Before beginning a novel, one of the most important decisions a writer makes is what point of view to use. In my Antonius Trilogy, I used a close third person point of view (POV). Right now, I'm reading one of the best books I've ever read, The Land Beyond the Sea, by Sharon Kay Penman and Penman wrote it in an omniscient voice. This made it easier for her manipulate multiple point of view characters--something I love, but it's also difficult to pull-off.
First person POV's are one of the most popular methods of conveying character, since it's a lot easier to get under the skin of someone if you're speaking from their opinion and using their voice, 100% of the time. Many people believe that a first person voice allows the reader to become closer to the main character, with their ideas, feelings, and opinions coming to the forefront simply and in clarity. It makes sense, since you only hear one character's delivery and get used to the way they speak, how they act and think. What's important is not allowing that person to just be a bystander watching the action. A first-person POV character needs to be leading the charge or fighting in the battle actively so that their experience is both powerful and memorable.
This week, I have an intriguing excerpt for your reading pleasure, and it features a first-person POV. Enjoy this highly charged, political scene from M. B. Zucker's The Eisenhower Chronicles! And if you enjoy 20th century historical fiction, consider getting the book, for Zucker spent an entire decade studying the life of this American hero. Scroll down to find the buy-links and also a short bio on Zucker himself.
Excerpt from The Eisenhower Chronicles
By M. B. Zucker
*The Little Rock crisis becomes the biggest domestic crisis of Ike's presidency. Like in national security, Ike tries to resolve it diplomatically before using force by meeting with Governor Faubus. This story is told in the first person.*
My advisors arrived at my painting room in our Newport White House. I put down my paintbrush and turned to them. Leading the pack was Chief of Staff Sherman Adams. A former New Hampshire Governor, Adams possessed a no-nonsense attitude that I appreciated. This did not endear him to politicians, who found him rude and accused him of being a Rasputin-like figure. They must not have seen Adams at social gatherings, where his singing was often the life of the party.
Next was Attorney General Herbert Brownell, my principal advisor on legal issues and civil rights. This dated to even before I became President, as he led efforts by the Eastern Establishment Republicans to draft me to run in 1952. Lastly was their escort, Sergeant John Moaney, my Negro valet to whom I referred earlier. John was my closest companion, other than Mamie. He followed me everywhere; through World War II to the presidency. He even came with me to NATO, even though it meant separation from his recent wife.
I turned to Adams first.
“Where’s Jim Hagerty and General Morgan?”
“On their way.”
Next, I turned to Brownell.
“Little Rock’s school board asked a federal judge if they should undo their order to the Negro students to avoid Central High while the situation continued. The judge said that the integration must continue.”
That was good. We can never appease extremists.
“Who’s the judge?” Adams asked.
“Ronald Davies. He’s on the District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas,” Brownell answered.
“Is he one of ours?”
“Yes,” I interjected. “Can Davies rule on Faubus’ actions?”
“Yes,” Brownell replied, “even if Faubus made no effort to carry out the federal court order, which he hasn’t.”
I furrowed my brow and crossed my arms.
“To do nothing would set a precedent that governors and states can choose which federal court orders follow. I don’t see how we can let that stand.”
“I agree, Mr. President. That’s why my team and I at DOJ developed a contingency plan for this as soon as Brown came down.”
“We’ve already launched an investigation of whether Faubus sought to trigger violence by deploying the Guard.”
“Who’s involved in the investigation?” Adams asked.
“The FBI and the marshals’ offices that Davies has at his disposal.”
“Has the investigation found anything important?” I asked.
“The main discovery was to confirm that there were no agitators in Little Rock, which Faubus claimed he was protecting against. This mess is entirely his doing. That means he risks being held in contempt of federal court and that we can withhold federal funds from the Arkansas National Guard.”
“What about using federal troops?”
“We hold that option to enforce the District Court’s order.”
“What if Faubus rejects our claim about the agitators and says he has a duty to ‘prevent violence’ by using the Guard?” Adams asked.
“We could counter by saying the federal government has a duty to protect children, who he’s endangering.”
“And if he denies that?”
“Then the federal government will have to stand firm and use federal troops.”
