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On Secret Service Hardcover – June 5, 2000

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton Adult; First Edition edition (June 5, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 052594544X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0525945444
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,490,999 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

John Jakes is to historical American fiction what Stephen King is to horror: a one-man industry. Jakes, the author of over 60 books, including the eight-part Kent Family Chronicles, the North and South Trilogy, and innumerable short stories of the American West, returns to his well-trod Civil War stomping grounds in the engrossing On Secret Service. The story of a war within a war on various levels--the North v. the South, the Union's Pinkerton Detective Agency v. the Confederacy's agent provocateurs, youthful idealism v. youthful lust--On Secret Service chronicles the lives and times of four young Americans, from the war's early tremors in January 1861, through its bloody conclusion, Lincoln's assassination, and John Wilkes Booth's murder in May 1865.

The main players are Lon Price, the ardent abolitionist and rising-star operative of the Pinkerton Detective Agency, and Margaret Miller, the beautiful, initially vacuous daughter of the South whose chief concern is that the war be over quickly so as not to interfere with Washington's upcoming social season. After a chance encounter in a Washington park, they are as repulsed by each other's political views as they are drawn together by an undeniable physical chemistry. As hostilities increase, the Pinkertons are pledged to the service of the Union and Lon becomes, ipso facto, a charter member in the U.S. Secret Service. When Margaret's stridently pro-slavery father is gunned down by a Pinkerton operative at a clandestine "Secesh" meeting, Margaret throws off her socialite mantle and vows revenge. She pledges allegiance to the South's most notorious female spy, the wealthy, well-connected, and equally well-endowed Rose Greenhow.

A parallel relationship develops between Margaret's unlikely best friend, the boyishly slight Hanna Siegel, a devout abolitionist who longs to prove herself on the battlefield, and the conflicted Captain Frederick Dasher, late of West Point, now of the First Virginia Cavalry, and protégé to Brigadier General "Jeb" Stuart. Played out before a scrim of battles, lives, fortunes, and reputations won and irreparably lost, Lon, Margaret, Hanna, and Fred cat-and-mouse their way through America's costliest war.

While the respective outcomes are somewhat predictable, what is not predictable is the degree to which the reader is captivated by Jakes's encyclopedic command of historical fact and his unmatched storytelling. The mingling of well-drawn fictional characters with nicely fleshed-out historical figures raises to rare levels circumstances that would, in lesser hands, seem mere contrivances. --Michael Hudson

From Publishers Weekly

The author of the bestselling North and South trilogy remains in familiar territory as his latest sweeping historical novel retells the story of the Civil War, and also examines specific aspects of espionage, the development of the Secret Service and the controversies surrounding the Lincoln presidency and assassination. The chaos and drama of romantic love, also figure in the saga, centering on two young couples: Lon Price, a fledgling member of the newly founded Pinkerton agency, encounters beautiful actress Margaret Miller while investigating the secessionist movement, and Confederate lieutenant Frederick Dasher suffers a largely unrequited love for Miller's friend Hanna Siegel, also an actress and a secessionist. The Price/Miller pairing is by far the more interesting of the two, especially as Jakes explores the evolution of Pinkerton's secret service and how it linked with and diverged from the government's efforts to infiltrate the Confederate Army. Most of the scenes take place in and around Washington, and Jakes spreads himself a bit thin by covering the entire war rather than focusing exclusively on a smaller number of clandestine campaigns. The author saves the best for last in dealing with Lincoln's assassination, bringing the drama to life by giving each of his protagonists a crucial role as the conspiracy unfolds with expert pacing and suspense. Jakes uncovers the little-known history of espionage and counterespionage during the War Between the States with his signature combination of meticulous research and epic narrative, once again proving himself the foremost historical novelist of our national conflict in a title marking his 50th year as a professional writer. (June)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

John Jakes (b. 1932), the author of more than a dozen novels, is regarded as one of today's most distinguished writers of historical fiction. His work includes the highly acclaimed Kent Family Chronicles series and the North and South Trilogy. Jakes's commitment to historical accuracy and evocative storytelling earned him the title of "the godfather of historical novelists" from the Los Angeles Times and led to a streak of sixteen consecutive New York Times bestsellers. Jakes has received several awards for his work and is a member of the Authors Guild and the PEN American Center. He and his wife, Rachel, live on the west coast of Florida.

