‘Blood Truth,’ by Matt Coyle

I’m finding Matt Coyle’s Rick Cahill mystery series fascinating. Rick Cahill, La Jolla, California private eye, possesses an excellent Raymond Chandler-style narrator’s voice. His essentially pessimistic world view is mitigated by the suffering he’s endured. A lot of that suffering is self-inflicted, because he still blames himself for the death of his wife. She was murdered, but not by him. Nevertheless, she’d still be alive if he hadn’t made one big mistake.

Another memory that eats at him is of his father. Rick’s father was a policeman in La Jolla, an upright and respected man. But he was thrown off the force for corruption, and crawled into a bottle to die. Rick can’t forgive himself for rejecting his dad at the end, but also deeply resents him for his failures.

At the start of Blood Truth, the new owner of Rick’s boyhood home discovers a hidden safe in a wall and invites him to come pick it up. Rick has the safe opened by a locksmith and finds three items in it – a “Saturday Night Special” pistol with two bullets fired, an envelope full of money, and the key to a safe deposit box. When Rick locates the box the key fits, he finds it contains two spent .25 caliber cartridges, suitable to the gun in the safe.

Rick’s code is inflexible – he means to find out what all this means. He assumes it’s evidence of his father’s corruption. It doesn’t matter – the truth needs to come out. People tend to get hurt when Rick goes on crusades like this, and he’ll be sorry about that later. But the truth, first and last.

Meanwhile, Rick’s old girlfriend Kim, for whom he still has feelings, asks him to follow her husband. She thinks he’s having an affair. It turns out to be more than that – the husband’s not just in bed with another woman, he’s “in bed” with some of the most dangerous people in the state, way over his head in a shady business deal going murderous. But you can’t scare Rick off – he’s the kind of tough guy who’ll sneak out of the hospital while being treated for a knife wound, bringing his saline bag with him.

No Rick Cahill story is optimistic, but this was one of the more hopeful in the series. There’s a long narrative arc playing out through these books, as Rick faces down his old personal devils one by one. The total effect is positive. I recommend Blood Truth, if you can handle the dark atmosphere.

‘Dark Fissures,’ by Matt Coyle

Rick Cahill, the hero of Matt Coyle’s downbeat detective series set in the San Diego area, is back in Dark Fissures. I like Coyle’s writing a lot, but this was going to be the series’ last chance with me as a reader. Rick has such hard luck (except for mere survival), loses so many friends, makes so many mistakes and beats himself up so much for them, that I was about to give up on it. If Rick didn’t catch a break in this book, I was going to stop reading.

I’m happy to report that (I hope this isn’t too much of a spoiler) Rick actually has a little good fortune this time out. Won’t tell you what.

As Dark Fissures begins, Rick is about to lose his home. He isn’t making enough money as a PI to meet his mortgage payments. Also, the chief of police, his personal enemy, is hinting that he has new evidence linking Rick to a murder. Problem is, Rick did commit the murder – in a good cause. But that won’t earn him any slack from the cops or the courts.

Then he gets a call from Brianne Colton, a local country singer. Brianne’s ex-husband, a former Navy SEAL, was recently found hanged in his home, an apparent suicide. But Brianne believes he was murdered. Some things about it make no sense to her, especially the disappearance of his cell phone.

Rick is dubious. Such doubts are common among the bereaved, and usually they’re just wishful thinking. On top of that, Brianne has an ulterior motive. Her husband’s life insurance policy won’t pay off on suicide. But the more he asks questions, the more he starts to think Brianne might be right. He’s getting hinky reactions from the guy’s friends and co-workers when he questions them. Something’s wrong.

There’s something wrong, too, about falling in love with your client, but that’s just one mistake in a long list for Rick. He will get beaten up, wounded, and tortured before he finally fights his way through to the truth.

