the characters (nor the author) don’t seen to rely on them for identity. Most of these characters take you on an emotionally roller coaster given the heightened historical content that war immediately interjects into a story – especially a war like the civil war.  I also was not expecting such a variety of characters.  I really thought it was going to entirely focus on this Civil War surgeon.  While I do think the surgeons are the readers best window into the onslaught, there are others.  I loved the diversity of view points, as I felt it provided me with a fuller overall picture – a less biased picture.

It is also the first historical fiction novel on the Civil War that I have encountered (although I must admit that I don’t read very many novel that fall into that category) in which the view points of the surgeons were taken into account.  This alone makes it unique and worthy of looking in to as I feel I gained new perspective and that other readers will as well.

The writing, especially the descriptions of the surgeries and procedures, come off as incredibly realistic and authentic.  Of course, as Mr. McDaniels is also a neurosurgeon (yes, a writer AND a neurosurgeon, not sure if there is anything McDaniels can’t do) it is safe to assume that these descriptions are indeed incredibly accurate.  For me, sometimes these descriptions were a little too real, but more on that later.

The historical facts, so important to historical fiction, were there and helped to support the story as opposed them having to be manipulated in order to accommodate the story.   With the facts supporting the fictional narrative, the lines of fiction and history were blended in the way that only truly good historical fiction can accomplish.

The Bad:
As stated earlier, sometimes the descriptions of the medical procedures were a bit too vivid for my tastes, and I had to skim over them.  I am a bit of a wimp, but I think others may have this problem as well.  It can be gross and gory, for lack of better terminology, given the combination of a reader’s vivid imagination and McDaniels detailed and vivid imagery.

 
Not One Among Them Whole, A Novel of Gettysburg, by Edison McDaniels

Not One Among Them Whole, A Novel of Gettysburg, by Edison McDaniels

The Verdict:
Don’t read: If you aren’t a huge fan of accurate and gory accounts of war, this will not be the novel for you – although I must mention that skimming through these portions helped immensely and ensured that I didn’t miss out on a great piece of fiction.

 
Read: If you have been looking for an accurate yet artful piece of historical fiction, I cannot imagine anything more perfect to satisfy that need than Not One Among Them Whole.  The writing is well done, polished, and approachable while the characters and story are convincing, captivating, and deep.

Written by Rachel B.

Rachel is a co-creator and writer at Definitely Not for the Birds (DNFB). She recently graduated with a degree in English. Presently, she writes, reads, and then reads and writes some more, with a giant and ever-present mug of green tea in her hand. Follow Rachel @rrbindl and DNFB @not4birds

07/6/15
MatriarchCover2

The Matriarch of Ruins

Today, the Gettysburg Trilogy continues…

In Book 1, Not One Among Them Whole, a novel of Surgeons and the Wounded at Gettysburg, the harrowing story of life at the front edge of a 19th century battlefield hospital was told.

Now, from the author of that acclaimed novel, comes the story of the civilians among the wounded in that surreal time:

 

Husbands and wives.

Sons and daughters.

Soldiers and surgeons.

Men and slaves.

Widows and ghosts.

The living and the dead come alive in this epic novel of a widow struggling to keep her family together amid the carnage of the Battle of Gettysburg—and the memories of her dead husband. A story of ordinary folks caught in the maelstrom of an extraordinary time.

It is 1863 and the war has come home to the Gamble farm in Southern Pennsylvania. With her husband buried under the willow tree in the back yard, and only four months in the ground, the widow Purdy Gamble must cope with losing him all over again when a rebel surgeon conscripts her farm—and Purdy’s growing respect despite herself. Hannah Gamble Griel, Purdy’s daughter, disappears into the chaos of war to chase her own ghosts, both imaginary and real. And then there are the twins Loli and Coal, just fourteen. One, struck dumb by a mule kick at age five, will find a disturbing peace amid the flames of war. The other will twice save a man’s life, unburying a horrid family secret in the process—a secret at once as alive as warm flesh and as dead as cold bones mouldering under the earth. 

The Matriarch of Ruins is a haunting story of lost love, moral dilemmas, and psychological traumas amid the ruins of war, by the author of Not One Among Them Whole. This is a vivid, suspenseful tale, told with heart-breaking empathy and stunning detail.

READ AN EXCERPT: CLICK HERE.

