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Conspiracy and Revenge After the American Civil War - an Editorial Review of "Northern Shadows"

Author Bio:

Daniel is the award-winning author of The End Time Saga and the historical fiction Northern Wolf Series. Whether it’s a saber charge in the American Civil War or a gun battle between two rival bands surviving a hellish landscape, he is known for his ability to embed every page with fast-paced action, thrilling suspense, and gritty realism.

He is an avid traveler and physical fitness enthusiast with a deep passion for history. The works of George R.R. Martin, Steven Pressfield, Bernard Cornwell, Robert Jordan, and George Romero, have inspired his work. Although he is a Midwesterner for life, he's lived in Virginia long enough to consider it home.

He is a proud member of the Horror Writers Association, the Historical Novel Society, and the Military Writers Society of America.

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Editorial Review:

Without a doubt there were legions of devout and loyal fans, not to say fanatically devout and loyal fans, of Daniel Greene waiting eagerly for the final instalment of the epic adventures of the destitute German immigrant Johannes Wolf in the 'Northern Wolf' series and the charting of his perilous progress with the 13th Michigan Cavalry, in the service of which he has endured the worst of what the bloody conflict of the American Civil War can throw at him. Keen followers will have already absorbed the excitingly related details of his wartime career in the previous volumes of the series and their patience is thus rewarded with the appearance of this latest book, 'Northern Shadows, with Johannes Wolf in the tumultuous year of 1865 and just prior to the surrender of the army of the dignified, splendidly attired and beautifully turned out General Robert E. Lee to the slovenly and unkempt Ulysses Grant, dressed in the tunic of a private soldier at Appomattox Court House. Naturally, there are many in the Southern States of the Confederacy who, for their own set of reasons, wish to continue the terrible and by now one sided struggle and Johannes Wolf is plucked afresh from the conflict with a few chosen men selected from his exhausted command for their special skills and talents and given a new, dangerous and desperate task to perform in the New Peace.

Daniel Greene's undeniable skills at telling an adventurous story, an adventure driven by a well designed narrative and his trademark flair for historical accuracy and an eye for period detail will of course be well known to those who have made the journey with his hero in all the previous books of the series and it will come as no surprise to them to find these skills as sharp and as well honed as ever. Equally, there is a treat in store for the new arrival.

Shortly after observing the formal surrender at Appomattox and his own ill judged outburst there, Wolf is taken up and recruited by an old acquaintance, the Irishman Hogan of the shadowy 'Bureau of Military Information'. Wolf learns of a plot to assassinate Abraham Lincoln,  leader of the victorious Union of the Northern States, and that the main force behind this is the suitably sinister secret Society of 'The Knights of the Golden Circle'. Their mission is to restore 'the Golden Age of American justice and freedom'. Early on we are provided with a definition of its core aims by a devout adherent: 

''Our intention is pure and our cause virtuous. This is not a war only for the Confederacy but for the Empire of the South. The greatest slave Empire. The Golden Circle ordained by God, and we are the Knighthood that protects it.''

This secret Society, based in fact like much of Greene's narrative, with its elaborate hierarchies and secret hand signals indicating status, is far reaching and influential and with a very ambitious agenda, involving as it does the annexation of vast tracts of land in Mexico and beyond and the perpetuation of a slave Empire. It has many influential and wealthy supporters who are organised into separate cells or 'castles' and it is to the 'castle' of Washington, where Hogan takes Wolf and his small group of trusted men to chase conspirators. It is here that he learns of the involvement of his arch enemy and nemesis, Major Marshall Payne, a high ranking 'Knight' and leader of 'the Red Shirts'. Devoted readers of the Northern Wolf series will already be well aware of the doings of the truly evil Marshall Payne and the depths of bitter hatred that existed between he and Wolf.. There follows a tense and fraught time in Washington shadowing Lincoln and policing the highly vulnerable White House and attempting to track down the elusive and shadowy John Wilkes Booth and his associates. In the event, as everyone knows, all of Wolf's efforts, all those of Hogan and the 'Bureau of Military Information' to keep Lincoln safe, are to no avail. Having committed the dastardly act, Booth leaps onto the stage of the Ford Theatre with the cry of 'Sic Semper Tyrannus' ['thus always to tyrants'] and, with a broken leg, escapes into the Washington night. Wolf,  distracted and bedazzled by a beautiful temptress female accomplice to the plot, with one of his comrades dead, one other near to death, Hogan missing and his mission and his duties in tatters, grimly assembles the remainder of his men with a view to tracking down and destroying the Conspiracy, and wreaking his revenge on the evil Marshall Payne, who is assuredly deeply involved in the plot.

At this point in the review and at this point in the book it is perhaps the appropriate time to pause and point out that this book is not an outstanding work of world literature that will stun the reader with its lyrical beauty. But that, surely, is quite beside the point. The writer [as with all his other books] did not set out to seize the literary world by storm! He set out to write a captivating and exciting adventure focussing upon a central character to whom his wide readership is well accustomed and within whom they have invested heavily and in this he succeeds admirably. No fan of his books could possibly be disappointed by this, his latest offering. The book is fast paced and tells an exciting story and fulfils the requirements of a genuine 'page turner'. There are no disappointments to be found here in that respect. It is altogether admirable that Daniel Greene knows his readership so very well and is so ready and able to provide them with the object of their desires. And so, the exciting tale approaches its climax. Johannes Wolf is not a man especially given over to moments of introspection and reflection, but there, as he faces his nemesis and arch enemy, he pauses to reflect; on war in general and on this especially bloody Civil War between the States in particular:

''Regardless of which side comes to raise the white flag, anything worth fighting for would be lost, and the people of America may as well lay the general shroud atop their nation's coffin and bury the ideas of democracy and freedom deep within its hallowed and sovereign ground. Everything the patriots had fought to create over ninety years past would be for naught. For it was no outside power that destroyed the American people, only the American people themselves who could not lay their differences to rest. And in doing so, they snuffed out the idea of freedom for all men.'''

And so, at the last and after all his terrible experiences and travails, we find the retired Cavalry Captain Johannes Wolf at home in Grand Rapids Michigan amongst his family and friends and wartime comrades and contemplating his uncertain future. The notes to the book, both factual and anecdotal, that Daniel Greene provides at the end do much to add flesh, blood and sinew to the narrative of this fine adventure story and will act as a useful platform for further study on the part of the interested reader and student of the period. His readership should be grateful for these. As the reader concludes the last of this 'Northern Wolf' series, he or she cannot help but suspect that this is by no means the last that will be heard of Captain Johannes Wolf, late of F Company, 13th Michigan Cavalry.


“Northern Shadows” by Daniel Greene receives 4.5 stars from The Historical Fiction Company

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