Veteran Gorman gathers original stories from established genre writers: 18 tales about spies, saboteurs, assassins, frauds, blockade runners, and varied sordid types during the Civil War.
Gorman (Save the Last Dance for Me, p. tktk, etc.) notes in his introduction that although the surviving stories of historical Civil War espionage and covert operations make great reading, they leave enough unanswered questions to inspire fictional exploration. While most of the pieces here use factual locations (Marie Jakober, in “Slither,” takes a grim look inside Richmond’s notorious Libby Prison), personalities (Alan Pinkerton, founder of the detective agency and historical Union spymaster, appears in Ray Vukevich’s “The Swan” and in Robert Randisi’s “The Knights of Liberty”), and events (Sherman’s horrifying march of destruction haunts the burned-out Confederate cavalry in John Lutz’s “Hobson’s Choice”), most of the stories use the war and its aftermath (“The Dead Line,” Kristine Kathyrn Rusch’s bitter revenger, reaches its climax on a British cruise ship in 1911) to highlight familiar conflicts of loyalty and identity in the face of brutal, unconscionable violence. The blasted road to Atlanta could be set in Viet Nam as a wounded Union recruit witnesses evil in the senseless brutality inflicted on Confederate refugees by a squad of Union vigilantes in Loren Estleman’s brief but powerful “South Georgia Crossing.” Just when it seems that every yarn is another variation of war as hell, Edward Hoch (in “The Counterfeit Copperhead”) tells of a confidence man playing both sides against each other, and Bill Crider (in “Belle Boyd, Rebel Spy”) transforms a historic secret agent into a Hollywood action heroine.
Entertaining if repetitive fictional homage to a momentous period—and a diverting curio for Civil War buffs, as well as mystery and western fans.