"WHAT BROTHER GARFIELD KNEW"
Author: Albert Savignano Jr., 60, of Edwardsville, retired five years ago from a 30-year career at Procter & Gamble and set out to do what he said most people who retire say they will do: write a book. The history buff, who loves to read biographies of presidents, did just that after a process that, from conception to publication, took 13 years.
Publisher: Self-published by Laurie Ann Publications.
Available: Through Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com for $13.99.
Suitable for: Any age but geared toward history buffs.
What it's about: Part biography, part American history, part church history, it takes a look at the early years of James Garfield's life.
Q: Why did you choose to focus on James Garfield?
A: I've read several biographies on him, but it wasn't until I was reading a book on the history of mathematics and there was a chapter on the Pythagorean Theorem, which it said was discovered by James Garfield. I thought, "What kind of guy is this?" Everything I read about him pretty much said he was a canal boy, he became president, he got shot, and now he's dead.
Q: So he was much more than a presidential figure?
A: I would term him the Indiana Jones of the 19th century. He's been everywhere and done everything. He was the youngest Major General on the Union Army; he was a Disciples of Christ minister; he became a lawyer at some point. He knows the guy who wrote "Ben-Hur;" he traveled West and met with Indians; he'd gone to Europe to meet people. He was in Congress; he was a congressman that could do math.
Q: How much of this is covered in your book?
A: My book goes up to age 27. When I started I was going to write about his whole life, then I realized there's actually four very distinct parts; this is only the first. Everybody has written about the fourth part, which is where the excitement is, when he was president and got shot. Part two is from the time he becomes a senator in Ohio to the end of the Civil War, and part three is when he was a congressman. What I wanted to show in this book was what that time period was like, his religious conversion, and the fact that he didn't have any money, which he pointed to a lot in his own diaries.
Q: Where did you gather so much information?
A: He actually wrote diaries, which are on microfilm. He kept a diary from Jan. 1, 1848, to the day before he was shot in July of 1881. There are big gaps in there, of course, but not in the early years, so that helped a lot.
Q: How did it feel to read words that he, himself, wrote down?
A: It was interesting. One thing in particular I paid attention to was the language he used. He didn't say they got the flu, he said they had ague.
He wore pantaloons. I made a little notebook of all that called the Garfield Glossary. Maybe some day I'll put that out there, too.