He became a legend at the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812. Before that he was a fiercely passionate senator who could barely finish a speech without becoming choked with rage. He was one of our greatest generals, and wholly ignorant of the art of war. He was called coarse and illiterate. A slave owner, land speculator, and Indian fighter, he stole another man's wife, murdered men in duels, and ordered military executions. But Andrew Jackson--or Old Hickory as his soldiers dubbed him--was an impassioned supporter of universal suffrage, an ardent believer in the will of the people, and the seventh president of the United States.
In Jackson, Max Byrd has recreated the life and times of this powerful, controversial, and contradictory man told from a variety of viewpoints, including an unfinished and uncomplimentary biography of the General, a remembrance by his closest personal aide and confidant, and the research of a young writer named David Chase. Chase knows very well that his biography could ruin Jackson's chances in the upcoming presidential election. Still, he is determined to write the first unbiased account of the General's life. Was Jackson really a charismatic demagogue, a crude backwoods barbarian, a representative of the decline of American democracy? Or was there something more behind the public image of war hero, campaign buttons, and emotionally-charged rhetoric? What is revealed is a man even more contradictory than the rumors told about him. Here is a Jackson both savagely honest and politically cunning, a self-made man who always longed to belong, an orphaned boy who grew up with an untamed fury for respect and honor, a man as tough as the Tennessee wilderness from which he came.
With sharply drawn vignettes of such notable figures as John Quincy Adams, Aaron Burr, Thomas Jefferson, Sam Houston, and others, Jackson is an unforgettable portrait of an America in transition and a man as dangerous as democracy itself.
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Max Byrd is the acclaimed author of Jefferson, Jackson, Grant, Shooting the Sun, and many other novels. An authority on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century American history, Byrd lives in Davis, California.From Kirkus Reviews:
In some ways a sequel to his well-researched Jefferson (1993), Byrd's latest is a superior novel to that earlier effort--lusty and lively in its view of the American political scene, circa 1828, yet also keenly aware of the underlying issues gripping the nation as it expanded westward. As Andrew Jackson squares off against incumbent President John Quincy Adams, having won the popular vote but lost the electoral vote in 1824, the split between eastern elitism and western democracy seems more pronounced than ever. David Chase, a young expatriate writer, has been lured from Paris to Boston with a tempting commission to do an ``honest'' biography of Jackson, although the anti-Jackson sentiments of his patron are no secret. Chase visits Washington to seek sources for his book and to meet Hogwood, his predecessor, whose infirmity has cost him the project Chase now pursues. Sucked into the whirl of life in the capital, befriended by the president's dissolute son Charles, smitten with Hogwood's lovely daughter Emma, Chase can't seem to put pen to paper before his patron comes to town and puts him on the stage to Nashville: Jackson country. There, he meets Old Hickory, whose right-hand man allows him to become part of Jackson's entourage, until a long-kept secret about certain youthful, adulterous indiscretions by the candidate's wife threatens to come to the surface. Since the indiscretions involve the brother of Chase's patron, the writer instantly becomes persona non grata; but, left to his own devices, he tracks down the letters that will undo Jackson--and then has to make the painful decision about whether to use them. Jackson proves less a figure than a figurehead here, while fictional characters are given the run of the story, which may disappoint historical purists. But the zeitgeist is embodied to perfection, and the result is a truly, and substantially, entertaining tale. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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