The best books about war and warriors that influenced my writing career

David Fitz-Enz Author Of The Spy on Putney Bridge: A Mystery Novel of Espionage, Murder, and Betrayal in London
By David Fitz-Enz

The Books I Picked & Why

The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant

By John F. Marszalek, Ulysses S. Grant

The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant

Why this book?

I was urged to write my memoir by a Random House editor, Owen Lock, who shepherded combat veterans of Vietnam to tell their stories through a series of books. He remarked that no army combat photographer had ever written about the experience. A combat photographer’s mission, “Document the War”, leads to the obvious conclusion. My platoon and I photographed land and sea, army, navy, and air force as it unfolded. We were never short of subjects.” Once I retired, living in northern woods near Lake Placid, I had the time to write but not the know-how. I turned to a man I had followed throughout my year at the Army War College, Ulysses S. Grant. My story was nothing like his, no one could be, but I liked the way he revealed his incredible experiences. A plain speaker, he was equally a plain and direct writer. That’s what I hoped to emulate in the smallest of ways. So, with the story of a great soldier in the back of my mind, I put down my story, ‘Why A Soldier’. I am most gratified to note that it is still selling after twenty years.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Amateurs, to Arms!: A Military History of the War of 1812

By John R. Elting

Amateurs, to Arms!: A Military History of the War of 1812

Why this book?

I was given the opportunity to make a television program about the Battle of Plattsburgh /Lake Champlain. Amateurs to Arms proved out to the best source for research concerning the War of 1812. It was no wonder since Professor John Elting had also written the 1812 West Point Atlas. His book on the northern battlefields is groundbreaking. An infantry officer in Germany during WWII, his experience brought an understanding of men caught in hand-to-hand combat. As a result of my extensive research, John suggested that I write a companion book to the film. The Final Invasion, Plattsburgh, the war of 1812’s most decisive battle, won the Army Historical Foundation book prize and the endorsement of the US Army War College.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

1812: The Navy's War

By George C. Daughan

1812: The Navy's War

Why this book?

There are many great books written about the fledgling US Navy that came into its own during the campaign of 1812.  As an Army officer, I was compelled to read them all when researching if my book, Old Ironsides, Eagle of the Sea if I were to compete with that of the ‘old saults’. George was challenged not only to define the complexities of the fledgling American frigates, but to contrast it with the proven rulers of the waves.  The British navy had not had a significant challenge since the magnificent history laid down by captain Horacio Nelson. The unpresented victories over the Royal Navy’s frigates were “uncalled for” according to the London Times. If there is one book to read about the epic struggle at sea, this is the one to choose.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times

By H. W. Brands

Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times

Why this book?

My first novel, Redcoats’ Revenge, an alternative history of the war of 1812 was a break from the lockstep writing of non-fiction and a relief, in a way. But it became a whole new challenge. A primary character in the book was Andrew Jackson, a man without bounds. I read extensively to find his soul and there it was in Brand’s book.  From his backwoods beginnings to his firebrand speeches in the congress, Bill Brand captures the heart of that warrior. Jackson, a leader we must all emulate, stands out in every crowd as a trailblazer, a warrior, an American frontiersman we all think of when building our own stories. At the end of this volume, you will say to yourself, “what a man”.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict

By Donald R. Hickey

The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict

Why this book?

This is the best comprehensive history of the period. The scope is daunting. The book, along with long phone conversations with the author, was my bible when writing Hacks, Sycophants, Adventurers, and Heroes, Madison’s commanders in the War of 1812.  Don not only gives you the facts but is also adept at stinging them together into an absorbing narrative that will keep you looking for the next turning.  The period of the war is filled with the most audacious characters found in any nations’ early history.  From the heroes of the battlefield to the wretched politicians that haunt all our history, you will never find a more gripping read.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Closely Related Book Lists

Random Book Lists