Dark Fissures was no sunshine story, but it came out a little more hopefully than the previous books. I liked it. Author Coyle has a continuing problem with homophone confusion, though. “Heal” for “heel” and “swap” for “swab,” that sort of thing. I wish he’d get a better proofreader.

‘The Scent of Water,’ by Elizabeth Goudge

 “Yes, I will,” that is my song. I had not known before that love is obedience. You want to love, and you can’t, and you hate yourself because you can’t, and all the time love is not some marvelous thing that you feel but some hard thing that you do. And this in a way is easier because with God’s help you can command your will when you can’t command your feelings. With us, feelings seem to be important, but He doesn’t appear to agree with us.

Long years ago, when World War I veterans still walked the earth and I was only a teenager, my mother handed me a paperback copy of Elizabeth Goudge’s The Scent of Water. “I think you should read this,” she said.

As some of you know, my relationship with my mother could be described, charitably, as “problematic.” So I did not make haste to read the book. It sat in a drawer for a long time. I picked it up a couple times, but it didn’t grab me. It was written by a woman, after all, and showed no signs of anybody getting killed in it.

Fast forward more than fifty years. Recently somebody commented on Facebook that Elizabeth Goudge was one of C. S. Lewis’s favorite authors. My mind went back to that old paperback (which had gotten lost in the interval) and I thought it would be interesting to read it now and divine, perhaps, what secret message my mother had meant me to learn. I bought the Kindle version.

I don’t know if I figured Mom’s message out or not. I have a couple ideas. But I did enjoy the book.

Mary Lindsay is a 50-year-old unmarried lady living in London in the early 1960s. Once a teacher, she now works in a government office. She lives an ordered life and has an ordered retirement planned.

But one day she learns that her namesake Aunt Mary, a distant relation, has left her her home, “The Laurels” in the tiny village of Appleshaw. Mary only met the old woman once, when she was a young girl, but they connected immediately and her time with her is one of her happiest memories. Suddenly, to her own surprise, she decides to leave her job and retire to the Laurels. She’s been a Londoner all her life, she reasons, and she’d like to experience traditional country living before it disappears forever.

What she finds is the most charming little community imaginable. The whole village is built on and around the ruins of an ancient monastery – her own new house was the infirmary. She gets to know her neighbors – the nouveau riche “squire” and his chattering, insecure wife; the curate and his disabled but courageous sister; the impoverished blind poet and his neurotic wife; and especially the children next door. The children are prepared to hate Mary, because they’ve been accustomed to view her garden as their private playground. But Mary knows exactly how to handle children, and soon she becomes their friend and teacher. Especially the little girl Edith, who will be a surrogate daughter to her.

Through her interactions with neighbors in a community where there are no real secrets, and through reading her late aunt’s journal, Mary enters onto a spiritual pilgrimage. She learns humility and gradually embraces the Christian faith.

There’s a fantasy element in The Scent of Water, I think, and I don’t only mean the dream sequences where Mary envisions the life of a hunchbacked medieval stonemason. The world of this book is one where people can act in thoughtless, weird, and even criminal ways and be met, not with outrage, but with understanding and compassion. The people of Appleshaw are divided among the very wise and the very foolish, and the wise have mercy on the foolish. This is not realistic, but it’s charming.

One of the central images of this book is Aunt Mary’s glass case of “little things,” small figurines that Mary and little Edit both love. The Scent of Water is like a collection of “little things” — a multiplicity of small observations, descriptions full of lists of flowers and trees and everything Mary delights in. It gives the book a rich, baroque quality that leaves a memorable impression.

I don’t think I’m going to become a Goudge fan, but I enjoyed reading The Scent of Water, and was deeply moved by it. I think a lot of Brandywine Books readers will love it.

Musing on ‘The Princess Bride,’ by William Goldman

Look, (Grownups skip this paragraph.) I’m not about to tell you this book has a tragic ending. I already said in the very first line how it was my favorite in all the world. But there’s a lot of bad stuff coming up, torture you’ve already been prepared for, but there’s worse. There’s death coming up, and you better understand this: some of the wrong people die…. and the reason is this; life is not fair. Forget the garbage your parents put out. Remember Morgenstern. You’ll be a lot happier.

