Those who dare to try something new often fail. Not Fischer (History/Brandeis). This biography of Paul Revere is a welcome detour from the path of his five-volume cultural history that began with Albion's Seed (not reviewed), and it successfully overcomes the risk of perceived triteness. After all, all schoolchildren think they know the story of Paul Revere's midnight ride in 1775. How could any scholar take such child's play seriously for more than 400 pages? Fischer takes it seriously because he wants future generations to separate the fact from the fiction that has come to surround the ride. ``The story has been told so many different ways,'' Fischer says, ``that when Americans repeat it to their children, they are not certain which parts of the tale are true, or if any part of it actually happened.'' It did happen. It happened because Revere was at the center of events during the American Revolution. Fischer's research places Revere as a member of five of the seven Boston-area groups instrumental in planning a revolution. Not even the better- known Samuel Adams, John Adams, and John Hancock could claim membership in as many groups. To spur his story along, Fischer focuses on British General Thomas Gage as a narrative foil to Revere. The result: history made personal and understandable. The writing is lively, the research (as documented in appendixes, bibliography, and endnotes) thorough. Best of all, the thinking is fresh and clear. Fischer has avoided the traps he warned against nearly 25 years ago in his volume Historians' Fallacies (1970).
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