Former Eagle editor publishes Civil War novel
by Daniel Gaddy
Nov 25, 2012 | 2391 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Former Mountain Eagle Editor Skip Tucker recently published a historical fiction novel that concerns the death of Stonewall Jackson.

The book challenges the common understanding that Jackson died from friendly fire. In the novel, "Pale Blue Light," Tucker explores the possibility that Jackson was assassinated.

Sixty-five-year-old Tucker, a former press secretary for politicians Charles Graddick, said he can't remember exactly when, but at some point he became a student of the Civil War and Stonewall Jackson in particular.

Tucker said Jackson was the embodiment of discipline and was relentless in anything he embraced.

Tucker said Jackson wasn't a typical Confederate soldier. The military commander understood the arguments for each side and was surprised that the conflict between the North and South escalated to a war.

"I've expended every effort to humanize Jackson," Tucker said.

The assassination in "Pale Blue Light" is the result of a conspiracy between Northern agents and several elite Southerners looking to get rich out of a Confederate defeat.

The book follows protagonist Rabe Canon, who befriends Jackson after a Turkey hunt and eventually serves under Jackson, leading the commander's famous Black Horse Cavalry.

Tucker said that aside from Rabe Canon, the novel is historically accurate until the moment Jackson is shot. After that, the Bond-esque tale of espionage begins.

Tucker said the idea for “Pale Blue Light” came to him in the late 80s or early 90s, after he read about 40 books about the Civil War.

Tucker said he wrote the first draft of the book longhand, falling asleep on a pad of paper then waking up and starting again.

"I've heard Woody Allen would lock himself in his bedroom and not come out until he had the first draft done," Tucker said. "I imagine his bedroom was a lot nicer than mine, though."

It took two years of tweaking before Tucker reached the final draft. However, he found out the hard part isn't writing the book.

"The hard thing is getting somebody to read it," he said.

After 12 years of searching for a publisher, the Montgomery-based Newsouth Books gave him a chance, and "Pale Blue Light" was released in September.

Tucker was raised in Eldridge and graduated from Carbon Hill High School. He studied journalism at the University of Alabama.

He said he remembers sitting in the dean's office at UA's journalism department and hearing several people ask if the copy of the Daily Mountain Eagle had come in the mail yet.

Tucker found that the professors were eager to get the paper simply to poke fun at the numerous mistakes in it.

Tucker started working at the Eagle in 1972, eventually becoming editor and then assistant publisher before leaving in the early 80s.

Tucker said that during his time there, local journalists like Mike Kilgore and Shelton Prince helped turn the newspaper into a publication that won dozens of awards from the Alabama Press Association.

After he left the Eagle, Tucker worked to help get state Sen. Charles Bishop elected.

Tucker then became the press secretary for Alabama gubernatorial candidate George McMillan, who faced a 1982 runoff election with George Wallace.

After McMillan's campaign, Tucker became the press secretary for Charles Graddick during his bid for the governor's office in 1986.

That race saw the Alabama Democratic Party appoint Bill Baxley instead of Graddick. Party leaders said Graddick violated primary regulations by encouraging Republicans to vote in the open Democratic primary. The state's voters ultimately elected Guy Hunt, Alabama's first Republican governor.

Tucker also worked as the assistant press secretary for Alabama Gov. Jim Folsom.

In the late 80s and early 90s, Tucker ran Walker County's Clean as a Whistle Campaign, which aimed at reducing the amount of litter in the community.

"It was one of the best feelings I ever had, seeing people embrace that," he said.

In 1996, Tucker started work for Alabama Voters Against Lawsuit Abuse, an organization that sought tort reform in the state. He became director within a month and served 15 years with the group.

Tucker said he recently finished the first draft of his second book, "Bloody Blue Moon," a detective novel set in modern day New Orleans.

Tucker will be available at the second annual Local Author Book Signing at the Carl Elliott Library in Jasper from 5 to 7 p.m. on Dec. 6.

"Pale Blue Light" is also available for purchase online at newsouthbooks.com, and at amazon.com for electronic versions.

Anyone interested in an autographed copy of "Pale Blue Light" can e-mail Tucker directly at montgomery.tucker@gmail.com. Autographed copies are $25.