In 2001 a sea shell was offered for sale that seemed to make no sense. Carved on the shell was a likeness of the iron steamship “Great Eastern,” the largest, most advanced ship of the 19th century. Just above the steamship was a carving of a gate described on the shell as the tomb of Abraham Lincoln. No known connection existed between the ship, launched in London in 1858, and Lincoln whose body was interred in May 1865 in Springfield, Illinois. Believing that the shell had been used to record some heretofore unknown event, Paul Stack began 15 years of research, collecting and organizing thousands of documents from libraries and universities in the US and the UK. What emerged was a story of a daring attempt by the Confederacy to break the blockade in September 1861 and an equally daring attempt by the Union to prevent this attempt. Inspired by true events, the story is one of treason, espionage, and a family ripped apart by the Civil War. A complementary website, www.september1861.com, sets forth pictures of the ship and persons involved, and original research documents.
"Leviathan is an historical narrative unlike any other. On the one hand, it presents a rich and illuminating picture of social, political, technological, and emotional life on both sides of the Atlantic at the time of the Civil War. On the other hand, it presents a gripping narrative of an event that - if it happened - made possible the Union victory in 1865, and - if it didn’t happen - brings to imaginative life the obscure human events that combine to produce massive historical change. This is a rare book that is as instructive as it is exciting."
“The Leviathan is a very unusual and gripping Civil War novel replete with a richly developed supporting cast of Victorian era characters. The real protagonist, however, is the iron behemoth, Great Eastern. Launched amidst great fanfare in 1858 and seemingly cursed even before its massive hull floated on the Thames, the steamship was way ahead of its time. Indeed, it wasn’t duplicated in technology or size until the 20th century. Throughout the novel, the black monster looms menacingly, dominating the story until the very last thrilling page."
"Riveting: meticulously researched, skillfully constructed, morally wrenching, and deeply sobering as a portrait of the not-so-United States at the outset of the Civil War. This is not only a terrific story, but also one whose thesis about the critical early turning point of the War very well may be true,"