Now available for the Amazon Kindle. Soon in paperback as well. From Northampton House Press. Buy it today and be transported to another era. 

The Matriarch of Ruins (Gettysburg Trilogy, #2)


05/28/14
NOATW Sketch Print ad5

Not One Among Them Whole, Audacious & Intense

For these men & their charges, laudable pus will be the least of their worries.

An intense and audacious tale of battlefield surgery, distressed surgeons,
and the insanity of life & death in the Civil War.

“Engaging, heart-breaking, & absolutely fantastic. A terrific book.”
—D. Buxman, a top 1000 reviewer & Vine Voice at Amazon

“What I like most about this book is that everything and everyone has a shade. There’s no absolute bad or good, just human, heroic, cowardly, robust, vulnerable, impervious, venal and just plain terrified and confused raw pain that matches the emotional and twangy verbal tones of the recurring characters as we follow them through the travesty and glory that was Gettyburg.”
—From a review on Amazon

It is the summer of 1863, and the greatest battle ever fought on American soil is in full tilt. Southern Pennsylvania has become one great grinding stone and thousands of dead or dying are its grist. In this tilted landscape, reputations are made, careers are ruined, and men and women are driven to the brink in the wake of two armies intent on killing one another. Yet opportunity is everywhere…

For the privates and officers who fight the battle, it’s a kill or be killed world, with salvation or damnation just a bullet away…

For one undertaker in particular, the dead are a canvas, and his ability to make a body reflect the living individual is nothing short of uncanny. For Jupiter Jones, the burgeoning dead themselves are the opportunity…

And finally, for one teenage former slave, alive only because his father had the courage to bury him, opportunity comes in the form of a ten-year-old boy with a creel and only one shoe, who may or may not be a ghost…

In the summer of 1863, humanity itself is under siege. What happens amid the carnage and human flotsam of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, will be unholy, unnerving, and all but unbearable, with only this certain: not one among them will escape unscathed.

Here, hell is in session.

And it’s the devil’s own day.

 

“McDaniels’ fine Civil War novel is not the world of Robert E. Lee or Ulysses S. Grant or even Abraham Lincoln. McDaniels’ Gettysburg is a microcosm, a seething world of its own from which no player escapes.”
— P.B. Sharp, an Amazon Top 500 Reviewer

 

~ THE CHARACTERS ~

Ezra Coffin, a severely wounded Union soldier, has never seen his infant son, and perhaps never will…

Major Tom Jersey, a Confederate officer, awakens terribly mangled in the aftermath of combat, his only companions: the wounded enemy, without whom he can’t survive, and the ghost of his son—who may be his only means of escape…

Major Solomon Hardy, chief surgeon, who stands at the tables until his health fails—then watches over his own dying son…

Major Josiah Boyd, a gifted surgeon but a flawed man. His time behind the knife may cost him everything—and his patients even more…

Captain Tobias Ellis, his courage under fire makes him a hero, but he may just be the most flawed of all—and the most dangerous…

Liza Coffin, who isn’t eighteen, but already has been a homeless orphan, a mother, and perhaps now a widow too…

Jupiter Jones, showman extraordinaire, itinerant undertaker, and reader of the dead. His healing Oil, acquired from the equatorial coast of West Africa, may be the real thing…

And finally Cuuda Monk, a teenage boy and former slave, alive today only because his father had the courage to bury him when the end came. His visions of the boy with the creel may make him the sanest man in the land—and just may be the means to all their salvation…

It is the summer of 1863 and humanity is under siege. What happens next amid the carnage and human flotsam will be unholy, unnerving, and all but unbearable.

It is the summer of 1863 and everything is about to change.

Everything.

Forever.

Not One Among Them Whole, A Novel of Gettysburg, by Edison McDaniels

Click the book cover to buy the Kindle version from Amazon for just $4.99!

 ~An Excerpt~

Surgeon Josiah Boyd leaned toward the corner, pressed his tongue against his lips, and spat. Reflex mostly, something he did without thinking whenever the need presented, which was often. The gob splattered against the wall, joining the smear of juice already there. Assistant Surgeon Tobias Ellis gave little thought to the smear of tobacco, keeping his mind on the task at hand. Like Boyd, his hands and forearms were streaked with the blood of scores of men. They looked raw, almost skinned.