Last night I watched the film, “The Princess Bride” for the umpty-third time. Laughed and cried.

What’s not to love? It’s the perfect confection, almost parody but not quite. Self-aware, over the top, but entirely without condescension. Everybody involved seems to be having fun, and they welcome the viewer into the fun.

I first saw the movie in its first theatrical run. It got good reviews at the time, but wasn’t a major hit. Only when home video became available did it find its audience. Now it’s one of the most beloved – and quotable – movies in the world. With good reason.

But before I was a fan of the movie, I was a fan of the book. It was published in 1973, and I must have picked it up around 1978. Frankly, I bought it out of base motives – the original cover blurb called it “A Hot Fairy Tale!” I found something way better than I expected.

The big difference between the book and the movie is what I guess you’d call the “metanarrative.” In the movie you having a charming, funny adventure story, framed by a sweet series of vignettes involving a grandfather and his grandson.

The frame of the book is much broader and more complex. Goldman fictionalizes his own life, claiming his father was an immigrant from Florin, one of the imagined kingdoms in the book. He presents himself as a screenwriter who’s gone full Hollywood. He’s lost touch with his son (in real life Goldman had two daughters). Out of guilt, he tries to connect with the boy by giving him the book his dad used to read to him, The Princess Bride, by S. Morgenstern. Only he discovers that the book isn’t what he thought – most of it is a long, dull satire on the politics of Florin and Guilder at the time of the book’s writing. The real adventure stuff was just a minor narrative threaded here and there through the text. His dad had only read him the “good parts.” So Goldman has decided (he claims) to produce a “good parts” version of The Princess Bride.

But he can’t resist adding his own commentary, in pretty large doses, in footnotes and parenthetical interpolations. He talks about his childhood, his dreams, his disappointments. The movies he loves. The movies he wrote, and what he was trying to accomplish with them. How his life has consistently fallen short of the aspirations that romantic books and movies arouse in him. The book ends differently from the movie. The movie’s ending is sweet and heartwarming. The end of the book is ambivalent. They lived happily after…. But.

What The Princess Bride (novel) is about is the tragedy of impossible yearning. Most of us respond to the great stories. Our hearts are moved by the happy ending, the eucatastrophe, the fulfillment of True Love.

But we live (and who would know this better than a Jewish author?) in a world where True Love doesn’t guarantee that your beloved won’t be killed by a mugger or a pogrom or a stray meteorite. There’s something in our hearts that tells us True Love has to conquer all. Yet all around us we see that it doesn’t.

I have no idea what William Goldman’s spiritual beliefs were, if any. If he’d asked, someone could have told him about a True Love that does guarantee a miracle resurrection.

Glimmerglass, by Marly Youmans

Who didn’t have ghosts? And she was diminishing, changing–her face momentarily strange in the glass. She had hold of the tail end of middle age; she was an attractive woman, often mistaken for one much younger. Her hair still shone black, with only sparse threads of snow, and her skin was unwrinkled. There might be something left for her, here in the gatehouse beyond the village. Hadn’t she long ago combed her hair with the teeth of pain, eaten the poisoned apple, and married the prince of fire? What more could hurt her now?

I picked up Glimmerglass by Marly Youmans, thinking it was a fantasy written by a poet. That’s exactly what it proved to be, but it took reading three quarters of the book to get there. Most of the time the fantasy might be simply metaphor. I mean, a house with seven doors and talk of Snow White doesn’t actually bring dwarves into the story. But elements of fairy magic and oddness, as we read in Lars’s novels and other deep-rooted fantasies, abound.