“Which is exactly what I hope to avoid, if at all possible,” I interjected again. “Faubus is almost here, and we need to discuss the plan for this meeting.” I had their attention. “We need to anticipate that Faubus is going to ask for a delay in withdrawing the Guard. I’ll ask you, Herbert, about that idea, and you have to say in confidence that that would be illegal. He might get mad at you, but I’ll still look like an honest broker, which we’ll need if we’re going to resolve this situation diplomatically.”
“This is a terrible idea, Mr. President!” Brownell exclaimed. “Faubus has soiled himself and is undeserving of meeting the President of the United States!”
I sighed as Brownell’s face turned red. I had heard this argument before and had overruled it the first time. Adams spoke.
“Faubus knows he’s made a mistake and is looking for a way out.”
“Or he’s trying to make President Eisenhower look weak, which he is succeeding at. The President already comes off as weak on civil rights issues because he refuses to use the Bully Pulpit. This will be a domestic equivalent of the Munich Agreement!”
“I want to exhaust all of our diplomatic options before resorting to force,” I countered. “Especially if it means sending young boys against a mob. In the South. As a Republican.”
“We have to give Faubus an out to make a retreat without losing face,” Adams concurred.
“I’ve made my opposition clear,” Brownell said as he constrained his temper.
Brooks Hays, a Democratic Congressman from Little Rock’s district, brokered the meeting between Faubus and myself. I had given Hays the specific telegram that Faubus sent me to request the meeting. Faubus agreed to use it. He arrived at the Newport White House by helicopter. Adams and Hagerty, my Press Secretary, greeted him in front of reporters. They led him to me.
Faubus and I were alone. I did my best to not glare at him, this man who threatened our Constitution and the rights of millions for his own political gain. He appeared to constrain his nerves. He must have known he was over his head. Faubus spoke first after we sat down.
“I served under General Patton in the Second World War. Third Army. He was a great man.”
“He certainly was an effective subordinate. On the Western Front.”
Faubus squirmed as I shot down his attempt to establish a connection. I cut to the chase.
“I hope you know, Governor, that you’re going to have to undo the situation that exists in Little Rock. States can’t defy the Supreme Court.”
“What, are you trying to do this quickly so you can get back to your golf?”
“No,” I muttered, with tension in my voice, “I’m trying to give you a way out.”
“Me! There are ugly plans afoot in Arkansas against me. Now what I require from you, Mr. President, is a ten-day break. A time for breathing that will let temperatures a chance to cool off, to give emotions a chance to subside. I also need the assistance of federal marshals to restore order.”
“I don’t intend to grant a governor who is defying a federal court order control of federal marshals. What you need to do is leave the National Guard in place but to change their orders to escort the Negro students into the school instead of keeping them out. If you do that, the DOJ will recommend that Judge Davies not find you in contempt of federal court.”
“I can’t stand for the federal government and the North to step all over the Southern way of life. And I fail to see how it benefits you, Mr. President, to antagonize the South.”
“I hold to one purpose in this situation, Governor. There must be respect for the Constitution—that means the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Constitution—or there will be chaos.”
“The Constitution belongs to all of us, not nine unelected—”
“We wouldn’t have a coherent legal system if every individual could interpret the Constitution their own way. Now, the federal government has jurisdiction over this issue and it’s my duty to enforce the Supreme Court’s ruling. That means a state will lose if it defies the federal government in this situation and, frankly, no one will benefit from a trial of strength between a President and a governor. I don’t want to see any governor humiliated.”
“I’ve come too far to do what you ask of me, Mr. President. Backing down now would cost me reelection.”
“To be blunt, Governor, you created this situation. It’s on you to resolve it and to put the good of your state and the country ahead of your own career.”
“Easy to say when it’s not your career,” Faubus muttered as he leaned back in his chair and then leaned forward again. “Am I right in understanding that you have a portrait of Robert E. Lee in the Oval Office?”
“Among others, yes.”
“I see myself as acting in Lee’s tradition. Loyalty to the state over the federal government. Surely you can see—”
“The legality and acceptability of nullification may have been questionable before the Civil War, but Appomattox settled it for all time.”
Faubus’ face sank at my interrupting him. It was clear we were getting nowhere, as I predicted. Time for Plan B.
“Let’s go for a walk,” I suggested. Faubus nodded and followed me. We entered an outer office. Waiting for us were Brownell, Adams, General Morgan, and Brooks Hays. Ann Whitman, my personal secretary, sat outside the room.
