THE GENERAL by Stephen Longstreet


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When four-star general Simon Bolivar Copperwood wakes up on his sixty-eighth birthday, he knocks back his morning three-ounce tumbler of bourbon, breakfasts on steak, eggs and grits, smokes a big Havana, and drives off in his chauffeured and polished Bentley to the White House for birthday greetings from the president. Will his present be promotion to the five-star Chief of Staff slot, or a kiss-off medal and dreaded retirement? During the ride, he reviews his entire career while sipping Jack Daniels from his leatherbound flask. General Copperwood is the familiar brass-balled military hardhead, and his ironic demise and doublecross by an aide strike reminiscent notes. Longstreet, however, seldom slows down for a big mood scene like Papa's duck shoot. Indeed, he covers a lot of battlefields and peacetime affairs, including Copperwood's cuckolding by his first wife Ada, an illegitimate child with a Chinese girl, his second wife's tragic death, his third wife's troubles with reality and suicide by drowning. The general fights and makes judgments about all our wars since 1918, putting in trips to three U.S. presidents to straighten them out on how the big strategies are failing. Longstreet writes with his usual approval of his ""genius"" megalomaniac, but there's a rat-a-tat glibness to the storytelling that gives off a cabbagy odor of potboiler.

Pub Date: Nov. 11th, 1974
Publisher: Putnam