Sunday, July 29, 2012

Why New York?

The Maryland Monument, Prospect  Park

Why New York?  This is one of the first questions I get when I discuss the Yankee Doodle Spies series and more importantly, the first book in the series, The Patriot Spy.  It is a good question and the answer is simple:  I am from New York.  Indeed, most folks (including New Yorkers) consider the events near Boston as the natural beginning of the revolution - and they are right.  Lexington and Concord, the siege of Boston, the battle at Bunker/Breeds Hill demonstrated that the colonies could  field and army.  But they had done so before - colonial forces were not inconsiderable in the wars against the French and the Indians during several wars in the early 18th century. However, the revolutionary forces assembled in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1775 stood for freedom from what they viewed as royal tyranny and the infringement of their rights as Britons.  Essentially, this was the view of the Whig Party on both sides of the Atlantic.

One day when I was about seven or eight, my dad took me to Brooklyn's Prospect Park where we saw the park's  moving monument to the Maryland Continental Line in the Battle of Long Island.  My dad gave me a long (so it seemed to a young boy) rendition of the battle and the gallantry of those infantrymen. At the time my dad was commander of A Company, 2-69th, New York.  The "Fighting 69th" is a famed infantry unit that is still a component of the New York Guard and part of the 42d Infantry Division, the Rainbow Division.

I digress.  My dad focused my attention on the ragged lines of men who had never seen battle, serving a new nation, who now had to charge against a "thin red line" of highly trained British professionals. The Marylanders, essentially destroyed, saved the new American Army. My dad ended his story with words to the effect of  "and so now each year the Maryland Guard places a wreath at the monument marking the gallantry of one its first units."

For whatever reason, his words echoed in my memory for many decades, even as so many of my other memories have faded.  I am not sure if the Maryland Guard still places a wreath at the monument each year. So when I wrote the first book of this series, I decided to make it a lasting "wreath" to the men from Maryland and to infantrymen everywhere.


  1. That is a good reason to set your story in New York! Write what you know, know what you write. It shows when an author does not know the area he is writing about -- and, as in your case, when he does.

  2. I'm flattered. In this case, I am going to give credit for the idea and the setting to GW (who picked the location), the Continental Army (who gave their blood), and of course, my dad!