Monday 28 February 2011

Character Spotlight ~ Karl Bacon's Michael & Jessie Palmer

Michael & Jessie

Debut author Karl Bacon turns back time with his American Civil War novel, An Eye for Glory. Enjoy this insight into his characters.

Over to you, Karl:~

Michael Gabriel Palmer

Physical Description

As Michael's story is told in the first person, Michael never describes himself. We do, however, learn some details from what others say about him. In many ways Michael is quite proper and ordinary for a Civil War era shopkeeper. During courtship his soon to be wife, Jessie, said, "I always thought you were an admirable man of fine reputation and tolerable appearance, if a bit older." Michael is thirty-four years old at the start of the story. He is average in height and weight, although he comments how years of comfortable living have softened him, especially around his mid-section. But war takes its toll on Michael. When Jessie Anne sees him after eighteen months away, her horrified look does not escape Michael. He is lean, even gaunt, with sunken eyes and a scruffy beard, and this contrast between Jessie Anne's lasting beauty and his own physical corruption haunts Michael.

Actor/famous person

The actor Henry Thomas resembles Michael Palmer in my mind. Although an accomplished actor with many screen credits, Mr. Thomas' roles are often those of the common man.

Strengths and weaknesses

As the story begins Michael sees his greatest strengths as his Christian faith, his love for his wife and children, his devotion to duty, and his brotherly bond with his best friend John. As the story unfolds, Michael discovers that the war has exposed weakness where he thought there was strength — his faith is often small and weak, his family is so distant, the support of friends and mentors is suddenly lacking, the rewards of duty done are meager indeed. In unseen ways, Michael was a hollow shell of a man before the war, and the war simply exposed this flaw.


During the first winter encampment, Michael takes up pipe smoking and will do so for the remainder of his life.

Your inspiration for the character

In calling for volunteers for the Fourteenth Connecticut Volunteer Infantry, Gov. Buckingham said, "Close your manufactories and workshops, turn aside from your farms and business, leave for awhile your families and your homes, meet face to face the enemies of your liberties." This statement inspired the idea that Michael should be a family man, and a respected member of the community, someone who would certainly be risking everything he held dear by going off to war.

Jessie Anne Palmer

Physical Description

Michael describes Jessie Anne as "a graceful young woman. If one looked at her closely, as so often I found myself doing, one saw a pleasantly attractive and faintly exotic face, fair but not pale skin, a nose that was just a bit shorter and wider than most of direct European ancestry, and dark brown eyes that were ever so slightly almond-shaped, and one might conclude that there was, quite possibly, an Indian or two hidden among her progenitors."

Actor/famous person who might resemble her

Jessie Anne might resemble the actress Angie Harmon, who is also part native-American (Cherokee).

Strengths and weaknesses

Jessie Anne's great strength can be found in her sincere Christian faith, her deep love for Michael, and her unfailing loyalty to him. She is witty, spirited, and opinionated, and despite her misgivings about Michael's enlisting, her dedication to him never wavers all during the war and its aftermath. Throughout Jessie Anne exhibits resolve, wisdom, love, faithfulness, and perseverance, but never weakness.

Your inspiration for the character

As I was developing the Jessie Anne character, I wanted to make her visually memorable, to offset Michael's average appearance. I read somewhere that mixed race marriages were not uncommon on the frontier during the eighteenth century, so Jessie Anne's great-grandfather had married a young Mohegan woman in upstate New York. Jessie Anne's personality and other character traits are somewhat reflective of my wife, who is also a vibrant, Christian woman.

Background to the story

The seed for An Eye for Glory was purchased in the spring of 1998, in a used book store at Mitchell Airport in Milwaukee. While browsing through the history section I discovered a hardcover copy of Infantryman Pettit, The Civil War Letters of Corporal Frederick Pettit in good condition. Pettit was a young Christian soldier from western Pennsylvania who served in the 100th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment. Brother sometimes fought against brother during the Civil War, but as I read the letters Corporal Pettit sent to his family and friends, it struck me that Christian brothers often fought one another, each trying his best to kill the other, and each fully convinced of the righteousness of his cause. There was a story to tell.

Thanks so much, Karl, for this detailed look at Michael and Jessie ~ your efforts are much appreciated.

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Laura Frantz said...

Rel, I'm behind on my blog reading but couldn't miss this. I was so drawn to the cover and posted about it previously - some of my readers are Karl fans:) Anyway, sounds like a great read - refreshing to see this time period merit attention again. Wonderful spotlight as always.

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