Saturday, November 8, 2014

Jamie Malanowski's "Commander Will Cushing"

Jamie Malanowski has written for The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, and the New York Times. His books include And the War Came, about America’s six-month-long descent into war after Lincoln’s election, and the newly released Commander Will Cushing: Daredevil Hero of the Civil War.

Malanowski applied the “Page 99 Test” to Commander Will Cushing and reported the following:
In one of those thought-proving epigrammatic statements famous writers are forever uttering, Norman Mailer once said that he spent his days moving people in and out of rooms (alas, I cannot find his exact wording.) Whatever Mailer actually meant, I took him to mean that what happens in rooms--or spaces--was the real meat of the book, and kind of easy to write, but to explain who the people were who were going there, and why they were going and what they expected, and to do so simply and economically, all that was essential to the success of the book, and all took some work, and real craft. On page 100 of my book, a newly-promoted Lieutenant Cushing first exhibits the courage and quick-thinking in combat that became the hallmark of the many adventures that were to follow. With the ship he was serving on stuck on the banks of a narrow river and under attack from a large force of confederate soldiers, Cushing, in complete disregard for his own safety, unpacked a field gun that was roped in with a bunch of supplies, and fired on the rebels, scattering them. This became the first time his courage was highlighted in an official report, and in a larger way, demonstrated his maturation as an officer and a leader. Page 99 is devoted to getting people into the room--explaining why the ship was in the water, getting it stuck on the riverbank, launching the rebel attack. Is it representative of the book as a whole? You be the judge, but I wouldn't change a word.
Learn more about the book and author at Jamie Malanowski's blog.

Writers Read: Jamie Malanowski.

My Book, The Movie: Commander Will Cushing.

--Marshal Zeringue