Marty Ganzglass (Somalia 1966–68) publishes CANNONS FOR THE CAUSE with Peace Corps Writers

Marty writes:

Cannons for the Cause is a novel about the early days of the American Revolution. It is a gripping story of friendships formed, families divided, first loves, and of loyalty, courage and patriotism.

cannons-causeIn the brutal winter of 1775-1776, sixteen year old Will Stoner is one of many teamsters hauling heavy cannons more than 300 miles from Ft. Ticonderoga in upstate New York to Cambridge, Massachusetts. The train of wagons and sleds struggles across the partially frozen Hudson River and through a blizzard in the steep Berkshire mountains, to bring the desperately needed artillery to General Washington, preparing to attack the British in Boston.

Cannons for the Cause places Will in the midst of actual, but little known,  historical events — a race riot in Cambridge between the Marblehead Mariners, the first integrated unit of the Continental Army, and a militia of backwoods riflemen; and the stealthy night time occupation of Dorchester Heights.

With a solid sense of time and place, the tension mounts as the Continental troops on the Heights await the British assault, while the citizens of British occupied Boston continue to suffer terribly from hunger, cold, small pox, and the cruelty and greed of Loyalist militias.

Readers will enthusiastically respond to this exciting tale of the beginning of our Revolution and crave for more of Will’s adventures in the next novel, Tories and Patriots, when, in late summer of 1776, the British invade Long Island and pursue the defeated American troops across Manhattan Island and down through New Jersey toward Trenton.

Cannons for the Cause is the first in a series of novels I am writing about the American Revolution. The second, Tories and Patriots, is being edited and I am researching and working on the third, Blood Upon the Snow.

I am passionate about history and convinced that thoroughly researched, well-written historical fiction will attract readers who otherwise would not read straight history books.

The more research I did, the more I discovered little known incidents that make for a great tale. For example, almost everyone is familiar with Emmanuel Leutze’s famous painting of Washington crossing the Delaware to attack the Hessians at Trenton. There is an African American, in uniform, just below Washington’s right knee, pushing chunks of ice away from the boat. Who is he? What is his regiment? There is a story to be told here of such a soldier. In Cannons for the Cause, and the sequels, readers will learn about the Marblehead Mariners and their crucial role in saving the Army in 1776.

Many years ago, I read the Flashman series of novels by George MacDonald Fraser. The anti-hero Flashman, is present at the major battles and events throughout the British Empire. Fraser’s novels are solidly researched and historically accurate. He included End Notes to each of his novels. I was intrigued by this technique and have done the same in Cannons for the Cause, and its sequels, not only to indicate my sources, but to provide some context to the historical events described. I also quote extensively from letters, diaries, newspapers and broadsheets, to give the reader the flavor of the language of the time and to underscore that even our heroic icons were real people, unhappy at being separated from their wives for long periods of time, worried about their children’s health, and concerned about mundane issues of business and farming.

orange-treeMy Peace Corps service was somewhat unique in that, as one of the few Volunteer lawyers worldwide, (in 1966, there were only a handful of legal PCVs in India, Ethiopia and Nigeria), I ended up as legal advisor to the Somali National Police Force. But like all Volunteers, I was somaliaimmersed in a foreign culture and was fortunate to make lifelong friendships both with other Volunteers and Somalis. During my two years in Somalia, I too kept a diary and wrote detailed letters home. And like many, I kept up with my country of service upon returning to the States. I drew upon my Peace Corps experiences, diary and letters in writing my first published novel, The Orange Tree, followed by Somalia — Short Fiction, both published by Peace Corps Writers.

Writing historical fiction presents different challenges. The obvious one is the need to get the facts right. This can only be accomplished by thorough research. But in a way, writing about the American Colonies in 1775, its people, customs, religious practices and getting the language down, is very similar to capturing the atmosphere and the people of Somalia. In both cases, one needs to be a perceptive and sensitive observer of human nature, as well as the natural world, and to fill in the details with authentic facts to create an entire tapestry of the time and place being described.

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