Michael Shaara was born in New Jersey, in 1928. There, he attended Rutgers University and discovered his passion for the written word as well as teaching. He became a professor teaching over creative writing in Florida State University and would use the rest of his time writing little short stories that eventually led to writing a book. His novels didn’t acquire much attention in the beginning of his writing career, but he never gave up. On journeying to the battlegrounds of Gettysburg on a vacation with his family, Shaara was inspired to write a book about the Civil War and he was determined to do so. He was a writer at heart, but the classes were dragging the hours on end making time that much harder to come by to have spare time to write his novels. Using cigarettes and coffee as a crutch to keep him up late into each night, he suffered from a devastating heart attack that would change the way he had to live for the most part, but thankfully, he survived. 7 years later, after a motorcycle accident that really affected his lifestyle more than it was already, his novel, The Killer Angels, was finally finished. Unfortunately, when Shaara took it to publishers to get the window of opportunity he was waiting for, disappointment filled him when it was rejected over 15 times. Though through some miracle, in 1973, it found its way up to the light when it was purchased by The David McKay Company. Still, this novel received little to no attention. Little did he know that in the near and upcoming future, Shaara would win the 1975 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. And later, after a prolonged decline in his health, Shaara had a second heart attack that ended his life; but not his legacy. Some years later, The Killer Angels became the number one New York Times Bestseller leaving Shaara’s name on a gold plate of honor.
Michael Shaara wrote The Killer Angels to illustrate the perspective from the soldiers’ point of view; a way that hasn’t been done before in wartime novels. This factor made the book the masterpiece that it is. With details that blew you away, literally, and illustrations that opens the doors to the way things were, this book was fascinating and insightful. Shaara was punctual on the major points in the novel including the battles where he elaborates on every detail imaginable; to the way the sky looked, to the smell. The actions and events that occurred in the book just seemed to come to life. Shaara led the way to the war and told it as if it had never been told before. A person who had never heard of the Civil War before could read this novel and be fully equipped with the knowledge and information that goes along with this heart-wrenching story.
Though to have a desire to read this book on your own time, and not because you need to for an assignment of some sort, you must have a sincere appreciation for the Civil War times. That would most likely mean that you would have already had prior knowledge on the main focus, the war, and a high respect for it as well. Someone who knew nothing about this topic could read this book and be informed with the way things felt, the pressures, the obstacles faced; along with all the basic facts that you could learn from taking a class over the Civil War or looking it up on the internet. Someone who already knew about the Civil War and then read this book was taken on a journey where the war came right into their living rooms for them to see, up close and personal. To write a book in which others could be just as inspired as he was… this was the author’s main intent with the book.
Informing the audience with facts they are already well educated with is not an easy task. Keeping them captivated and absorbed with what could be on the next page isn’t much of a walk in the park, either. Especially when someone is writing about something that happened years ago and has no implement on the reader’s life at that moment. But Michael Shaara wrote this…