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The Killer Angels: The Classic Novel of the Civil War (Civil War Trilogy) Mass Market Paperback – August 12, 1987


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Product Details

  • Series: Civil War Trilogy
  • Mass Market Paperback: 355 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (August 12, 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345348109
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345348104
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,243 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,313 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

This novel reveals more about the Battle of Gettysburg than any piece of learned nonfiction on the same subject. Michael Shaara's account of the three most important days of the Civil War features deft characterizations of all of the main actors, including Lee, Longstreet, Pickett, Buford, and Hancock. The most inspiring figure in the book, however, is Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, whose 20th Maine regiment of volunteers held the Union's left flank on the second day of the battle. This unit's bravery at Little Round Top helped turned the tide of the war against the rebels. There are also plenty of maps, which convey a complete sense of what happened July 1-3, 1863. Reading about the past is rarely so much fun as on these pages.

From Library Journal

The late Shaara's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel (1974) concerns the battle of Gettysburg and was the basis for the 1993 film Gettysburg. The events immediately before and during the battle are seen through the eyes of Confederate Generals Lee, Longstreet, and Armistead and Federal General Buford, Colonel Joshua L. Chamberlain, and a host of others. The author's ability to convey the thoughts of men in war as well as their confusion-the so-called "fog of battle"-is outstanding. This unabridged version is read clearly by award-winning actor George Hearn, who gives each character a different voice and effectively conveys their personalities; chapters and beginnings and ends of sides are announced. Music from the movie version adds to the drama. All this comes in a beautiful package with a battle map. Recommended for public libraries not owning previous editions from Recorded Books and Blackstone Audio (Audio Reviews, LJ 2/1/92 and LJ 2/1/93, respectively).
Michael T. Fein, Catawba Valley Community Coll., Hickory, N.C.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

With the release of a newly discovered unpublished novel--The Rebel in Autumn--and the ebook releases of his three classic backlist titles: his first novel, The Broken Place; his science fiction novel, The Herald; and his beloved baseball novel, For Love of the Game; and the upcoming ebook publication of 46 short stories, the works of Michael Shaara stand poised to take their place in America's literary pantheon. While his Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Killer Angels has sold millions of copies, and For Love of the Game was made into a movie that seems to be constantly on TV, his other works remain virtually unknown. Twenty-five years after his death, Michael Shaara is on the verge of being rediscovered as the versatile, talented man of letters that he was.

Michael Shaara was born in 1928 in Jersey City, N.J., the son of Michael Joseph Shaara, Sr., an Italian immigrant and union organizer, and Allene (Maxwell) Shaara. He married Helen Elizabeth Krumwiede in 1950 (marriage which ended in 1980), and had two children: Jeffrey and Lila Elise. Shaara graduated from Rutgers University with a B.A. in 1951, and continued with graduate studies at Columbia University (1952-53) and University of Vermont (1953-54). He knew in college that he wanted to write for a living, and his short story career began in the 1950s, selling mainly science fiction and fantasy stories to the pulp fiction magazines as well as to Cosmopolitan, Galaxy, Fantastic Universe, Playboy, Redbook and the Saturday Evening Post, winning several awards. Shaara's themes reflected his times and dealt with everyday events, as well as with aliens, and the devastation of complete cities from nuclear disasters. In 1959, Shaara was hired as an instructor of English at Florida State University, and by 1968, he had risen to the position of Associate Professor.

Michael Shaara was teaching creative writing at Florida State University while writing his first novel, The Broken Place. Shaara had worked numerous odd jobs before becoming a teacher, including time spent as a merchant seaman and police officer. Under contract to deliver The Broken Place, the stress of the writing and teaching a full course load caused him to have a serious, nearly fatal heart attack. He was even pronounced dead while the ER doctors attempted to revive him. This near-death experience no doubt colored his writing of The Broken Place, as did his army experience (a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne during peace time), his amateur boxing career, and his marriage to his college sweetheart, Helen Elizabeth Krumwiede, the model for Lise Hoffman. The Broken Place was published to great literary acclaim--Shaara was often compared to Ernest Hemingway in the reviews--but few sales.

