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The Boys of Blue and Gray by Chris James


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I faced this story, contributed by Chris James, with trepidation. The Civil War in the United States was a period of unbearable tragedy that thinking about even now brings me sadness. The incredible and needless loss of life of men and boys on both sides was so sad that I try to avoid reading about it even now.

I did, however, without pre-reading it, post The Boys of Blue and Gray as a completed novel at AwesomeDude. Reading Chapter One from the site on Saturday morning seemed to confirm my worst fears but I kept reading - ready at any moment to bail if it became overwhelming.

After finishing the story which -thanks to Chris's agreement to forego the usual serial treatment- can be done at one or two long sittings, I am so glad I stuck with it and now recognize it as one of the best stories Chris has written.

I hope you agree and I thank Chris for sharing it with us at AwesomeDude.


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It's beautifully crafted. As a Brit it's difficult, maybe inappropriate even, to try to identify with what the Civil War means to Americans... but we have some parallels... the sixteen year old shot at dawn for cowardice in WW1, the bomber crews in WW2 the majority of whom were teenagers. I think we underestimate the innocent attraction war has for youngsters, the courage they are capable of and the damage that the reality of war can do to the unformed mind. Chris evokes all three beautifully. Like others... I just hope I have the grit to finish it. Well done.

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Knowing the quality of Chris' writing, I did not hesitate to read this one, even though the Civil War is not a topic of major interest to me. Actually, I read a lot of historical novels when I was much younger, and remember John Jake's serializations quite well. As with Jake's novels, Chris researched his material well and interjected real characters to anchor the story solidly. BTW, this isn't just a Civil War story - if anything it reminds me more of Dances with Wolves. The Civil War serves as a backdrop for an epic adventure that takes the reader from coast to coast. I'm not going to say anything more than that for now. If I've peaked your curiosity, then read Blue and Gray. You won't be disappointed.

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  • 3 years later...

Step aside Jeff Shaara, Michael Shaara and Shelby Foote. There's a new American Civil War author in town!


This story is a phenomenal accomplishment that puts the humanity back into the heroic tales of the second half of America's nineteenth century. From rural life to civil war to wagon trains to the undying call of "Go west, young man, go west!" Chris gives us a taste of just what real life was like.

His characters are a tremendous collage of real people. The struggles they each must face give a beautiful view into what life was like at the time and the challenges and opportunities that people had to endure. It gives a human face to the costs and rewards that were a part of the process.

It's obvious that this was no slap-dash writing exercise. Chris has done his homework and researched things as they were. Yes, I even looked up who was the mayor of Sacramento. Chris nailed it! And I'm not sure if it's the same place, but my high school senior ball was in the Sir Francis Drake Hotel off Union Square. And I read the last chapter with Mozart's Adagio for Violin playing in the background.

This is truly fictional history at its best. Thank you ever so much for it!

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ChrisR, my thanks to you for pulling this story back into the present discussion. I did a lot of research reading before beginning to write and the notes I took were extensive. In some ways it makes me wonder why the story was only twelve chapters long, it could have been triple that. But condensing my thoughts allowed the pace of the story to move right along and I considered that more important.

The research built the fictional characters while revealing the activities of the real life people added the credibility I wanted. The politicians and artists of that time period were huge characters and their lives filled with moments worth repeating. Any biographical material I read could have been embellished to give them an importance undeserved but I chose to use it when it came up in the research. So who knows if what I presented is the absolute truth, but I did try to use more than one source.

I gave the links to several of my research sources at the end of the final chapter, and if you have the time those sites will open up a whole world of personal diaries and accounts of westward travel in the 1800's. My last trip from east to west coast took most of a week, but then I was in no hurry. Just imagine the weeks and months of travel time by wagon and how hard the work. You have to respect the pioneer families, and just reading their diaries made me realize a lot of them had no idea how hard it was going to be.

But I loved the characters in this story, all of them, and I think they stand out to give you their best. In truth, I have been searching for another vehicle like this story to write something grand once again. It won't be the Civil War, but there are so many American moments to wrap around a good group of characters. One day....

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