As the centennial of the Civil War approached in the 1950s, several very old men began to tell stories about this or that battle.
By BRIAN BURNES
The Kansas City Star
Richard A. Serrano details their deceptions in Last of the Blue and Gray, published Tuesday.
I thought I was going to be writing about real veterans, Serrano, a former reporter for The Kansas City Times, said recently.
But Serrano, today a reporter at the Los Angeles Times bureau in Washington, D.C., pulled pension records. Once I did that, it usually was clear that they were phonies, he said recently. It turned out some of them hadnt been born yet.
Still, several received notoriety and pensions, too. And yet the fraud they perpetrated involved more than mere money. As Serrano details, these men received the thanks of a grateful nation. President Dwight Eisenhower, while not confirming the claims of Walter Williams of Franklin, Texas, issued a statement upon Williams death in 1959, noting the passing of the last Civil War veteran.
But 1860s census records, Serrano writes, indicated that Williams was a child during the war.
To learn more, go to SmithsonianBooks.com.
Anyone thinking of forming a band should be given a copy of The Worst Gig.
For years, Jon Niccum, a Lawrence journalist and musician, has asked artists about their most grotesque nights on the stage.
Many warmed to the question, with replies sufficiently numerous that Niccum has organized his book by nature of disaster. Bad gigs occur in all genres; musicians included represent jazz (Wynton Marsalis), punk (Sex Pistols), Americana (Gillian Welch) and rock (Moby Grape, Led Zeppelin, Wilco, Ted Nugent).
The more accomplished the musician, Niccum said, the more specific the story. Session guitarist Steve Lukather details how one gig turned out to be for exercise guru Richard Simmons. And yet that does not represent the worst part of the story.
Niccum added, I made my living for years as a musician, and everybody just understands that you have a worst gig. He is a freelance entertainment writer for The Star.
Accordingly, Niccum includes his own worst gig, which involves a broken beer bottle and a punctured artery.
For more information, go to WorstGig.com.