At least that was true until I read Michael Shaara's "Killer Angels." Now I'm a goner. I have bought five more books on the Civil War including McPherson's "Battle Cry of Freedom," a huge tome that promises to fill me in on the whole historical context, time, place, politics, all of it. All this happened because I was interested in a single book. This is Michael Shaara's fault.
It is of no consequence that the prospective reader may not have the slightest interest in war, the Civil War in particular, guns, Gettysburg, generals, muskets, artillery, smoke, fire, or death. All the reader need be interested in is a good book that is a pleasure, an enlightening experience, to read. If you like reading, if you enjoy books that captivate, that keep you turning pages, that won't let you sleep, then buy this book.
Let me note here that the author indulges in several literary devices that might pain the true Civil War buff. He uses interior monologues which are, of course, pure fiction (though based on written material of the time). He also centers his story on two major fights that took place at Gettysburg: the battle of Little Roundtop, and Pickett's Charge, even though quite a lot of other great moments occurred there. Both these battles are told well, and the characters of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain - the commander of the 20th Maine who held Little Round Top against attacking Confederates to the "last bullet," and James Longstreet, commander of the I Corps of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia who had serious differences with his superior over the tactics used at Gettysburg, are explored at depth.
By necessity, Shaara could not tell, in a single novel (for that is what this book is), all that happened those three fateful days. For those who want to know more I refer you to Shelby Foote's "Stars In Their Courses."
I aim this review at those who are unsure of whether a Civil War novel is what they want to read. Be assured you will not be disappointed. This is a truly fine book, especially for the uninitiated, as I was. I recommend this book to all without hesitation.