His second novel, The Rebel In Autumn, was based on an event at Florida State. Rebel was written during the campus protests of the late 1960s and is set in 1969. His agent began shopping the book in 1970, just a few short months before the Ohio National Guard shot into a crowd of student protesters at Kent State University, killing four, in an eerie echo of Rebel's climactic scene. And so the book never saw the light of day, although it is a beautifully written and artfully crafted novel, perhaps the equal of his next novel, The Killer Angels.

In 1972, while teaching an FSU abroad program in Italy, Shaara had a devastating motorcycle accident, leaving him unconscious for weeks. He suffered from a severe brain injury, and Shaara later said that his eyes were not "working together" and that he could not read very much. Shaara also had difficulty with both speech and thought patterns. Emotionally, he suffered from bouts of depression.

Shaara won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1975 for The Killer Angels, his second published novel, a brilliant portrayal of the Battle of Gettysburg. But even that was a struggle. It took Shaara years to research the book, even enlisting his then teenage son Jeff to crawl around under the brush at Gettysburg in order to find long-covered up markers. The Killer Angels was rejected by fifteen publishers before the small, independent, and long defunct David McKay Company purchased the manuscript. The Killer Angels was another critical success and commercial flop, as the public wasn't interested in war stories in the aftermath of the Vietnam War. It wasn't until five years after Shaara's death that The Killer Angels hit the bestseller lists, climbing all the way to #1 on The New York Times list.

It would be seven years before Shaara would publish another novel. The Herald came out in 1981 and hearkened back to Shaara's early career writing science fiction for magazines. The Herald is a very dark post-apocalyptic story, perhaps related to Shaara's continuing financial failures as a writer. The glimmer of hope at the end of the novel speaks to the spark that lurked beneath Shaara's misanthropic outlook. While it garnered some positive reviews, it was clear that The Herald was not going to find commercial success either.

A second heart attack killed Shaara in 1988 at the age of 59.

Shaara's first financially successful novel was published posthumously--For Love of the Game. The beloved baseball novel was quickly snapped up by the movies and made into a film with Kevin Costner playing the lead. But before Game came the movie "Gettysburg" directed by Ron Maxwell, financed by Ted Turner. Starring Martin Sheen as Robert E. Lee and Jeff Daniels as Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, Sam Elliot and Tom Berenger among others. The movie was a hit, and turned the forgotten novel behind it--The Killer Angels--into a huge success. It is now required reading at many schools, including West Point, and is generally considered one of the greatest Civil War novels ever written.

With the publication of The Rebel in Autumn, and the release of The Broken Place, The Herald and For Love of the Game as ebooks, all the Shaara novels will now be available for the first time. The publication of Rebel is a major literary event--how often does a lost manuscript from a Pulitzer Prize winning author turn up...43 years after it was written and 25 years after its author's death?

Michael Shaara's son, Jeff Shaara, has taken up his father's mantle of writing historical fiction, writing bestselling novels of the Civil War, Mexican War, WWI and WWII, enjoying commercial success in his lifetime the way his father was never able to. Michael Shaara's daughter, Lila, also published two novels.

The Michael Shaara papers today reside at the Bienes Museum at the Broward County Public Library in Florida. http://www.broward.org/library/bienes/pages/bienesshaara.aspx

Customer Reviews

This is a very well written account of the Battle and of the characters as well.
Gary Gasperino
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.
Ned K. Wynn
I really like the way Michael Shaara presents the battle of Gettysburg in The Killer Angels.
tjg.dzi34

