McKendree R. Long,
No Good Like It Is
(independent, 2010)

Second Lt. Dobey Walls, an 1858 West Point graduate, is a young Confederate officer during the Civil War. Dobey's first assignment leads him to Fort Gibson in the Indian Territories, where he meets his sidekick, Cpl. Jimmy Melton. Lt. Walls is surrounded by the type of folks you would expect from this time period -- those gentlemen who seem to lack any sort of morals. You had to put yourself first, and if you took advantage of others, that is just what you had to do. Somehow, Dobey remains above all this. He hasn't yet become jaded against the world. During the course of the novel, he becomes a little more human and a little less holier-than-thou.

Melton has been around. He is a grizzled veteran who probably should have died many times over. Surrounded by men who aren't worth a lick of salt, the corporal finally finds a young officer who has the makings of a fine leader. Besides, you just can't have your war story unless you have your crusty, old, more experienced than he has a right to be non-com officer. The barely of age hero has to learn from someone, right? Of the two main characters, Melton is the more believable in my opinion. But the lieutenant is more likeable.

In the first part of this book, these two men join the Eighth Texas Cavalry, also known as Terry's Texas Rangers. As expected, there are many adventures. The one I will highlight is the Confederate attack on Fort Pillow, Tennessee, in April 1864 -- a true event. The fort was defended by several hundred former slaves alongside white Union soldiers. When the South overran the fort, most of the Confederate soldiers took their anger out by slaughtering instead of capturing the enemy. No Good Like It Is does an excellent job portraying how the Rangers were just about the only point of sanity in the chaos of this battle of retribution.

In the second part of the novel, Dobey, who hasn't seen his family since 1854, heads back to Texas to find them. Melton joins him on this trek across the war-ravaged South. Along the way, they run in to a mess of characters. It is during this part of the book that the reader finds out that the Confederates weren't the only bastion of low-lifes. The Union had plenty of evildoers as well. Of course, this provides plenty of entertaining reading as Dobey races to Canadian Fort in the Texas Panhandle to find out what happened to his family. Have they survived the last decade during his absence? You will have to pick up the book to find out.

Becoming an author appears to be McKendree R. Long III's third career, according to his bio. His first was in the Army, where he was a decorated paratrooper who served two tours in Vietnam. McKendree's second career spanned three decades as he worked as an investment adviser for a large financial firm. He is married with two grown children and resides in South Carolina -- perhaps that is fitting since the Civil War started there.

At the end of No Good Like It Is, the author explains in his acknowledgements which characters and locations were based on true people and events and which parts of the story were pure fiction. For me, this is the type of historical novel that I enjoy -- enough truth to maintain authenticity, enough artistic license to keep the story moving when necessary. I was also happy to find out that there will be a sequel called Dog Soldier Moon. My war novels of choice are generally focused around World War II, but I can honestly say that I was engaged by this Civil War and post-era drama. If you like the Old West, I imagine you would find it a worthy read as well.

[ visit the author's website ]

book review by
Wil Owen

5 October 2013

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