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1775–Mine vs. ‘His’ (Review of Kevin Phillips’s 1775)

I’ve been working on my 1775 manuscript for several years now, the last two focused on getting my completed manuscript published. So, as noted in my previously post, when I first learned of the similarly titled 1775: A Good Year for a Revolution by Kevin Phillips, released in late 2012, my heart skipped a beat. My literary agents then instructed me to review the book so I could make the case that my own 1775 was still worthy of publication. This exercise was not to convince my agents. It was to convince the gun-shy publishing industry. Well, I’ve finally reviewed that book, and results were not as I expected.

In fact, the results were better than expected. 

Kevin Phillips's "1775: A Good Year for a Revolution" vs. Derek Beck's forthcoming "1775"

Simply put, “his” book is devoted to describing the ideological and socio political landscape of the early part of the Revolution, but spends no time on the events, stories, and individuals as detailed in my 1775 manuscript.

Thus, Kevin Phillips’s 1775 (“his” book) is complementary to my work, and is not a competitor (despite the unfortunate similarity in the titles).

Unlike my 1775, “his” is somewhat scholarly, while mine reads narratively (you can read an excerpt of my first chapter online). In other words, mine is mostly chronological and follows characters through the important events of 1775. “His” is a series of essays really, strung together in logical ways to form meaningful chapters on socio political topics of the early Revolutionary era.

In fact, per Phillips’s own preface to his book, his mission is not to tell the story of the events of 1775, but rather to prove through his scholarly arguments and examples that “1775 was more important than 1776”. 

This is the purpose of “his” book. Mine is to tell the story of the events in and around New England during 1775, utilizing new research and insights, and putting all of the major events together in one book so the context and relation of these events can be understood.

Thus, our books are very different.

As a stark example, “his” book summaries much of the events of 1775 within a few pages of his first chapter. He summarizes the entire Paul Revere’s Ride and the resulting first Battles of Lexington and Concord (or the Battle of April Nineteenth) in a mere paragraph! Phillips concludes that simple paragraph with this ultra concise summary: 

… after eight militiamen were killed on Lexington Green and a small quantity of stores and powder destroyed in Concord, the redcoats came under attack by thousands of swarming minutemen. They were, as every schoolchild knows, chased back to Boston with heavy casualties. War was beginning.

Phillips gives little more of the battle itself, nor of any other battle, such as that at Bunker Hill. In contrast, my 1775 devotes three chapters to Lexington and Concord (and Menotomy, now Arlington), not to mention the chapters accounting for the build up to and aftermath of the battle. And I give another two on the Battle of Bunker Hill.

One need only peruse Phillips’s book to see how different it is from mine. “His” covers such topics as the role of religion in colonial life (Chapter 3), the colonial economies (Chapter 4), the socio political bond of the New England colonies (Chapter 8), British logistical inefficiencies (Chapter 12), the role of blacks and Indians (Chapter 15), British missed opportunities (Chapter 17), etc. 

(Compare this to my event-driven story, as laid out in my book outline.)

Thus, despite the similar titles, my 1775 remains unique and worthy of publication, for now… Indeed, I might be stuck changing my title, but if I must, so be it. 

In the meantime, I have tweaked my book proposal accordingly, and will tweak it a bit more before sending it later this week to my literary agents. 

It’s time to get “my” 1775 published, before another book really does supersede mine.

(Have you read “his” book? If so, sound off below!)

 Derek’s Book
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About Derek W. Beck

I write stuff. I film stuff too.

3 Responses to 1775–Mine vs. ‘His’ (Review of Kevin Phillips’s 1775)

  1. Derek Beck says:

    Edit note: I originally had the word “novel” in place of “narrative”, so when I wrote 

    I say “almost like a novel” because everything I write is pure nonfiction, to the best of history’s understanding, while the word novel is defined as being a work of fiction.

    Of course, when I then changed the word “novel” to “narrative”, that sentence was no longer true (narratives can be fiction or nonfiction), hence the sentence should’ve been deleted, and now is.

  2. Sherie says:

    The standard terminology is “creative nonfiction”, which applies the techniques of fiction to nonfiction. I enjoy the details of the stories that you include.

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