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

423 of 431 people found the following review helpful By Ned K. Wynn on June 17, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
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.
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120 of 124 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 2, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This fine example of what historical fiction should be, which I first picked up to read as an eighth grader, was the gateway into my now militant obsession with the Civil War and my idolization of Gen. Joshua Chamberlain. The well-deserved rave reviews that litter the front and back covers drew me to it, but Shaara's powerful writing style and stunningly human characters drew me INTO it. Not surprisingly I worship the film Gettysburg and have accumulated a large collection of Civil War and Chamberlain-related literature, though some have suggested this is slightly abnormal for a fifteen year old. While reading The Killer Angels one must wonder at Shaara's amazing ability to portray the major players of the battle, whose real personalities must have since been lost over a century of historian analyzation, as real people. I absolutely love this book and jealously guard my much-used copy. To enjoy it you don't have to be a Civil War buff or even know anything about the battle, you only have to be prepared to appreciate what is epic and human in the midst of this otherwise horrifying war.
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109 of 114 people found the following review helpful By Cynthia K. Robertson TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 2, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Most times, I would much prefer to read a work of nonfiction as opposed to historical fiction. But after reading dozens of books about the Battle of Gettysburg, it was refreshing to read Michael Shaara's Pulitzer Prize-winning Killer Angels. This fictional account gives us a viewpoint not to be found in nonfiction works.

What makes Killer Angels different is that each chapter is written through the eyes of the various leaders from both the Union and the Confederacy including Buford, Longstreet, Lee, Chamberlain, Armistead, as well as an English observer, Fremantle. Shaara used diaries, journals, letters and memoirs to recreate not only what was happening on the battlefield, but also, what these men were thinking, seeing and feeling. It's as if you're an eyewitness to history. Killer Angels does not attempt to cover every minute of the Battle of Gettysburg. In fact, Shaara focuses on four main aspects: Buford's establishing Union lines on good ground before the battle, Longstreet's ambivalence about fighting at Gettysburg, Joshua Chamberlain and the 20th Maine defending Little Round Top and Pickett's Charge.

I found myself especially haunted by James Longstreet. Once a carefree, amiable man, he's still reeling from the recent deaths of 3 of his 4 children in one week. Robert E. Lee's number two man, he knows that a frontal attack (Pickett's charge) will be disastrous. He is tortured that Lee won't listen to his advice, and inconsolable after so many men are killed. "Along with all the horror of loss, and the weariness, and all the sick helpless rage, there was coming now a monstrous disgust. He was through. They had all died for nothing and he sent them...The army would not recover from this day."

I also gained an appreciation for Joshua Chamberlain.
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62 of 65 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on February 20, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I am one of those people who first read Michael Shaara's "The Killer Angels" after seeing the film "Gettysburg." Consequently the book's novel idea of telling the story of the Battle of Gettysburg by focusing on five key participants--General John Buford and Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain for the Union, along with Generals Robert E. Lee, James Longstreet and Lewis Armistead for the Confederates--was not a new idea to me. Through the eyes of these five men the crucial points of the battle--preventing the Confederates from taking the high ground on July 1, stopping Hood's division from sweeping the Federal left flank on Little Round Top on July 2, and the high water mark of the Confederacy with Pickett's Charge on July 3--are crystallized as desperate actions agonized over by the leaders who have to make the crucial decisions. Even though these five men are battlefield commanders, they still manage to personalize the battle in which more Americans were killed than were lost in the entire Vietnam War.

Shaara's son Jeff has published a Civil War prequel and sequel to his father's book, but those volumes cover more than a single battle and the focus on a limited number of characters does not work as well. Still, I appreciate that the rest of Chamberlain's story is developed, since it is the college professor from Maine who emerges from both "The Killer Angels" and the Ken Burns PBS documentary on "The Civil War" as the idealized citizen-soldier of the war. Perhaps the greatest accomplishment of both this novel and its film, are that they make the defense of Little Round Top by the 20th Maine the high point of the Battle of Gettysburg rather than Pickett's Charge, and that it is the name of Armistead rather than Pickett that we will not forget from that most famous charge.
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