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Posted at 2:30 PM ET, 02/10/2011

"Matterhorn" and "The Fiery Trial" win awards

By Stephen Lowman

matterhorn.jpgTwo authors of political works — one a novel that takes place during the Vietnam War, the other a study of President Lincoln’s evolving ideas about slavery — have won prominent book awards.

Karl Marlantes, a Vietnam veteran who spent 30 years writing his epic debut, has won this year’s William E. Colby Award for “Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War.”

Set in 1969, it tells the epic story of a young platoon leader, Waino Mellas, trying to keep his men alive in the country’s unforgiving jungle.

“Ironically,” wrote our reviewer David Maisel, “the best parts of ‘Matterhorn’ aren't the battle scenes, which are at times rendered with a literal precision that borders on mechanical. Rather it is Marlantes's treatment of pre-combat tension and rear-echelon politics. It's these in-between spaces that create the real terror of ‘Matterhorn’: military and racial politics; fragging that threatens the unit with implosion; and night watch in the jungle, where tigers are as dangerous as the North Vietnamese Army.”

The Colby award “recognizes a first work of fiction or non-fiction that has made a significant contribution to the public’s understanding of intelligence operations, military history, or international affairs.”

Meanwhile, Eric Foner will receive the $50,000 Lincoln Prize for his book, “The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery.”

fiery trial.jpegFoner casts new light on familiar terrain in his assessment of Lincoln’s complex views on slavery and how they were shaped by the politics and public opinion of the day.

Our reviewer, Fred Kaplan, wrote: “What gives the book its major spurt of energy and freshness is its account of the complicated political and social context in which Lincoln's views on slavery were formed and the large number of people and movements that helped create the dominant attitudes toward slavery in early and mid-19th-century America.”

In addition to the cash prize, Foner will receive a replica of Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ "Lincoln the Man."

By Stephen Lowman  | February 10, 2011; 2:30 PM ET
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