Croker, Richard 1946-
CROKER, Richard 1946-
PERSONAL: Born 1946; married; wife's name Terry; children: Amanda. Education: Georgia State University, B.A.
ADDRESSES: Home—Marietta, GA. Agent—c/o Author Mail, William Morrow/HarperCollins, 10 E. 53rd St., New York, NY 10022.
CAREER: Documentary filmmaker and writer. Former television producer and writer for Turner Broadcasting System, Atlanta, GA. Military service: U.S. Army.
To Make Men Free: A Novel of the Battle of Antietam, William Morrow (New York, NY), 2004.
WORK IN PROGRESS: A Place Worse than Hell, a sequel to To Make Men Free, for William Morrow.
SIDELIGHTS: Richard Croker's first novel, To Make Men Free: A Novel of the Battle of Antietam, is a fictionalized account of America's bloodiest day of fighting. Sometimes overshadowed by the more famous Battle of Gettysburg, the Battle of Antietam produced more casualties in one day than any other military encounter in U.S. history. It was in the wake of this battle, fought in September of 1862, that Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. Croker re-creates not only the Battle of Antietam itself but also the generals and enlisted men who fought in it, and the journalists who covered it. On his Web site, the author stated: "History is an action/adventure tale, generally told with the action and adventure removed. All I do is put it back."
In the Civil War Book Review, John Benson called To Make Men Free "an interesting story that grabs the reader's attention from the first page." Benson added that the quality of the story "proves that there are untapped authors who have talent and promise." Jay Freeman in Booklist remarked that Croker "knows his history" and lays out complicated military maneuvers "in an easily digestible manner." A Publishers Weekly critic deemed the book a "rousing, panoramic debut historical . . . more comprehensive than many nonfiction treatments."
Croker told CA: "Asking 'what first got you interested in writing?,' is like asking 'what first got you interested in EATING!' I don't remember when I did not love playing with words.
"Michael Shaara's The Killer Angels was the conceptual template for To Make Men Free, but I have always loved the genre of history as fiction. Who says history has to be boring? Who says that history's real heroes and villains aren't exciting or complex enough to be the protagonists and antagonists in a great novel? If you've got Abraham Lincoln and Stonewall Jackson—my goodness—why do you have to make someone up?
"When I write, I sit in a 'horseshoe' of books. These books are scholarly works, biographies, memoirs, diaries, collections of letters home—anything I can get my hands on. Every book is feathered with 'Post-it' notes indicating a date or even the time of day. Okay—what was Jeb Stuart doing on September 14, 1862? What was George McClellan doing? Lincoln, Clara Barton, Private Johnny Cook? And then I tell these stories as a story teller would. No magic here—just a lot of research and a lot of hard work.
"I was astounded by how the publishing industry works (or doesn't). It as though they fell down in the nineteenth century and can't get up. Editing is still done on white paper with red pencils. 'Marketing' is seat-of-your-pants, gut instinct. No demographics, no flow charts, no test marketing. Their view of a marketing campaign is to send out reader copies for reviewers. Period. What dollars there are go to the people who don't really need to be marketed—very odd in this day and age.
"To Make Men Free will always be my first child. My sequel, A Place Worse than Hell had better be better, just because if it's not, then I have learned nothing and am going nowhere. A Place Worse than Hell goes deeper down the chain of command and introduces the reader to fewer generals and colonels, and more captains and privates, and for that reason may be a more dramatic story."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, February 1, 2004, Jay Freeman, review of ToMake Men Free: A Novel of the Battle of Antietam, p. 948.
Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2004, review of To MakeMen Free, p. 49.
Publishers Weekly, February 16, 2004, review of ToMake Men Free, p. 151.
Civil War Book Review Online,http://www.cwbr.com/ (November 3, 2004), John Benson, "One September Day."
Richard Croker Home Page,http://www.rcroker.com (November 3, 2004).
Sir ReadaLot Web site,http://www.sirreadalot.org/ (November 3, 2004), review of To Make Men Free.