By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great local journalism.
Library to host an evening with Jeff Shaara, best-selling author of 'Gods and Generals'
jeff shaara
Jeff Shaara, author of 'Gods and Generals'

Jeff Shaara, author of 'Gods and Generals', will visit Forsyth County to speak and sign new books at Forsyth Conference Center at 7 p.m., Monday, March 7.

An Evening with Jeff Shaara is one of several events hosted by the Forsyth County Public Library as part of Forsyth Reads Together, a community reading program sponsored by Forsyth County Public Library, FCPL Friends and Advocates, and the Forsyth County Arts Alliance at the Forsyth County Community Foundation, an affiliate of the North Georgia Community Foundation.

Admission to the event is free, advance registration is required and residents can do that on the library’s website at www.forsythpl.org.

Launched in 2008 to encourage literacy and foster community togetherness, Forsyth Reads Together has brought many big-name authors to Forsyth County over the years including Rick Bragg, Kathryn Stockett, Dennis Lehane, Gregory Maguire and Martha Hall Kelly.

The 2022 Forsyth Reads Together book selection, ‘Gods and Generals,’ is the prequel to ‘The Killer Angels,’ the 1975 Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction written by Jeff Shaara’s father, Michael Shaara.In an interview for the library’s podcast, the author explained how he came to write the prequel to his father’s only work of historical fiction.

“I had never written anything before – that’s not false modesty, I was a businessman down in Florida. My father’s book is the basis for the movie ‘Gettysburg,’ the Ted Turner film, […] but my father had passed away five years before the film came out,” Shaara said. “So, he didn’t live to see the fact that the movie made his book a number one bestseller.”

He explained how Turner wanted to make more movies about the Civil War era, both before and after the Battle of Gettysburg.

Shaara says he had no fear or intimidation about approaching ‘Gods and Generals’ as his first novel.

“Whatever story I come up with, if it’s lousy and we’re not going to use it [to make a movie], it goes in the trash. Nobody will ever see it. So, that’s why I wasn’t really afraid [of] tackling this,” he said.

While Shaara was working on the first stages of research and writing, he was also representing his father’s estate with the publisher Random House in New York and mentioned he was writing a prequel to ‘The Killer Angels.’ The publisher asked to see the manuscript.

“The phone call I got back was, ‘We don’t care if it’s a movie. We like the book. We think you’re a writer, here’s a contract,” Sharra said. “That changed my whole life.”

During his visit to the library next month, Shaara is expected to discuss how important research is to representing historical characters with accuracy and authenticity.

“The importance of walking in the footsteps of those characters, that’s a lesson I learned from my father,” he said. “If I’m going to describe that hill to you that the kid with a rifle in his hand walks up into the guns of the enemy, it’s really better if I’ve been on that hill, not just seen a picture of it in a book.”

Shaara will also explain how he came to understand the four main characters in the novel, General Robert E. Lee, Major General Winfield Scott Hancock, Lt. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, and Lt. Col. Joshua Chamberlain, through memoirs written by fellow officers as well as their wives. Having that perspective helps the reader understand how the characters arrived at the decision to go to war, to face their former friends on the battlefields, and how their families reacted.

“That’s a take you don’t usually get in a Civil War book,” Shaara said. “It’s not just about guns. It’s not just about war. It’s the story of these characters and what they go through.”

Other events exploring the history of the Civil War are planned throughout February and March at library branches.

In anticipation of Shaara’s visit to Forsyth County on March 7, a book discussion about ‘Gods and Generals’ will be held at 2 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 24, at the Cumming Library. Facilitated by FCPL staff, patrons will gather to discuss Shaara’s bestselling novel of the American Civil War and its great military leaders.

Cathy J. Kaemmerlen, author of ‘General Sherman and the Georgia Belles: Tales from Women Left Behind,’ discusses how Southern women handled the impact of the Civil War and General Sherman's actions on his march through Georgia at 3:30 p.m., Saturday, March 12 at the Cumming Library.

Kaemmerlen, a renowned storyteller and historical interpreter, provides a colorful collection of tales of exceptional Georgia women who made great sacrifices to save their families and homes. From the innocent diary of a 10-year-old girl to the words of a woman who risks everything to see her husband one last time, Kaemmerlen exposes the grit and gumption of these women.

Admission to Kaemmerlen’s presentation is free and open to the public.

Civil War historian and author Robert C. Jones speaks about the summer of 1864 and Sherman's campaign to take control of Atlanta at the Post Road Library at 4 p.m., Sunday, March 6.

After a series of significant battles in north Georgia, Sherman's troops began crossing the Chattahoochee River just north of Atlanta on July 8, 1864.

Seeing that there was little chance that he could break through the defenses of Atlanta, Sherman chose instead to destroy the four railroads which supplied the city. Jones will discuss the overall Atlanta Campaign and talk about sites along the way that proved to be of importance.

Admission to Jones’ presentation is free and open to the public.

“Forsyth Reads Together is intended to help neighbors gather with neighbors and discuss the ways literature both reflects and influences our society. Reading Gods and Generals together and engaging readers from all walks of life in our community gives us a chance to learn from our history and come to understand the people in our community more fully,” said programming manager Cleo Joyce.

“I think Mr. Shaara has a great understanding of what programs like Forsyth Reads Together are meant to do,” Joyce said. “He summed it up nicely at the end of his interview for our Unreadable podcast when he said, ‘We have to keep in touch with our past. You can’t move forward unless you know where you’ve come from.’”

For more information or to register to attend An Evening with Jeff Shaara, visit www.forsythpl.org.

The Forsyth Conference Center is at 3410 RonaldReagan Blvd., Cumming.