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Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Hornet's Nest: A Novel of the Revolutionary War by Jimmy Carter

Regardless of your views on Jimmy Carter the politician, he is also Jimmy Carter the author. A good reviewer should separate his opinions, be they pro or con, about the politician from a politician's works of fiction. I will endeavor to do so here.

Carter's interest in his native state of Georgia has led him to write, The Hornet's Nest: A Novel of the Revolutionary War, a historical novel about the Revolutionary War in Georgia, the Carolinas and Florida. Admittedly, this is an area that is often ignored in favor of Boston, Valley Forge and Philadelphia so there is room for quality fiction in this area.

The problem with Carter's work is not a lack of attention to historical detail - it is too much attention to historical detail to the detriment of an actual story about fictional characters. Carter's storyline shifts from being a piece of historical fiction to being a rather dry local history throughout the work.

Carter's passion for historical detail often drowns out the narrative. The reader is treated to dry facts about the intricacies of the British command in Florida ad nauseum. We are repeatedly told some of the some details over and over again - sometimes multiple times on the same page!

Jimmy Carter
What makes it worse is Carter's insistence on using the labels 'Tories' and 'Whigs', rather than the more common 'Patriots' and 'Loyalists'. True enough that most Loyalists were of one party and most Patriots were of the other, but it is often inaccurate as well. It would be akin to a Civil War writer labeling the Confederates 'Democrats' and the Northerners 'Republicans.'

At least once, Carter makes a major historical mistake. He states that Britain's African slave trade policy was very different than the America's policy during the Revolutionary War. Officially, Britain did not adopt a different stance until 1807, the year before America's Constitution outlawed the importation of new slaves.

Carter is an experienced author of non-fiction works, with at least a dozen works to his credit. He can be an interesting public speaker, especially when discussing history. If I had been his publisher, I would have recommended to Carter that he team up with a veteran fiction writer (like fellow Georgia politician Newt Gingrich has with his Civil War books). Carter could have directed the story while the other author could have smoothed out the rough spots and made it flow. As it is, however, I can only recommend this book to the most hardcore enthusiasts of the Revolutionary War and/or the history of Georgia.

To be honest, I would not have finished it if it were not for the fact that I borrowed it from a relative who spoke highly of it. Read the Shaara Revolutionary War novels instead.

I rate this book 2 stars out of 5.

This book can be found on Amazon.com here: The Hornet's Nest: A Novel of the Revolutionary War

Reviewed on February 23, 2006.

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