Cynthia Sorrel arrives at the village of Cooper Patent on the southern tip of Glimmerglass lake (a fictional variation of Cooperstown, “America’s Most Perfect Village,” on the southern tip of Ostego Lake in New York. Village and lake call back to James Fenimore Cooper). She’s open to renting the gatehouse but has no real plans for anything yet. She’s just lost. The spritely, frail-looking caretaker who gives her the keys talks her into staying by assuming no alternatives.

Cynthia keeps to herself for a while and slowly begins to connect to the quirky people in the village, the vicar’s wife first, the Wild brothers, and later the vicar himself. The Wilds turn out to be her landlords, and with them come the main fantasy elements. Their mansion is a labyrinth of rooms that butts into the forest hill. There’s a locked door into the hill, a curious aura radiating from it. One of the Wild cousins went through that door many years ago and was never seen again. And there’s a pale, shirtless boy who stares at her from the woods before disappearing into them. Is that the ghost she felt must be lurking in a house or village like this?

Glimmerglass the novel may be like Glimmerglass the lake. It’s beautiful from the shore, warm, inviting, even with hints of danger and mystery, and alien, if not weird, under the surface. When Cynthia falls into the icy lake, metaphorically speaking, she emerges among chain-smoking ghosts, feathered angels with parasols, minotaurs, and palace dance halls. Sure, it sounds trippy, but it works beautifully well.

Read about this and her many other books on Marly’s blog.

Photo by Parker Amstutz on Unsplash

‘Romeo’s Stand,’ by James Scott Bell

“I can’t do this ish,” Sam said.

“Ish?” Ira said.

“Ah, something my dad told me to say instead of the S word.”

I said, “You don’t say the S word, but you’ll shoot a man?”

“I know,” Sam said. “It’s effed up.”

“I approve of his language choices,” Ira said.

Mike Romeo, James Scott Bell’s improbable intellectual tough guy detective, is back for more fun in Romeo’s Stand, Book Five in the series.

Mike is on a passenger flight that makes an emergency landing in the Nevada desert. The woman sitting next to him has a rough landing, and he helps her get off the plane. Then she’s driven away. When Mike gets to the nearby town of Dillard, he asks about her at the hospital, and they give him the runaround.

Then a local tough guy tries to beat him up.

Then the sheriff tells him to get out of town by sundown.

This is not the way to get Mike Romeo out of your hair.

Through a series of unlikely fights, captures and escapes, Mike discovers and, working with the FBI, brings down a major criminal operation centered in Dillard. While making a couple new friends along the way.

Lots of fun. No bad language. Recommended. Maybe not as good as the earlier Romeo books, but plenty good for a summer read.

‘The Art of Making Sense,’ by Andrew Klavan

The reason we want stories to make sense is because stories are a way of speaking about reality – and reality makes sense. This is a wonderful thing about reality that we don’t appreciate enough. When you see something in reality that doesn’t make sense it’s only because you don’t know enough about it. You naturally want to find out more in order to find out what sense it makes.

In the wake of reading Andrew Klavan’s The Nightmare Feast, I decided to pick up his collection of essays and speeches from last year, The Art of Making Sense.

In four pieces, entitled, “Can We Believe?”, “Can we Be Silent in a World Gone Mad?”, “The Art of Making Sense,” and “Speaking Across the Abyss: Building Culture in an Age of Unbelief,” he discusses the crisis of western, post-Christian civilization from the perspective of a creative, Christian mind.

I was delighted – but hardly surprised – by the way Klavan constantly returns to the central idea, that reality exists, that it is created by God, and that in the end the truth glorifies God. Knowing this, the Christian artist should be fearless.

I, of course, am not fearless. But ideas like this encourage and delight me. I enjoyed The Art of Making Sense very much, and recommend it. Especially for Christians in the creative arts.

Voces8: “Be not angry, O Lord”

Ne irascaris Domine satis,
et ne ultra memineris iniquitatis nostrae.
Ecce respice populus tuus omnes nos.