“Artery clamp.” Boyd stretched a palm out in waiting. 

Tiny, the surgeon’s helper, was a heavyset kid in his early twenties, though he looked younger. His experience put the lie to his appearance. He’d spent the better part of two years—the worst part of a lifetime—with the field hospital. He rummaged in the dirty water of the basin even as he held a chloroformed mask over the patient’s face. His fingers made quick work in the cool, blood pink water, finding the instrument by feel. He slammed the clamp into Boyd’s hand with a sharp smack and Boyd squeezed the clamp around the femoral artery as Ellis lifted the great vessel out of its bed, the thrum of the pulse fighting back from within. The clamp clicked as it locked, and the artery beyond the obstruction went limp. “Ligature,” Boyd said with a practiced calm.

Major Josiah Boyd was old for his thirty-eight years. His hair had thinned up top and he hadn’t shaved in days. He was of lanky build and sallow complexion, possessed of a long drawn-out face almost ghoulish in its particulars, with prominent cheekbones high under his eyes. His lower jaw had been twice broken (once by a horse, once by a man) and poorly set. It jutted obtrusively and his teeth came together at an angle somewhat off the expected, so that the whole of his face looked skewed. His hands were large and his fingers long and spindly like the legs of a great spider. They were economical in their wanderings across the surgical field however, with no waste of motion. 

The soldier on the table lay on his back. He was insensible to the workings both around and upon him, heavy under the influence of a chloroform-soaked towel. Boyd and Ellis worked quickly at their labors, their movements looking somewhat frantic at times. They had about them a look of resigned experience, showing both intolerable exhaustion and inordinate energy at the same time. They’d been working feverishly at one task or another since first light a dozen hours before. Their efforts had made not a dent in the line of men awaiting their services. At times, they worked so fast and the wounded spent so little time before them, it seemed they were cutting the same man over and over again.

Tiny passed the silk ligature and Ellis encircled the artery twice with it, just above the clamp. His fingers blurred with movement as he tied the thread and occluded the artery. He repeated the exercise on the thinner-walled vein beside it. Tiny retrieved a pair of scissors from the basin and slapped them into Ellis’s hand even before the man could ask for them. The assistant surgeon divided the vessels—artery and vein—below the ligatures and removed the clamp.

They had cut away the soldier’s trousers and filleted his thigh to the bone midway between hip and knee ten minutes before. Now, with the last of the muscle and flesh parted and only the bare thigh bone joining the lower leg to the upper, the amputation was complete in all but fact. Only the saw cut remained.

“Capital saw,” Ellis said, and out of his side vision he caught Boyd turning to spit again. This time he had time to consider the action, something he’d seen Boyd do a thousand times in a dozen hovels just like this one. In the instant before the handle of the bone saw struck his palm, Ellis wondered at the incongruities of the man who was his direct senior. He had ‘good hands’. Goddammit that ain’t true, Ellis thought, he’s more than that, a genuine honest-to-God born surgeon. Ellis had seen a lot of men work the tables in his almost two years as an assistant surgeon and Boyd was, hands down, the best cutter out there. But it was also true the man had odd ways. Like his want to chew during surgery, which perhaps wasn’t all that bad, except it meant he was always spitting. And there was his habit of spacing out in the middle of an operation. He’d suddenly walk away from the table, turn his back to the room or go behind a wall, then reappear before too long as if nothing had happened. Except something had happened, Ellis would always think. At such times Boyd looked different. Certainly not better, and not worse (or probably not worse, he’d had occasion to think a few times—and how curious was that?). Just different. It showed most in his hands, which looked somehow, he tried to think of the correct word, revitalized? Was that it? Upon returning to the table, those hands, which had seemed worn and tired, would now be spirited and quick to perform. But it was Boyd’s eyes that bothered. Once the surgeon reappeared, Ellis always found those eyes…unsettling. As if Boyd’s eyes had developed an unpleasant ‘lag,’ a sort of disparity with his hands. As if the one had given to the other, Ellis suddenly thought. He swallowed hard then, tried to put that absurd notion out of his head. A fevered product of his own exhausted mind, he decided. After all, once a battle was joined and the bloodletting began, there was never enough rest.

