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American Scoundrel


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Murder, Love and politics in Civil War America.

About the Author

THOMAS KENEALLY won the Booker Prize in 1982 with SCHINDLER'S ARK, later made into the Academy Award-winning film SCHINDLER'S LIST by Steven Spielberg. He has written ten works of non-fiction, including his recent memoir SEARCHING FOR SCHINDLER, and the histories THE COMMONWEALTH OF THIEVES, THE GREAT SHAME and AMERICAN SCOUNDREL, and 27 works of fiction, including THE WIDOW AND HER HERO, AN ANGEL IN AUSTRALIA and BETTANY'S BOOK. His novels THE CHANT OF JIMMY BLACKSMITH, GOSSIP FROM THE FOREST, and CONFEDERATES were all shortlisted for the Booker Prize, while BRING LARKS AND HEROES and THREE CHEERS FOR THE PARACLETE won the Miles Franklin Award.


Dan Sickles was a lawyer, politician and Civil War soldier who enjoyed the privileges and riches of high office despite his record of philandering, suspect financial dealings and the murder of his young wife's lover. Born in New York in 1819 and brought up in a wealthy household, Sickles showed an early interest in politics and was recruited into the Democrat party machine at Tammany Hall, an association which later provided support in times of trouble. After his election to the House of Congress, Sickles continued his affairs with other women, but when confronted with evidence of his wife's own adultery he immediately shot and killed her lover in full public view. Sickles made use of his influence and political contacts and was acquitted of the murder. During the Civil War, Sickles became a general and was wounded at the battle of Gettysburg. Rewarded with diplomatic postings, he continued his political activities and love affairs overseas. Keneally's thorough research reveals the behaviour of a man of power whose attitudes and actions reflected the public morality of the times, when a wife was regarded as her husband's personal property and a man's political worth overcame almost any private failings, including murder. Chris Harrington is co-owner of Books in Print. C. 2002 Thorpe-Bowker and contributors

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