Sunday, November 19, 2023

BLOG TOUR EXCERPT: The Middle Generation by M.B. Zucker


Book Title: The Middle Generation: A Novel of John Quincy Adams and the Monroe Doctrine
M. B. Zucker

Publication Date: November 7, 2023
Publisher: Historium Press
Page Length: 432
Historical Fiction / Biographical Fiction


Twitter Handle: @MichaelZucker1 @cathiedunn

Instagram Handle: @thecoffeepotbookclub



The Middle Generation: A Novel of John Quincy Adams and the Monroe Doctrine

by M. B. Zucker




The classical era of American history began with the Revolution and ended with emancipation. Between these bookends lies the absorbing yet overshadowed epic of a new nation spearheading liberty’s cause in a world skeptical of freedom arriving at all, much less in slaver’s garb. M. B. Zucker takes readers back to that adolescent country in the care of an enigmatic guide, John Quincy Adams, heir to one president by blood and another, Washington, by ideology. Adams is the missing link between the founders and Abraham Lincoln, and is nigh unanimously regarded as America’s foremost Secretary of State. Through Adams’ eyes, readers will experience one of history’s greatest and most forgotten crises: his showdown with Europe over South American independence, the conflict which prefigured the Monroe Doctrine.


With his signature dialogue and his close study of Adams’ 51 volume diary, M. B. Zucker’s The Middle Generation is a political thriller and character piece that surpasses his achievement in The Eisenhower Chronicles and ascends to the cinematic heights of the historical epics of David Lean and Steven Spielberg. It is an unforgettable portrait and a leap forward for one of our rising historical fiction novelists.


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The title will be available in several Barnes and Noble stores in the DC / Northern Virginia area.

Author Bio:

M. B. Zucker has been interested in storytelling for as long as he can remember. He devoted himself to historical fiction at fifteen and earned his B.A. at Occidental College and his J.D. at Case Western Reserve University School of Law. He lives in Virginia with his family. He is the author of three other novels. Among his honors is the Best Fictional Biography Award at the 2023 BookFest. 

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Excerpt 2:

My eyes, still irritated, were now heavy as I arrived home and I prayed Mrs. Adams had had one of her good days. We’d rented a house at C and 4 ½ Street. A modest home but our family fit well enough. The neighborhood was uninspired, even by Washington standards, the indiscernible buildings standing in file rows like minutemen awaiting approaching redcoats. Its worst feature was a jail-turned-slave pen a mere block away.

I entered the home and saw that the dining room fireplace embers were abating. George, my eldest, slept nearby. John and Charles, my younger sons, attended Boston Public Latin School and lived with the Welshes, our friends. Two chambers—the dining room and kitchen—were at the front while a cluster of minute bedrooms inhabited the rear. The dining room had a table with six chairs, a cluttered bookcase, and portraits of Cicero and George and Martha Washington.

I approached my son and saw a French study book opened so I couldn’t read the title and painted metal toy soldiers organized for battle. I kneeled and shook his shoulder until his eyes opened.

“Were you studying or playing?”

He groaned. “I was studying and took a break.”

“You don’t have time for games if you’re to enter Harvard as a sophomore.”

“I know, Father,” he said meekly.

“I will make our name proud,” I said in French. In English: “Translate for me.” He failed, barely trying, and I paced about. “Don’t you want to make something of yourself? To get somewhere—anywhere—in the world? To earn my admiration rather than be a burden?” He wept. I stood over him so my words carried greater force. “Control yourself. Be distinguishable from the placenta once attached to you.”

He begged between gasps: “Stop, Father.”

I froze, stressed from my day. I chose to be kinder. “What battle were you reenacting?”

A moment. “General Washington’s victory at Saratoga.”

“Washington wasn’t at Saratoga. It was Gates. You can’t even waste time properly.”

He hugged his legs.

“Work for another hour before retiring for the day. Read scripture before bed. It’s medicine for the soul. We are all, son, unwilling to confess our own faults, even to ourselves. Our consciences either disguise them under false and delusive colors or seek out excuses and apologies to reconcile them to our minds.”

