Saturday, August 4, 2012


Stealing, Shannon Bateman learns, is bad for one's health. As an Illinois cavalry officer during the Civil War, he purloins a fortune in gold, then struggles almost thirty years to elude its "rightful owners." The treasure remains cleverly hidden while both sides employ guile, murder, and mordant humor. Dickensian characters appear, disappear, and rematerialize in various guises. Disconsolate after his wife dies, "Shan" abandons his daughter and thriving business and takes refuge in a roadshow. An unexpected meeting brings him back to family, including his resentful daughter. Both she and his new "wife" become strong, resilient persons who wage their own wars against him. They all end up in Kansas, where Shan again succeeds in business, survives an encounter with hundreds of Cheyenne warriors, and experiences more family troubles. His oldest and most persistent enemy pays a visit and makes him an offer. By the mid-1880s, Shan's spiraling dementia heightens a longtime animosity toward the Negroes he helped free during the war. He is committed to an insane asylum, where he and his assembled enemies, including a young black orderly, wage wars of a different sort. Overseeing the drama is a Civil War surgeon-cum psychiatrist who has his own troubles. Who is insane and who is not? Where's the gold? And who is the "winner"? A sprawling novel spanning four generations, Wars Unwon reveals the humanity in even the basest of its characters, along with the interwoven consequences of their actions.

Shannon Bateman is the hero/unhero of John R. Finger’s new novel, Wars Unwon. Now retired, Kansas native John S. Finger taught for 30 years at the University of Tennesse. His other books, non-fiction, are Cherokee Americans: The Eastern Band of Cherokees in the Twentieth Century, Eastern Band of Cherokees: 1819-1900, and Tenessee Frontiers: Three Regions in Transition.

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