The Swamp Fox
By John Oller. (DaCapo Press, 368 pages, $26.99.)
South Carolinian Francis Marion (1732-95) has been called the “George Washington of the South,” but baby boomers may associate him with the 1950s Disney TV series “The Swamp Fox” that had a tall, handsome Leslie Nielsen bedeviling the British. The real Francis Marion was 5 feet 2 and by no means fair of face.
He was, however, a fair and sober man of purpose who mastered a vicious theater of the American Revolution.
Marion’s militia band harried the British rear, and in “The Swamp Fox,” author John Oller writes in depth about his outpost raids, lending context to the efforts. “Of the thousand patriots killed in action in the Revolution in 1780, 66 percent died in South Carolina and 90 percent of the two thousand patriots wounded in action in 1780 fell in that state,” he writes.
A readable, well-documented biography, it includes Marion’s family life — he did not marry until after the war — and his attitudes as a slaveholder in South Carolina. The narrative gets lost in detail now and again, but maps at the front of the book are a great help. Anyone who loves American history or military history would love this book.
Shadows of Paris
By Eric D. Lehman. (Homebound Publications, 102 pages, $15.95.)
In Eric Lehman’s “Shadows of Paris,” literature teacher William Byrnes moves to the movable feast that is Paris, then does little more than eat rice in his apartment and sit for hours in Notre Dame cathedral. Clearly there’s something wrong with this guy.
He gets an unwelcome nudge from Monsieur Cygne, his boss at a private high school, who sends him off to a dusty bookstore to redress his ignorance of French writers. There he meets Lucy Navarre, another American expat with demons of her own.
This spare novella takes its time unspooling their mysteries, but along the way it takes us on an enjoyable tour of Paris and a delightful dip into Emile Zola, Victor Hugo and other titans of French literature.