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About the book
  • Published: 1 December 2013
  • ISBN: 9781742749846
  • Imprint: Random House Australia
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 416

American Scoundrel




Murder, Love and politics in Civil War America.

Murder, Love and politics in Civil War America.

On the last, cold Sunday of February 1859, Daniel Sickles shot his wife's lover in Washington's Lafayette Square, just across from the White House ... this is the story of that killing and its repercussions.

Charming and ambitious, Dan Sickles literally got away with murder. His protector was none other than the President himself, the ageing James Buchanan; his political friends quickly gathered round; and Sickles was acquitted.

His trial is described with all Thomas Keneally's powers of dash and drama, against a backdrop of double-dealing, intrigue and 'the slavery question'. Enslaved, in her turn, by the hypocrisy of nineteenth-century society, his wife was shunned and thereafter banned from public life. Sickles, meanwhile, was free to accept favours and patronage. He raised a regiment for the Union, and went on to become a general in the army, rising to the rank of brigadier-general and commanding a flank at the Battle of Gettysburg - at which he lost a leg, which he put into the military museum in Washington where he would take friends to visit it.

Thomas Keneally brilliantly recreates an extraordinary period, when women were punished for violating codes of society that did not bind men. And the caddish, good-looking Dan Sickles personifies the extremes of the era: as a womaniser, he introduced his favourite madam to Queen Victoria while his wife stayed at home; as minister to Spain, he began an affair with the queen while courting one of her ladies in waiting; and in his later years, he installed his housekeeper as his mistress while his second wife took up residence nearby.

The brio with which Thomas Keneally tells the tale is equal to the pace and bravado of Sickles's life. But, more than this, American Scoundrel is the lens through which the reader can view history at a time when America was being torn apart. This book resonates with uncomfortable truths, as relevant now as they were then.

  • Pub date: 1 December 2013
  • ISBN: 9781742749846
  • Imprint: Random House Australia
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 416

About the Author

Tom Keneally

Thomas Keneally was born in 1935 and his first novel was published in 1964. Since then he has written a considerable number of novels and non-fiction works. His novels include The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, Schindler's List and The People's Train. He has won the Miles Franklin Award, the Booker Prize, the Los Angeles Times Prize, the Mondello International Prize and has been made a Literary Lion of the New York Public Library, a Fellow of the American Academy, recipient of the University of California gold medal, and is now the subject of a 55 cent Australian stamp.

He has held various academic posts in the United States, but lives in Sydney.

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Praise for American Scoundrel

“An intriguing, almost impossibly flamboyant, subject. And a master storyteller, Tom Keneally.”

John Huxley, The Age

“A tribute to Keneally's narrative energy which powers through the reams of necessary research with an ease that only seems effortless.”

Barry Oakley, The Bulletin


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