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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See all 44 customer reviews
The book is a page turner.
Alan H
The cast assembled by Mr. Jakes is a very good blend of fictional and historical figures.
J. Michael Gallipo
I would recommend this book to anyone who loves American history in a fictional setting.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 37 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 13, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I was only in grade school when North and South and the other chapters in Jakes' Civil War trilogy (Love & War and Heaven & Hell) were television events that would draw the older members of my family around the television--like campers around a fire listening to a great storyteller. My memories of plot and characters have since faded, but to the day I have always associated John Jakes with the Civil War. When I saw that Jakes had written a new Civil War novel I was compelled to pick it up. Absolutely epic! Jakes recreated a world that has always fascinated me, and come to think of it - it was Jakes who inspired my interest so many years ago. Detailed down to the smell, Jakes captures lightning bugs of emotion, anguish, tragedy and romance, only to have them released for his readers with the turn of each successive page. Most impressive to me was that even though the story was set on familiar ground, the perspective offered was one I had yet to experience. I am shocked that The Pinkertons and the original Secret Service have had as little historic exposure as they have. I had no idea the NY riots even took place, and watching them unfold was bearing witness to a few clouds of deception being revved up into a hurricane of the darkest human emotion and behavior.
Fantastic story! A Must Read! Highly Recommended!
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Nancy R. Katz VINE VOICE on June 9, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Having devoured John Jakes's American series, the North and South trilogy and The Crown Family Saga, I couldn't wait to read his latest book, On Secret Service. And this furthur illustrated to me why I consider John Jakes to be one of my favorite historical writers as he once again delivered to me a first rate reading experience.
As he has done in his previous books, Jakes introduces us to two fictional characters who are involved with notable and famous people as they embark on adventures and participate in historical events. The book begins in Washington and then we, as readers, witness some of the battles of the Civil War, to the beginnings of the Secret Service. And eventhough we may know the climax of the book, it is getting there that is most fascinating.
This is a large book filled with an unforgettable cast of charatcers, during a momentous time in American history. I suggest you have lots of time to read when you begin this book. You won't be able to put it down.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 9, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I'd never read a John Jakes novel before, but when I saw this in the bookstore I figured it was about time. What a treat! Not only did the characters and story draw me in and keep me turning the pages until way past my bedtime, but the way the history is portrayed is great--so much information woven in so skillfully that you don't even realize what you've learned until you've finished. The machinations of the spies are as devious as Cold War Berlin. The NYC draft riot chapter blew me away. I've lived in New York all my life, and somehow this subject has managed to escape notice--no placques, no commemorations--and no wonder. It is one of the uglier moments in this nation's history. Aside from the historical aspects, this is a thrilling read with lots of exciting action, and a surprisingly sexy love story! I see that his NORTH AND SOUTH trilogy is back in print now--guess I'm going to have to read these too. I really recommend ON SECRET SERVICE. I'm going to give it to my dad for Father's Day!
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By drdebs on July 26, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I vividly remember when John Jakes's The Bastard hit the TV screens in the 1970s. It was my first introduction to the power of historical fiction, and I've never forgotten it. Since I'm in a mystery frame of mind these days, I purchased a copy of his new book, On Secret Service, because its main subject is the origins of the US Secret Service and the espionage that took place during the American Civil War.
I wasn't disappointed. Jakes has a way of describing historical situations and characters that is very persuasive--especially male characters. If you're a fan of the Kent Family chronicles or North and South, there are some differences in this book. First, the enormous cast of characters is hard to get to know because family affiliations (a great organizing tactic in the earlier books) are not the main thing here. I don't know the Civil War period very well, and I think that Civil War buffs will be most satisfied with On Secret Service because it features a lot of key players in the War (Stuart, Mosby, Grant, McClellan, Stanton)who may not be as familiar to those who don't avidly read about the War.
The descriptions of warfare, torture, and under-hand tactics are very explicit, but are not overblown. This is, after all, a book about the bloodiest conflict in US History, and Jakes gives us as accurate picture as we can probably stand of that conflict.
Civil War buffs and fans of 19th century US History will probably enjoy this book a great deal, and even fans of mystery and spy novels will have a good time!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By James Butler on July 6, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I loved Jake's Kent Chronicles and North and South trilogy so I already knew the format and style I was about to encounter. No surprises there. I was pleased he used little known facts about the Civil War like Lincoln's high voice, the balloon observatories, the NY riots, how train tracks were destroyed, and the story of Rose. I was disappointed with the lame attempt to tie Charles Main from the trilogy into the book. I also thought he could have given better context for the plot by referencing more famous events. Surely spies would have read the papers more.
Nevertheless, it was a good story that I read until 3:00 am. I didn't think about the relationships among the sexes as being as strained or shifting as portrayed - they must have been. Pinkerton's character was completely different than I had ignorantly envisioned. In a world where civil rights hadn't been established yet, the police methods were fascinating to read. These are the pleasant surprises that gets one hooked into the story. It's not an epic, but it's a worthwhile book.
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