Faubus’ eyes darted between us, aware he was surrounded. Six chairs were placed in a circle. I led the group to the chairs and told Faubus to sit next to me.
“I feel like a choirboy,” Faubus joked. I briefly summarized the private meeting I’d had with Faubus to the others and Faubus’ request for a delay. I then turned to Brownell.
“Herb, can’t you go down there to Little Rock and ask Judge Davies to postpone the implementation of this order for a few days, ten days, or three weeks? Whatever time it might be decided is best to try to solve the problem?”
Brownell shook his head, as planned.
“No, that’s impossible. It isn’t legally possible.” He eyed Faubus. “The governor may not agree with the Supreme Court’s decision, but he must obey it.”
Faubus was silent and frowning, studying my reactions, aware that this was scripted. He finally spoke, primarily to me.
“I am preserving peace and good order with the National Guard.”
“The order was outrageous, Governor,” I shot back.
“I had no choice! Your Attorney General sent the FBI and federal marshals to Little Rock to arrest me!”
“That was based on a request from Judge Davies!” Brownell exclaimed.
Faubus turned to me in exasperation.
“Do you see the type of people you have in your administration?”
“I support Mr. Brownell and am determined to uphold the Constitution against mob rule,” I said, making my stance plain. The room settled into an awkward silence until I retrieved a letter from my pocket. “This is from a gentleman, a businessman, I believe, who offered me free advice. He recommended that I remove every Southern officer from command within the Army because they are going to stage a revolution over this Little Rock situation. So, I ask you, Governor, how far do you plan to go in opposing the federal government?”
Faubus squirmed back in his seat again. His eyes darted to and fro.
“I hope you know, Mr. President, that I am a loyal citizen and that I recognize federal supremacy.”
A sudden smile overtook me. He folded!
“Remember, Governor, I don’t believe you should necessarily withdraw the Guard when you return home. Just change their orders to support integration rather than oppose it. That will resolve this situation without you losing face.”
“I appreciate that,” Faubus responded.
I turned to Hagerty.
“Please explain how constructive this meeting was to the press, Jim.”
I heard Mrs. Whitman scoff from the other room and couldn’t help but notice how bothered Brownell looked. They lacked my optimism that the breakthrough was genuine. It would turn out they had reason to do so.
All About The Eisenhower Chronicles
In 1938 he was a lieutenant colonel stationed in the Philippines; by 1945 the world
proclaimed him its savior. From leading the forces of liberal democracy against history’s most evil tyrant to the presidency, Dwight D. Eisenhower fought for and kept the peace during the most dangerous era in history.
The Eisenhower Chronicles dramatizes Ike’s life, portraying his epic journey from unknown soldier to global hero as only a novel could. He is shown working with icons such as FDR, Winston Churchill, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and confronting challenges like D-Day, the Little Rock Crisis, and Sputnik.
Eisenhower’s legacy is grounded in defending the world from fascism, communism, and nuclear weapons. This novel shows how he accomplished it all and takes readers into his mind and soul, grounding the history in the man who made it.
“Zucker's achievement is monumental. In a fast-paced narrative, he captures Dwight D. Eisenhower with mastery and precision-his thoughts, emotions, decisions, and actions. The smooth prose and rich detail put the reader right there with Ike at every step of his military career and presidency, with an accurate and compelling rendering. This is historical fiction at its best.” `~Yanek Mieczkowski, presidential historian and author of Eisenhower's Sputnik Moment: The Race for Space and World Prestige~
“This is a vast and minutely detailed account of Eisenhower as both supreme Warlord and President of the United States at a time of truly massive transformation. It is magisterial in its informed account and sweeping in its scope. It is a panoramic study, intensively researched, of Eisenhower as both a private person and a world figure.... Five stars and highly recommended.” ~ The Historical Fiction Company Editorial Reviews~
All about M. B. Zucker
M. B. Zucker has been interested in storytelling for as long as he can remember. He discovered his love of history at fifteen and studied Dwight Eisenhower for over ten years. Mr. Zucker earned his B.A. at Occidental College and his J.D. at Case Western Reserve University School of Law. He lives in Virginia with his wife.
Connect with M. B. Zucker
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