Civitas sancti tui facta est deserta.
Sion deserta facta est,
Jerusalem desolata est.

Be not so terribly angry, O Lord,
    and remember not iniquity forever.
    Behold, please look, we are all your people.
Your holy cities have become a wilderness;
    Zion has become a wilderness,
    Jerusalem a desolation. ( Isaiah 64:9-10 ESV)

For your Spectation…

Today I have a piece in The American Spectator Online that expands on my earlier post here, concerning Col. Hans Christian Heg, whose statue in Madison, Wisconsin was destroyed by rioters recently.

One of my ancestors knew Abraham Lincoln. All right, that’s not strictly true. He was a collateral ancestor of mine, half-brother to my great-great grandfather. An early Norwegian settler in Illinois, he was active in the Republican Party. His obituary called him a “friend of Abraham Lincoln.” I take that to mean he was acquainted with Lincoln through party business.

But this story isn’t about him. There was nothing remarkable in an Illinois Norwegian being a Republican. You’d have had to search pretty hard to find one who wasn’t in those days. Antislavery feeling ran high among them, and they were eager volunteers for the Union Army when the war broke out.

Read it all here.

‘Night Tremors,’ by Matt Coyle

There had to be something in me that liked it this way. Something crooked that I couldn’t make straight. Or didn’t want to.

The saga of Rick Cahill continues in Matt Coyle’s Night Tremors. Our haunted La Jolla hero is no longer managing a restaurant. He’s doing something more suitable to his talents – working for an old friend’s private investigation agency.

But that job mostly involves sneaking photos of adulterers, not a pursuit nourishing to the soul. So when a lawyer approaches him with a case involving undoing an old injustice, Rick takes a leave of absence. Eight years ago, Randall Eddington was convicted of the murder of his parents and sister. Ever since he has stoutly maintained his innocence. Now the lawyer has turned up a witness, a genial stoner who says he heard a motorcycle gang leader boast of committing the crime himself. He even said where he’d thrown the murder weapon. If that weapon can be located, it will be enough to get Randall a new trial. Rick’s job is to look for corroborating evidence, and to keep an eye on the witness’s safety.

Rick takes the case up with a sense of mission. This is what he’d become a cop to do, back when he was a cop. The motorcycle gang is a dangerous one, with even more dangerous connections in organized crime. And the corrupt La Jolla police department, now headed by his old nemesis, is particularly determined that one of their proudest solved cases should remain solved.

But this case is about more than that. Rick is a man who can’t be satisfied with easy answers. His compulsion to tie up every loose end will lead him where nobody wants him to go. And some people will go to any lengths to keep the secrets that remain covered up.

As was the case with Yesterday’s Echo, the first book in the series, the writing in Night Tremors is very good indeed. Rick Cahill is an intriguing character who draws your sympathy. The plotting is relentless.

My only real complaint here is the same as it was for that book – it’s really gloomy. I’m planning to continue with the next entry in the series, but I plead with the author – give us a little hope, please! If Rick’s luck doesn’t turn a little, I’ll have trouble comprehending why he just doesn’t commit suicide. And you’ll lose me as a reader.

‘Yesterday’s Echo,’ by Matt Coyle

I recognized the house from my infrequent trips up to the cross at the top of the Mount Soledad. Unassuming from the front, its backside hung off a cliff, splayed out like a giant glass-and-copper crab ready to pounce.

I think it was President Truman who said, “If you want a friend, get a dog.”

That might be the motto of Rick Cahill, hero of Matt Coyle’s hard-boiled California mystery series, of which Yesterday’s Echo is the first installment.

Rick’s life has been a series of betrayals. First when his policeman father, whom he worshiped, was thrown off the force for corruption. Then, after he himself became a cop, trying to restore the family honor, his wife was killed and he was blamed. He was never convicted, but he was fired, losing all his friends but one. That’s his old buddy Rusty, who runs a steakhouse and bar in La Jolla. Rick manages it now, and studiously keeps away from most relationships and anybody’s problems. He spends quality time with his black Labrador, Midnight, and that’s enough for now.

