Unlike Michener's massive historical fiction (above), Stewart's massive historical fiction--1850-1870--doesn't occasionally lapse into anachronisms. . . because there's nothing to lapse from. Virtually no attempt has been made to give this saga either authenticity of dialogue or narrative tone, and readability will depend on the reader's willingness to overlook this blatant sloppiness--and the blatant preposterousness of the shlock plot. Right off the bat you'll meet Philadelphia's Elizabeth Butterfield, who eagerly marries handsome, half-French med-student Lew Crandall despite her stick-on feminist attitudes. When Lew goes to Civil War in Washington and is reported killed in action (actually he's been murdered--almost--by a corrupt senator), Elizabeth takes off for Paris, where she sleeps with Maestro Liszt (she's always wanted to be ""America's Frau Schumann"") and then marries Lew's best friend, a sweet, ugly fellow who can't stay faithful because of his powerful yen for ""barely formed virgins."" Meanwhile, Lew has somehow survived that murder attempt and Andersonville Prison, has nobly decided not to reenter Elizabeth's life, and has instead become first a Mexican banditto (""That's me. El Juero, the blond gringo"") and then a railroad millionaire. Disguised by a beard, Lew and his new wife return to Washington to wreak revenge on that corrupt senator--with the help of an ex-slave newspaperman (whom we first meet down on the plantation in more Mandingo/Roots drippings: ""l love him! I love a black man! No, a black prince!""). And more, much much more. Stewart (The Mephisto Waltz) writes with undeniable energy and clarity, but his often laughable, always banal attempts to transplant contemporary trash--gobs of yucksome sex--to historical settings can perhaps best be summed up in such a line as: ""The French have raped Mexico. Why shouldn't I rape you?