Stealing, Shann Bateman learns, is bad for one's health. As an Illiis cavalry officer during the Civil War, he purloins a fortune in gold, then struggles almost thirty years to elude its rightful owners. The treasure remains cleverly hidden while both sides employ guile, murder, and mordant humor. Dickensian characters appear, disappear, and rematerialize in various guises. Disconsolate after his wife dies, Shan abandons his daughter and thriving business and takes refuge in a roadshow. An unexpected meeting brings him back to family, including his resentful daughter. Both she and his new wife become strong, resilient persons who wage their own wars against him. They all end up in Kansas, where Shan again succeeds in business, survives an encounter with hundreds of Cheyenne warriors, and experiences more family troubles. His oldest and most persistent enemy pays a visit and makes him an offer. By the mid-1880s, Shan's spiraling dementia heightens a longtime animosity toward the Negroes he helped free during the war. He is committed to an insane asylum, where he and his assembled enemies, including a young black orderly, wage wars of a different sort. Overseeing the drama is a Civil War surgeon-cum psychiatrist who has his own troubles. Who is insane and who is t? Where's the gold? And who is the winner ? A sprawling vel spanning four generations, Wars Unwon reveals the humanity in even the basest of its characters, along with the interwoven consequences of their actions.
A native Kansan, John R. Finger earned his Ph.D. in history at the University of Washington and taught for more than thirty years at the University of Tennessee, where he was also Head of the History Department. He is the author of three scholarly books and more than fifty articles, essays, and reviews. Now retired, he continues to reside in Knoxville with his wife, fiber artist Judi Gaston.