Tiny put the saw in Ellis’s palm and he came back to the moment. He curled his fingers around it—they seemed to have conformed to it over the endless months of the war—and went to task on the soldier’s femur. Boyd held the meat of the leg out of the way as Ellis laid the business side of the saw against the lower end of the bare thighbone and began to run it back and forth. The blade’s teeth bit at the glistening bone with a gritty feel and flecks of ivory dust and crimson blood peppered the air as he worked. The sawing took more force than Ellis supposed it should and he made a mental note to have Tiny replace the blade before the next patient. When he’d about sawn through the whole of the femur, the remnant snapped with the pop of a dry twig and the leg fell away. Tiny stuffed a wad of lint against the bleeding stump as Boyd removed the now useless limb.

“Bone file.”

Tiny anticipated the request and passed it without hesitation. Ellis grasped the narrow, five-inch flat metal file and worked the roughened side against the sharp edges of the bony stump. When he was satisfied with its appearance and feel, no sharp edges to work through the skin later, he nodded at Boyd, who took a quick feel as well. “That’ll do,” the senior man said. Ellis handed the file back to Tiny and Boyd took up an amputation knife—its long, sharp edge might easily slice a ham—and carved away a bit of remaining muscle and flesh on the back of the thigh, until he was satisfied with the look and feel of the flap to lay over the stub of bone.

They continued to work largely in silence, with no idle chit-chat. Ellis removed the lint from the end of the sawn bone. Satisfied the wound was not oozing too much blood, the surgeons flapped the skin up and approximated the edges with several silk stitches placed an inch apart. Ellis dressed the incision with a plaster cap and Tiny fanned the man to purge the chloroform from his system. A quick whiff of liquor of ammonia served finally to bring him back to consciousness, where upon he began to groan. Judging the man was safely over the effects of the chloroform, Boyd dribbled a few drops of laudanum, a sweet concoction of opium and alcohol, on the soldier’s tongue to dull him to the agony of the hours to come. Ellis had seen its effect on men time and again. Some the laudanum slept, others it simply relaxed. Ellis himself had taken it once or twice to kill a headache. Its effect had felt something akin to salvation—removing him from the horrors of the field hospital and the tussle of war, albeit transiently. Good stuff, he thought, and dangerous. Too much of that could turn a man out.

A pair of stretcher bearers stepped forward and lifted the patient with only a bare afterthought of gentleness, grabbing him under his butt and armpits. The man’s grunts as they carried him outside to be deposited alongside the other unfortunates were lost in the chaos of the battlefield hospital. Boyd stood off to one side of the room, several men interposed between he and Ellis. Ellis watched as the surgeon put his hands out, looking at the trembling, blood soaked palms as if they might suddenly fall off. Another of Boyd’s odd behaviors. There followed a curious moment in which Boyd looked about, spotted Ellis, and slipped awkwardly out the back of the building. 

Another soldier was placed on the table. As Tiny pressed a cloth over the man’s nose and mouth and chloroformed him, Ellis probed the wound in his calf with a stiff finger, feeling for splinters of bone and the ball that had done the damage. The soldier winced, not quite under yet. As Ellis pulled his finger from the man’s innards, Boyd appeared at the side of the assistant surgeon and chuckled in an odd, not at all funny way. “The truth of the flesh,” he said, or something very much like it. Ellis couldn’t be sure. It was a small thing, but as Boyd called for a scalpel, it disturbed Ellis nonetheless and he had no idea why.

 

Did you like the excerpt?
Available in print or eBook (Kindle, Nook, Kobo).

NOT ONE AMONG THEM WHOLE is available for the Amazon Kindle & in trade paperback. Also available in other eBook formats. Now featured at the National Park Service bookstore at Gettysburg itself.

03/20/13

NOATW—The Paperback is Out!

The trade paperback edition of the most amazing Civil War novel
since Cold Mountain & The Killer Angels is now available!

NOATW Print CoverNOT ONE AMONG THEM WHOLE: A Novel of Gettysburg by Edison McDaniels tells the story of the surgeons working under the most horrendous conditions imaginable, the chaos, carnage, & blood soaked tables of a battlefield hospital in the midst of the Battle of Gettysburg. It’s all here: the brutal and unrelenting chaos of battle; the terrible humanity of the operating rooms; the failures and triumphs of primitive medicine and surgery.

Download an excerpt today by clicking here.

Buy the paperback version by clicking here.

Buy the Kindle version by clicking here.