This book is the sequel to the author’s first book, Billy Gogan: American, in which orphan Billy is sent from Ireland to America on the eve of the 1844 Irish Famine. Living by his wits, and doing what he has to, to survive, Billy quickly learns to grow up, establishes a life in Gotham, and eventually becomes an American citizen. However, after the tragic death of his good friend and companion Mary Skiddy, and the Great Fire of New York, it is a reflective Billy who, aged 16 decides to join Uncle Sam’s army, and this is where the second book really begins.
For anyone with an interest in this period of history this book will, I am sure be compulsive reading. The author uses a blend of real and fictional characters to make this an excellent history book, with clear maps and outstanding information on the movements of American army as they fought against the Mexicans in the American – Mexican war. However this book has one very important element which makes it stand out against other similar history books, and that is Billy Gogan himself.
Through his eyes, as a member of the Fourth Infantry we see a soldier’s life in the raw, no holds barred. We are with him as he watches his friends die, sometimes terrible deaths, feel his pain as he clears away the bodies, picks up their letters to loved ones and wipes their blood of his clothes. We read throughout this book numerous examples of his and other soldiers loyalty to their adopted country as they carry out unspeakable acts in order to win battles, on the commandments of their leaders.
Because of the way this book is written the social history of the time is an integral part of the story. It is fascinating to discover what life was like for those civilians who travelled with the soldiers, and as a result, whose lives became interlaced.
The author has, in this outstanding book, through the character of Billy Gogan, chronicled the battles which took place during this period of American history in a very human way. The very real hope on both sides from the soldiers and common people, that war would not occur, then the horrors which resulted when it did.
In summary, in writing this book, the author Roger Higgins has produced an excellent story, well researched, wonderfully detailed, and totally compelling reading.
About the Author:
Roger J. Higgins and his wife reside in Chicago, Illinois, and they are immensely proud of their four children, one of whom is a serving U.S. Marine, and one of whom is Marine turned police officer (happily married to a wonderful high school chemistry and biology teacher). Their daughter is a nurse, and she and her husband (a retired Coast Guard officer) are the proud parents of a baby boy. Their youngest son is an aspiring doctor. As Mrs. Higgins has patiently observed to her husband when he ruminates about the trials and tribulations of raising children, it was together that they went four-for-four with their children, hitting safely at every at-bat. Not a bad day in the batter’s box.
Roger was born in England, in the County Cheshire, where he learned early of the orange-striped Cheshire cat, which disappears, leaving only its grin, full of teeth and gums. Roger emigrated with his parents and younger brother to the United States when he was 6 ¾. When his mother registered him at the local elementary school, he saw fit to wear his English grammar school uniform, which looked a lot like Harry Potter’s, except his cap was gray with purple piping and topped by a purple button, and he wore gray short trousers, gray knee socks and a purple clip-on tie with his dark gray blazer. After his mother finished registering him for school, the principal gently asked whether he would like to leave the tie and cap with her for the day and pick them up after school. Roger demurred. He was fortunate enough to retain both tie and cap (which were never worn again) on the walk home from school.
At the advanced age of ten, Roger taught himself the art of swearing, a skill he found useful in his thirty-odd years of playing rugby, where he was noted for his stone hands, his lack of size for certain positions and lack of speed for all the rest. As a young United States naval officer serving on a guided-missile destroyer many years ago with the lucky number “13” as her hull number (where he met some of the best friends a man can be lucky enough to have), he also learned, as did Captain Horatio Hornblower two centuries earlier, that sometimes having fifty-five oaths at your command can be entirely inadequate to the occasion.
Roger learned the art of leadership from his ships’ commanding officer and executive officer, who together led the tired, old ship, which was a bit of a laughing-stock along the waterfront, to win the Arleigh Burke award as the best destroyer in all of the Pacific Fleet. Roger served another fifteen years after that, having had during that time the privilege of being the fire control officer for the U.S.S. Missouri’s 16-inch guns, and thus the only naval officer in the world (at that time) under the age of thirty proficient in the ancient–and wonderfully obsolescent–art of major caliber naval gunnery.
Roger became a lawyer after retiring from the Navy with a small pension fit to pay the property taxes. After clerking for a Tax Court judge, who taught him the value of telling your story so as to win your reader to your side, Roger worked for a number of very large law firms, eventually becoming a partner at a firm with the grandest bankruptcy practice of them all. Roger greatly admires the practice group leader’s philosophy of practicing law, which is to get the best outcome possible for your client, never re-trade on a deal, and if you must stab someone, don’t stab him (her) in the back; look the person in the eye and then stab her. You’ll be treated the same way, when the time comes. Oh, and never sell your reputation. Once sold, you can never buy it back again.
Roger continues to practice law at a much smaller and less grand law firm and to write novels to his own taste. He is having a wonderful time doing so.
About the Book:
In Billy Gogan Gone fer Soldier, Billy Gogan enlists in the U.S. Army, only to be forced to battle a new enemy on the eve of the Mexican-American War. The fearsome and sadistic Sergeant Hoggs’s reign of terror is cut short, however, by a young second lieutenant named Ulysses S. Grant.
Billy and his companions are part of the biggest army assembled by the United States in decades, which has been ordered to the banks of the Nueces River to defend Texas. But the army is both tiny, hardly 3,000 combatants, and woefully unprepared for war. The army’s beloved commander Zachary Taylor, known to his bluebellies as Old Zach, slowly whips the army into shape over the winter of 1845-46, as disease ravages officer and soldier alike.
In the spring, the army is ordered south to the northern bank of the Rio Bravo. All is not well. The army’s savage discipline causes scores of desperate doughboys to desert and swim across the Rio Bravo to an imagined paradise. War begins badly for the Americans. But Old Zach eventually wins a pair of victories that send the Mexican army scuttling south to Monterrey. Billy is then sent on a mission with the Texas Rangers, which ends in a tragic war crime.
Billy Gogan Gone fer Soldier ends on a lonely rooftop as the bloody fighting on the savage first day of the Battle of Monterrey concludes in American defeat.
Billy Gogan Gone Fer Soldier is available from: