The editor watched the gas lights flicker in the bar of the Willard Hotel where so many meetings and plots were hatched in Washington City. He relaxed in his chair looking quite fashionable in his mutton chop sideburns popularized by General Burnside. Now that the tragic war had ended, memoirs were a dime a dozen. Exactly on time his 7:00 o’clock appointment walked briskly through the door to pitch another. He was slender, ramrod straight, and carried himself befitting his blue uniform with gold trim.
“General Wallace at your service, Mr. Editor,” he said in clipped words.
Please, General, have a seat and tell me about your book. Is it about your capture of the Confederate forts in Kentucky?”
“Then your role in the terrible bloodletting at Shiloh?”
“So it’s about the campaign in the Shenandoah Valley?”
“The trial of Lincoln’s assassins?”
“The court martial of that fiend Henry Wirz who ran Andersonville prison?”
“Good God, man! I mean General. What is your book about?”
“A Jew? My dear General, this is a Christian nation. I doubt there will be interest in a Jew.”
“Sir, my last duty was in New Mexico settling a range war between ranchers, and I had abundant time to think.”
“New Mexico? There’s an old sot, name of Kincaid, trying to peddle his memoirs to me. Do you know him?”
“Yes. Sad case.”
“Quickly, give me the essence of your story.”
“A Jewish prince is betrayed and sold into slavery. A Roman benefactor restores his freedom, and he returns to Jerusalem in time to see Christ die.”
“That’s it?” the editor asked, shaking his head.
“What’s the title?”
“SON OF HUR.”
“I’m sorry, General, but this has no commercial appeal.”
“What if I changed the title to BEN-HUR?”