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Debra Hamel is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.


Books by Debra Hamel:

THE BATTLE OF ARGINUSAE :
VICTORY AT SEA AND ITS TRAGIC AFTERMATH IN THE FINAL YEARS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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KILLING ERATOSTHENES:
A TRUE CRIME STORY
FROM ANCIENT ATHENS
By Debra Hamel


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READING HERODOTUS:
A GUIDED TOUR THROUGH THE WILD BOARS, DANCING SUITORS, AND CRAZY TYRANTS OF THE HISTORY
By Debra Hamel


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paperback | hardcover (UK)

THE MUTILATION OF THE HERMS:
UNPACKING AN ANCIENT MYSTERY
By Debra Hamel


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TRYING NEAIRA:
THE TRUE STORY OF A COURTESAN'S SCANDALOUS LIFE IN ANCIENT GREECE
By Debra Hamel


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paperback | hardcover (UK)

SOCRATES AT WAR:
THE MILITARY HEROICS OF AN ICONIC INTELLECTUAL
By Debra Hamel


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ANCIENT GREEKS IN DRAG:
THE LIBERATION OF THEBES AND OTHER ACTS OF HEROIC TRANSVESTISM
By Debra Hamel


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IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY TWEET:
FIVE HUNDRED 1ST LINES IN 140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
By Debra Hamel


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PRISONERS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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Lerner, Eric: Pinkerton's Secret

  Amazon  

3.5 stars

Eric Lerner's Pinkerton's Secret purports to be the memoir of Allan Pinkerton, who founded the Pinkerton National Detective Agency in Chicago in 1855. The Pinkerton Agency grew to become the first national police force. Pinkerton and his agents policed the nation's railroads, for example, and they infiltrated the Confederate forces during the Civil War to smuggle information to the Union. Lerner's Pinkerton, writing in the mid-1880s, describes some of his cases and his role during the War as well as his involvement in the Abolitionist movement: Pinkerton was an accolyte of John Brown--a relationship which, at least as Lerner's novel has it, proved fatal to Pinkerton's marriage--and his house was a stop on the Underground Railroad. Atop this historical scaffolding, Lerner has written a romance: Pinkerton begins his account in 1856, when he hired his first female operative, Kate Warne, an eminently competent woman with whom he would eventually have an affair.

My copy of Lerner's book does not include a note about the story's historicity. (It's possible that other editions will include one; if not, they should.) As such it is difficult to know from the book itself how much of Lerner's story is based on historical evidence. A bit of Googling and a gander at Lerner's own (nicely designed) site suggest that the story is firmly rooted in the evidence, though he has of course taken liberties with what is known of the relationship between Pinkerton and Kate Warne.

Pinkerton's Secret is not an edge-of-your-seat read, although some of the material Lerner had to work with (e.g., espionage within the Confederate ranks) would have lent itself to such a treatment. And Lerner's characters do not grip our emotions. But the book is a decent read and a pleasant enough way to swallow some history.

Comments

1.

Sounds like a fascinating time period to write about.

I really enjoy reading the notes at the ends of such books about how true they've been (or not) to the historical details. I don't need the books to be historically accurate, but I'm fascinated by finding out which parts really were based in truth, as the truth often surprises me quite a bit.

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