Patti asked Bernie MacKinnon:

Your historical novel Lucifer's Drum centers on the civil war and is so rich in detail. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. In all the research you did to prepare this book, what key surprises did you find?

Bernie MacKinnon Thanks Patti--The single biggest surprise concerned received wisdom--in intelligence, in official projections--and how resistant it is to facts. In the case of Jubal Early's Raid, on which the novel is based, the U.S. War Department under Edwin Stanton remained smugly obdurate until the 11th hour, when Early's considerable Confederate force was barreling toward Washington. Only then did it spring clumsily into action. It made me think of President Kennedy in the wake of the Bay of Pigs debacle, when he lamented his reliance on "experts"--"How could I have been so stupid?" But it also made me think of the Cuban Missile Crisis a year and a half later, when Kennedy's battle-scarred antennae told him to circumvent the experts and trust his own instincts, which helped lead us away from nuclear catastrophe. Received wisdom is very hard to overcome, but a certain hard-won insight can get the job done. Another (related) surprise: how a historical event that seemed random at the time can seem almost divinely scripted in retrospect.

About Goodreads Q&A

Ask and answer questions about books!

You can pose questions to the Goodreads community with Reader Q&A, or ask your favorite author a question with Ask the Author.

See Featured Authors Answering Questions

Learn more