Why did the author write the book The Killer Angels? Why is The Killer Angels important to History?

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Despite its initial failure--the manuscript was rejected 15 times before finally being sold to a small publishing house--and its poor commercial sales, Michael Shaara's Civil War novel was a surprise winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1975. Sales remained poor even after winning the Pulitzer, and it was only after the movie Gettysburg was released in 1993 did The Killer Angels soar to Number One on the New York Times bestseller list. Sadly, it's brilliant author never lived to see it: Shaara, a Florida State University professor, had died of a heart attack five years earlier.

A veteran writer of science fiction and short stories, Shaara got the idea of writing The Killer Angels after a trip to the national park.

Reflecting on an extraordinary experience with his family visiting the battlefield at Gettysburg, Michael became obsessed with telling the story of that momentous event through the eyes of the main characters themselves, something that had never been done.

Shaara had a unique perceptive of the events. Himself a son of Italian immigrants, his wife could trace her ancestry back to the family of Revolutionary War hero "Lighthorse Harry" Lee--the father of the famed Confederate general. His decision to use factual history of the battle mixed with fictional dialogue between its real leaders was a unique conception.

"I wrote only what came to mind, with no goal and little income, always for the joy of it, and it has been a great joy."
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The Killer Angels

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