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Ed Protzel Author Interview

Ed Protzel Author Interview

Honor Among Outcasts continues the story of the Dark Horse inhabitants that joined the Union Army as soldiers in the Missouri State Militia Calvary. What direction did you want to take this book that was different from book one in the series?

In the first novel of my DarkHorse Trilogy, The Lies That Bind set in the antebellum South, I wanted to debunk many stereotypes and myths about blacks, whites, rich and poor, regarding slavery and gender. Southern literature is generally about powerful aristocrats who make fortunes, and often ignores the slaves who actually did the work or gives them little credit. So I created a situation where the protagonist, Durksen Hurst, a hustler/drifter, forms a secret partnership with a group of escaped slaves to build their own egalitarian plantation in the fictional hamlet of Turkle, Mississippi. But, rather than the white man, one of the slaves, Big Josh Tyler, who had run his former master’s plantation, is the natural leader of the group and is greatly responsible for their enterprise’s success. (Such was often the case, historically.)

Developing the novel into a trilogy allowed me to show the full historical arc and the resultant changes of the time period: from antebellum South/slave society (The Lies That Bind, book 1); to the Civil War years (Honor Among Outcasts, book 2); and end in post-war Reconstruction (Something in Madness, book 3). You see the arc.

Together, the three novels depict the historical developments and their effects on the men and women, black and white, of all social stations.

So to answer your question, in book 2, Honor Among Outcasts, the milieu, conflicts, plot, and themes all had to be completely different from book 1, as will those in the third.

I felt like you did a great job with the historical details and facts. What were some things that you felt had to be accurate and what were some things you took liberties with?

Although I am a big Civil War buff, I didn’t want to write a typical battle-type novel. Fortunately, the guerrilla war in western Missouri was like modern-day Syria, with terrible murders and depredations like the massacre and burning of Lawrence, Kansas, by Quantrill’s Confederate bushwhackers. In Missouri, combatants of both sides took scalps! I felt it important for the characters to face these major events in order to illuminate humanity’s potential for brutality and cruelty.

Also, in the spring of 1863, President Lincoln began to allow “colored” regiments to be formed, but these required a white officer to lead them. Naturally, having the DarkHorse partners form their own regiment was a nice parallel to their dreams of the democratic enterprise depicted in The Lies That Bind.

Throughout Honor Among Outcasts, I tried to remain faithful to the difficulties and unique dangers these regiments and the local populace actually faced. In rare cases, I had to move minor events around to aid the narrative. For example, a train raid massacre like the one in Honor did take place, but at a later date and at a different location. Nevertheless, in writing book 2, the actual history did very much shape the story.

The characters were very well developed in this story, which led to some heartbreaking scenes when some characters met their end. What was your decision process like in deciding who stays and who goes?

Heightened emotions give your themes greater impact. I hated to kill off some of the characters I’d become attached to, but in doing so, the reader is able to feel the senseless terror and cruelty of the time, which required more than the characters merely observing the conflict.

For example, wise Big Josh is the backbone of the DarkHorse partnership, despite the many loses in his past that he carries in his heart. So when his mate, Ceeba, found late in life, is one of the three women killed in the train massacre, the poignancy of the event is increased. Plus, Josh’s emotional state throughout the rest of the novel is deepened. Similarly, in the Lawrence massacre a relatively unarmed colored regiment training there actually was massacred. How could I ignore that in my novel? And with the loss of a favorite DarkHorse character during the Lawrence raid, I hoped to bring out the horror of that event. (I, myself, had to recover after writing that wrenching scene.)

Where will book three in the Dark Horse Trilogy take readers and when will it be available?

In the final novel, Something in Madness, at war’s end the surviving characters return to Mississippi, only to confront new indignities restricting the rights of freedmen in the South.

Researching the Black Codes, lynchings, and other humiliations perpetrated on blacks during Reconstruction made writing book 3 tough, and I expect it will be tough on the reader, as well.

History is not always pretty. I only hope the DarkHorse Trilogy does its part to see that such cruelty and hatred doesn’t re-occur. Something in Madness is planned for release in 2019.

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Honor Among Outcasts (DarkHorse Trilogy Book 2) by [Protzel, Ed]After their harrowing escape from Mississippi, abolitionist Durksen Hurst, his fiancée Antoinette DuVallier, and their friends — a group of undocumented slaves — land in guerrilla-infested Civil War Missouri, the most savage whirlwind of destruction, cruelty, and death in American history. Trapped in a terrifying cycle of murder and revenge, scarred by Quantrill’s cold-blooded Lawrence massacre and the Union army’s ruthless Order Eleven, Durk and everyone he cares for soon find themselves entangled in a struggle for their very survival.

Honor Among Outcasts takes readers on a pulse-pounding journey of desperate men and women caught up in the merciless forces of hatred and fear that tear worlds apart, and the healing power of friendship to bring them together.

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Honor Among Outcasts

Honor Among Outcasts (DarkHorse Trilogy Book 2) by [Protzel, Ed]

The Civil War was filled with pain, suffering, and too much death for both the North and the South. The often-untold stories of suffering and valor are those of the slaves and former slaves. Out in Missouri and Kansas some of the most brutal fighting occurred, not from the armies, but from guerrilla warfare. Honor Among Outcasts continues the story of the Dark Horse inhabitants that have joined the Union Army as soldiers in the Missouri State Militia Ninth Calvary. This is a story of how a group of former slaves fight for their freedom along with their half Indian partner. They face war, racism, and the loss of family and friends, and a multilevel conspiracy; but through it all, their spirit and honor never waver.

Ed Protzel uses historical fiction to bring light to things that went on during the Civil War. While the story of Durk and Antoinette is fabricated there is truth underlying their situation. Generals in the war often didn’t agree with the side they were on; but cared more for their political status than the men they sent off to die. Colored soldiers were especially expendable and were not given adequate supplies and provisions to fulfill their missions, yet few cared. Protzel does an amazing job showing the fear for each decision and action that the soldiers in the Dark Horse regiment had to make. It was never a simple decision of what makes the most sense, it was always about, what will keep us alive the longest while maintain honor. Paralleling their story, is the one of the women from the Dark Horse plantation. These women could not join the army, so they had no protection when all their papers are lost. This was a common issue among freed slaves. You could not go anywhere without your documentation or you were at risk of being put in jail or hung. This fear is so prevalent in the writing.

Reading about the harsh conditions in Missouri that the soldiers lived in is hard, starvation, lack of medical care, equipment shortages in the way of horses and weapons. Soldiers being sent out with little more than their bare hands to fight off guerrilla attacks. I know growing up and learning history I never heard about the guerrilla warfare and the complete brutality of it all. It didn’t matter who you supported, they were merciless and only cared about collecting the spoils of war. Killing meant nothing to these mercenaries. Double agent spy’s playing to whatever side they could is not a far-fetched idea and I’m sure it happened more often than even Protzel makes mention of. Lives and families torn apart and those left alive must suffer from it all.

Reading Honor Among Outcasts, I can see where Ed Protzel got the title. Everything is stacked against the Dark Horse group, men and women, but through it all they retain their honor. They refuse to take the easy way out of things to save their own lives. As I read this book I wanted to see the happy ending, I wanted everything to be okay, but true to real life, that isn’t always the case, not everyone will live, not everyone has a happily ever after. There is still another book in this series and I look forward to reading it to see what happens with the remaining Dark Horse members’, just maybe they will find peace.

Pages: 269 | ASIN: B077YRFB9J

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