As the nation marks the end of the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, Richmond is a major focal point. The surrender of the Confederate capital on April 3, 1865, hastened the Confederacy’s end and the Union’s victory.
In “A Young General and the Fall of Richmond: The Life and Career of Godfrey Weitzel” (368 pages, Ohio University Press, $67.50 hardcover, $28.95 paperback), G. William Quatman tells the story of how Weitzel marched his troops into Richmond and helped precipitate the collapse of the Southern rebellion.
A German immigrant who lived in Cincinnati, Weitzel graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He was assigned to the Army Corps of Engineers in New Orleans and saw action there after Louisiana’s secession. He eventually rose to brigadier general and became commander of the Twenty-Fifth Corps, the Union army’s only all-black unit.
Quatman, a direct descendant of Weitzel, is an architect and attorney in Kansas City, Mo., and the author of several books and articles on the legal aspects of design and construction. “A Young General and the Fall of Richmond” is his first historical biography.
Cross-genre fertilization in fiction can be a tricky business, particularly when the hybrid blends a war story with a mystery.
But John Renehan brings it off in “The Valley” (448 pages, Dutton, $26.95), set in the mountains of Afghanistan, to which a lieutenant is ordered from his desk job to probe a warning shot fired by a platoon.
Renehan, who served in the Army’s Third Infantry Division as a field artillery officer in Iraq, previously worked as an attorney in New York City and now lives in Virginia with his family. “The Valley” is his debut novel.
Gray Basnight, a longtime resident of New York, prizes his roots as a native of Richmond and puts them to use in “Shadows in the Fire” (363 pages, FiveStar, $25.95).
Basnight’s novel tells the story of Miss Francine, a 12-year-old slave who lives in Richmond during the Civil War. During the course of the story, she becomes an adult and an American citizen.
Basnight, a great-grandson of a member of the Confederate secessionist movement, dedicates his novel to his belief “that an American Slave Memorial rightfully belongs on Richmond’s Monument Avenue in remembrance, honor, and apology.”
From Pocahontas through Maureen McDonnell, women have played major roles in Virginia’s history.
And that’s a perfect topic for Cynthia A. Kierner, a professor of history at George Mason University, and Sandra Gioia Treadway, director of the Library of Virginia, the editors of “Virginia Women: Their Lives and Times — Volume 1” (392 pages, University of Georgia Press, $89.95 hardcover, $34.95 paperback).
A collection of 17 essays written by scholars, “Virginia Women” moves from the 17th century through the Civil War era and includes such notables as Dolley Madison, Harriet Hemings and Elizabeth Van Lew. A second volume is in the works.
When Claudia Emerson died last year, Virginia lost one of its leading literary lights.
A former poet laureate of Virginia and a professor and member of the creative-writing faculty at Virginia Commonwealth University, she won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 2006 for “Late Wife.”
What might be her last collection, “The Opposite House” (72 pages, Louisiana State University Press, $39.95 hardcover, $17.95 paperback), deals with issues of death and grief — including the searing “Virginia Christian” about the first and only woman executed by electrocution in the commonwealth — as well as memory and time.
If life resembles a roller coaster of events and emotions, one can escape for a few thrilling moments on a real coaster. And that’s what Scott N. Rutherford does in“Kings Dominion” (95 pages, Arcadia, $22.99), published in conjunction with the theme park’s 40th anniversary.
A collection of 160 color photos and informative captions that trace the park’s history from its inception, Rutherford’s book is sure to evoke memories — and maybe inspire a trip to the park.
Rutherford is a writer, photographer and historian who specializes in amusement and theme parks. He’s also a charter member of American Coaster Enthusiasts.
Hollins University will pay tribute to one of its best-known graduates by establishing an annual literary award in her name.
The first Margaret Wise Brown Prize in Children’s Literature will be presented next year and will recognize the author of the best text for a picture book published in 2015. Brown graduated from Hollins in 1932. Among her books are the classics “Goodnight Moon” and “The Runaway Bunny.” She died in 1952.
For details about the prize, go to www.hollins.edu/mwb.
- Jay Strafford of Richmond.com