Across the River is a lush and languid historical spy novel set during the Civil War. This novel by Richard Snodgrass is the fourth in a series, following the critically praised Furnass Towers Trilogy.
Colin Lyle is the owner of the Keystone Steam Works and lives in Furnass, Pennsylvania with his Southern-born wife, Libby. One night two strangers arrive and introduce themselves; they’re Union officers who have come to speak with Colin about his steam-powered road engine and a project that could turn the tide of the war. Colin is flattered, but there’s something about one of them that sets off alarms for Libby.
Unbeknownst to Colin and Libby, the men that have infiltrated their home are actually Confederate soldiers traveling in disguise. Captain Judson Walker and engineer Jonathan Reid, are on a covert mission to gain access to the engines, outfit them with the newly developed Gatling guns and deliver the finished products to General John Hunt Morgan–and ultimately General Robert Lee.
The men butt heads as their clashing personalities interfere with their shared ideology. Complicating matters further is the sudden and mutual attraction between Libby and Walker. Libby recognizes traces of an accent that reminds her of home. With the country split in two, she finds herself a woman without a country. Her only allegiance is to her own agency. She makes the decision to deceive her husband and have an affair, and in doing so finds self-actualization.
This elaborate orchestration draws from the historical strategy employed by General John Hunt Morgan in the summer of 1863. His campaign was known as Morgan’s Raid and the intention was to create a diversion so that Union troops would leave Tennessee vulnerable. Beyond this, the Confederate soldiers dubbed “Morgan’s Raiders” were agents of chaos, their duty to sow dissent throughout the land and destroy Northern morale.
As the relationship between Walker and Libby develops, other complications arise related to Reid’s own agenda and their rendezvous plans. The novel reaches its dramatic climax and Walker must decide if his loyalties lie with Libby or his duties toward his men and the war.
Those with a keen eye for history will appreciate the lengths Snodgrass went to in order to portray the Confederate soldiers, battles and weapons of warfare in a believable fashion. His meticulous research has paid off, as the period-appropriate items from uniforms to guns immerse readers in the era and bring the narrative to life. Complete with layered characters and beautiful language, Across the River is a wonderfully transportive read.
Across the River is now available for purchase.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Richard Snodgrass is an author and photographer whose short stories and essays have appeared in the New England Review/Bread Loaf Quarterly, South Dakota Review, California Review, Pittsburgh Quarterly, and elsewhere. He is a master photographer who has been artist-in-residence at LightWorks (University of Syracuse) and at the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation in Taos, New Mexico. He is the recipient of a fellowship from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.
In 1989, Viking published Snodgrass’s novel, There’s Something in the Back Yard, to critical acclaim: “Observe this mysterious book and be changed,” wrote Jack Stephens in the Washington Post Book World. Snodgrass is also the author of An Uncommon Field: The Flight 93 Temporary Memorial, published in September of 2011 by Carnegie Mellon University Press, and Kitchen Things: An Album of Vintage Utensils and Farm Kitchen Recipes, published in 2013 by Skyhorse and named one of the year’s “best books to get you thinking about food” by the Associated Press.
Richard Snodgrass lives in Pittsburgh, PA, with his wife Marty and two indomitable female tuxedo cats, raised from feral kittens, named Frankie and Becca.