Until Melody Malana, a beautiful TV news reporter, walks into the bar and is accosted by a couple drunks. Rick steps in to protect her, and they begin a relationship – the first one Rick has really cared about since his wife died.

Then a couple of guys surprise him and beat him up, demanding to know where Melody is. And Melody is arrested for murder. Rick goes back into cop mode to try to clear her, but only manages to become the subject of an arrest warrant himself. The (corrupt) La Jolla police department is taking its orders from very high places, and Rick is working against the clock and very short of friends.

I mentioned narrative voice in hard-boiled fiction in a recent review. For me, that Philip Marlowe voice, slightly scratchy from cigarettes in one’s imagination, is almost a necessary element of hard-boiled. I’m sure good hard-boiled in the third person has been produced, but I like that imaginary voice-over. Rick Cahill has an excellent hard-boiled voice. I took to him from the start. The writing was crisp and evocative in the classic Chandler style.

My main reservation is that this book is very dark, and presents a world with very little hope in it. I enjoyed reading Yesterday’s Echo, but it left me sad.

Oddly enough, I didn’t notice much objectionable language. There were a couple misspelled words.

‘tHe Nightmare Feast,’ by Andrew Klavan

He was smiling in that friendly way friendly fascists smile in California. I guess the sunshine makes our fascists mellow.

Andrew Klavan continues his Another Kingdom fantasy series with The Nightmare Feast.

If you recall the plot of the previous book, Another Kingdom, Austin Lively is a pretty unremarkable Hollywood loser, working as a studio script reader. All that really distinguishes him is his dysfunctional background – neglectful academic parents who ignored him and his little sister but heaped attention on his golden boy older brother. Only recently has he learned the full extent of their betrayal – they are part of a world-wide conspiracy organized by a power-hungry multibillionaire, Serge Orosgo.

But Austin has chanced to get a look at a rare manuscript, a book called Another Kingdom, which Orosgo will go to any lengths to get his hands on. Austin’s brief reading of it somehow bestows on him the power to pass through portals into a medieval world called Galiana. In Galiana, Austin has become a knight and been sent on a quest to deliver a plea for aid to the distant Emperor. On the way he must fight monsters and magicians and sinister illusions (interrupted, of course, by unexpected forays back into our own world, generally just at the moment someone is trying to kill him). In our own world, after somehow eluding multiple assassination attempts, Austin comes face to face with Orosgo himself, and draws closer to locating his sister, who is in hiding with the manuscript.

Andrew Klavan is a past master at plotting an exciting story – readers of The Nightmare Feast will need to make time to catch their breath, because the author gives them none. Granted, as a fantasy snob who approves very few authors besides Tolkien, Howard, and myself, I found the fantasy elements just a little thin, though at least the horse gets a rubdown this time out. Anyway, stuff keeps happening so fast, who has time to nitpick details?

I got a kick out of The Nightmare Feast, and eagerly await the next volume. Not for younger kids.

Losing Liberty

When the taste for physical pleasures in such a nation grows more speedily than education or the habit of liberty, a time occurs when men are carried away and lose self-control at the sight of the new possessions they are ready to grasp.

Casey Chalk quotes Tocqueville above in an article on digital minimalism and how we can reclaim our attention and improve our country.

Americans engage in self-congratulatory, pseudo-civic activism on social media simply by clicking the “like” and “share” buttons or changing their profile picture—activities that amount to little. “Men travel faster now,” observes a character in Willa Cather’s Death Comes for the Archbishop, “but I do not know if they go to better things.”

‘The Good Son,’ by Dustin Stevens

This is the second book in a series of police procedurals by Dustin Stevens. The first was The Boat Man, which I reviewed here. Now comes The Good Son.

