Books by Richard Slotkin

Richard Slotkin is the Olin Professor and the former director of American studies at Wesleyan University. His previous books include Abe: A Novel of the Young Lincoln, National Book Award finalist Gunfighter Nation, and Regeneration Through Violence, also

GREENHORNS by Richard Slotkin
Released: Oct. 10, 2018

"Painful, riveting, personal, and powerfully universal."
Historian and novelist Slotkin (The Long Road to Antietam, 2012, etc.) writes more personally in these linked semifictional stories based on his ancestors' immigration from Eastern Europe early in the 20th century. Read full book review >
Released: July 16, 2012

"If this seems much more a book about General McClellan, there's good reason. The author deftly exposes his egocentric, messianic tendencies as he purposely prolonged the beginning of the conflict."
Slotkin (No Quarter: The Battle of the Crater, 1864, 2009, etc.) painstakingly enumerates the instances of Gen. George McClellan's wavering, delaying and outright disobedience of orders. Read full book review >
Released: July 28, 2009

"In a market glutted with Civil War books, Slotkin delivers a fresh, well-told tale."
The offbeat history of a truly explosive Civil War battle. Read full book review >
Released: Dec. 4, 2005

"Solid work, as is Slotkin's custom, and of much interest to students of American history and ethnicity."
Heroes today, gone tomorrow: Revisionist historian/novelist Slotkin (Gunfighter Nation, 1992, etc.) once more limns the national character by probing history that the nation has overlooked, in this instance the forgotten soldiers of WWI. Read full book review >
ABE by Richard Slotkin
Released: Feb. 8, 2000

Historian (Gunfighter Nation, 1992, etc.) and novelist Slotkin (The Return of Henry Starr, 1988; The Crater, 1980) offers an impressively detailed re-creation of the early years of our myth-enshrouded 16th president. In a leisurely narrative that spans the years 1810'32, Slotkin portrays the ungainly Abe as both the muscular "rail-splitter" of popular legend and a conscientious autodidact who patiently endures his unhappy father's exploitation of his physical strength, while slowly absorbing learning but without formal schooling ("At fourteen the boy could read and write as well as a growed man needed to, and his ciphering not far behind"). We observe the Lincoln family's hopeful moves from Kentucky to Illinois to Indiana, and a colorful succession of experiences that challenge Abe's courage and wit, as well as steadily shape his character: the death of his beloved "Mam" from the virulent "Milk-sick" epidemic; a vivid account of the hunt for "a wounded hungry mean smart angry bear"; misadventures in the "Gin Sang" (i.e., ginseng) trade; a revealing acquaintance with socialist Robert Owen's experiment in communal living at "New Harmony," Indiana; and'in the long sequence that's the real heart of the novel'a journey by flatboat down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers to New Orleans, featuring encounters with bibulous Shakespearean actor Junius Brutus Booth, slaveholding vigilante "Regulators," and numerous defenders and enemies of the institution of slavery itself: the moral quandary that, we infer, will raise its head again as Abe begins his career in local politics, earning fame as a debater and beginning to take an interest in lively young "Annie" Rutledge . . . at which point the story (perhaps to be followed by a sequel?) ends. Slotkin does stack the deck rather obtrusively, contriving one scene after another that emphasizes the dawning of the idea of full equality for all men in Abe's churning mind. That objection aside, this is an absorbing, highly satisfying historical fiction: an appropriate culmination of Slotkin's obviously herculean researches, and his best yet. Read full book review >
Released: Dec. 2, 1992

Concluding a trilogy that began with Regeneration Through Violence (1973) and The Fatal Environment (1985), Slotkin (English/Wesleyan Univ.) now offers a subtle and wide-ranging examination how America's fascination with the frontier has affected its culture and politics in this century. As used by Slotkin, ``myth'' means not a falsehood but a story derived from history that expresses a people's ideology. Beginning with Frederick Jackson Turner's landmark 1893 address on the closing of the frontier, Slotkin relates how Americans have used the unusually resonant myth of the West to explain ongoing issues of the present. Two works that helped establish the myth were Theodore Roosevelt's history The Winning of the West and Owen Wister's novel The Virginian, which pictured an Anglo-Saxon managerial elite toughened by exposure to remorseless ``savage wars'' against enemies, red-skinned and otherwise. Slotkin skillfully traces how the myth was used against the upstart labor movement, anti-imperialists, immigrants, and blacks. Although such media or genres as Buffalo Bill's Wild West show, the dime-stock novel, and the formula fiction of Dashiell Hammett, Zane Grey, and Edgar Rice Burroughs are explored here, much of the book is given over to a searching analysis of crucial western films like Stagecoach, Shane, The Searchers, Vera Cruz, and The Wild Bunch. Allowing for Slotkin's occasional lapses into academese, overemphasis of the western's influence (e.g., the WW II combat film is interpreted in light of ``the savage war,'' as if wars by their nature weren't), and oddly perfunctory nod to recent works such as Lonesome Dove and Dances With Wolves, the reader will get a provocative summary of how Americans from JFK on the left to Ronald Reagan on the right have exploited the power of the myth of the West. Intellectual history at its most stimulating—teeming with insights into American violence, politics, class, and race. Read full book review >