Reed Mattox is a detective on the Columbus, Ohio police force. He suffers from PTSD since the killing of his (female) partner. But he continues working the night shift, which allows him to operate mostly alone, except for his new K-9 partner, a Belgian Malinois named Billie.

During a stretch of blistering summer heat, EMTs are called to an old woman’s house. She’s dead when they get there, but what’s curious is that someone called 911 for her, though there’s no one in the house and no phone in the room where she died in bed. Soon there are other deaths – by different means, but always with a 911 call. Somebody is killing people but summoning help.

As Reed and Billie hunt for clues where none can be found, we also observe the unnamed murderer, whose back story is as pathetic as his motives are opaque. Reed will have to work with other cops (something he’s reluctant to do) and take some risks to catch the killer.

As a non-cop, I got the impression of a pretty high level of realism in this book. Sadly, that also tends to make the book less exciting than its competition – Reed spends a lot of time doing the mundane shoe leather work and paper work that real policing demands. However, the dramatic tension does rise steadily, and the payoff is fairly satisfying. There is a problem of homonym confusion — close-sounding words used in each others’ places. A copy editor would be helpful.

I’m not over the moon about The Good Son, but it wasn’t bad.

Fall of giants

Col. Hans C. Heg

Today’s big news in the Norwegian-American community is sadly something we might have seen coming. The Bolshevik mob in Madison, Wisconsin, in its zeal to judge people by the color of their skin, not the content of their character, has torn down, decapitated, and drowned (in Lake Monona) the memorial statue of Civil War officer and abolitionist Col. Hans Christian Heg.

Col. Heg was born in Lier, Buskerud, Norway in 1829. He came to America with his parents in 1840, spent time in the California gold fields, and then returned to Wisconsin.

A fervent opponent of slavery (like most Norwegian immigrants), he joined the Free Soil Party, and  the Republicans after that, becoming the Wisconsin state prison commissioner. He was the first Norwegian-American to be elected to state-wide office in that state. As an abolitionist, he joined the Wide-Awakes, an anti-slave-catcher militia. He sheltered fellow Wisconsin abolitionist Sherman Booth, who had incited a jail break to free an arrested escaped slave.

My friend Mari Anne Næsheim Hall, co-author of the book, Rogalendinger i den Amerikanske Borgerkrigen (Rogalanders in the American Civil War, ©2012), writes of Heg (who was not a Rogalander) (my translation):

Later in the fall several prominent Norwegian immigrants gathered in Madison, resolving then and there to organize a Scandinavian regiment to contribute to the civil war. They recommended to the governor that Hans Heg should be appointed colonel and regimental commander…. Hans Heg was a well-known figure in the immigrant community with many friends, and of course he made use of his influence. “The country which we immigrants have made our homeland has received us with friendship and hospitality. We have the same rights as those who were born here. Let us show ourselves deserving of this, and demonstrate that we are descended from the Norse heroes.” This was part of what he said in his speeches. Hans Heg came originally from Lier in Drammen, and a monument has been raised there in his honor. We find this same impressive monument outside the capitol in Madison. The monument in Lier is actually a copy of the original in Wisconsin.

Further on:

The regiment participated in no less that 27 major battles. Losses were great, and the 15th Wisconsin was one of the units in the northern army to lose the most soldiers. But it was not in battle that the regiment suffered most. Many more actually died of disease than from southern bullets. Officially the regiment lost 33% of its full strength, but a notation attached to the regimental banner in the historical museum in Madison says that the total loss was all of 38%. It states that fully 345 soldiers of the regiment died, either in battle, of illness, or due to accidents. Col. Hans Heg was one of the many who never returned to his Gunhild, his beloved wife. He was killed in the great battle of Chickamauga, together with many other soldiers of the regiment. No fewer than 49 soldiers of the 15th Wisconsin died in the famed Andersonville death camp in Georgia….”

Book Reviews, Creative Culture