He nodded and I entered the kitchen. A claustrophobic space made worse by protruding counters, stuffed shelves, and a round three-legged table at one end. A pot of stew waited for me. I was too drowsy for hunger.

Ellen and Antoine released their grip on one another. Ellen was our cook and Antoine was a young Belgian man I’d hired as my servant. They were the best-looking pair in the family, though that said little.

“I take it Mary’s asleep?” I asked, referring to my wife’s nine-year-old niece living with us.

“Yes, Mr. Adams,” Ellen said.

“And Lucy?” My wife’s servant.

Ellen hesitated. “She’s in bed.”

“Did Mrs. Adams yell at her again?” More hesitation. “Be honest.”

“Yes, Mr. Adams. Mrs. Adams had another episode.” My head drooped. “She fainted and we put her in your bedroom. She might be awake now.”

I lacked room to express my frustration and so squeezed my fists. “I needed her to have a good day.”

“I’m sorry, sir.”

I turned to leave and paused. “You may restore your embrace.”

Our bedroom was pitch black. Curtains resembling a sorcerer’s cape altered it into a lightless mausoleum. Misaligned portraits of our sons and a pamphlet about repairing buggy wheels cluttered a night table while the closet door remained ajar from when I left that morning. Mrs.

Adams opened her eyes. Paradise Lost, her favorite book, sat beside her face. Her hair grayer and her body plumper than when we wed. Self-induced stress was a greater culprit than age.

“You fainted?” I asked. She nodded. “Do you need laudanum?”

“No,” she whispered.

“Do you know the source?”

Louder now: “I again instructed Lucy—”

“Do you want her to quit?”

A sigh. “I don’t care.”

“What do you care about?”

“You know the answer. I can’t stop thinking about Baby Louisa.”

My spine used to stiffen at such remarks. No longer. “It was five years ago.”

“As if that matters.” Her posture rose. “She—she was everything. And you, in your heartlessness, you don’t even—”

“Of course I do. I loved our daughter more than anything. But we cannot live within mourning. We still have children to attend to. Lives which must go on. We cannot afford, nor should we want, to be consumed by a single tragedy. We must accept it as a dark chapter and—”

“Do not lecture me. You haven’t the right.”

“A right derived from what?”

“Look at how you treat those dearest to me. Like Baby Louisa. Like Father.”

I shook my head. “Your father was in the wrong. He brought it upon himself.”

“You merely had to pay off—”

“I was not about to allow his creditors to blackmail me, Louisa. To blackmail our family.”

Screaming now. “Instead you allowed for his humiliation. He had to flee London for America, a country whose revolution he supported—”

Joined her screaming. “Do you know the insult to my virtue—”

She scoffed. “Your virtue?”

“Yes, my virtue. It’s my most valuable possession. My life’s foundation. As if I had the money to pay off his creditors when I’m supporting our family on a government salary.”

“He died a broken man. A man who’d been—”

“He lied to us, Louisa. To you.”

A lower octave. “He was the only one who cared. Who ever cared.”

“People care for you.”




“Of course. And our family.”

“They don’t respect me.”

“That doesn’t mean they don’t care.”

“It’s a prerequisite.” She turned to the curtain. “I ask so little from life and I get even less.”

“Self-indulgence is pathetic.”

“I just want a happy family. That’s all.”

“Life isn’t meant to be happy.”

“Yes it is. At least, that’s what I believe.”

“A foolish belief. Everyone feels stress but adults put it aside and keep going.”

A pause. “I should join our daughter beyond the grave.”

“Or don’t listen to me. Whichever’s better.”

I undressed in the mirror and became blue. My handsome days were behind me. Balder and rounder. I mentioned my eye troubles and will inform you of my hands later. I wished to hide from the world and never appear in public again. No one should have to see this.

Some quiet minutes. Then, “Let’s leave for Braintree the day after tomorrow.”

“Why?” she asked.

“Getting away from the city will clear your head. We’ll spend time with my family instead of the vultures circling Washington.”

“Can you afford to leave?”

“No, but your health is more important. I’ll return before the upcoming congressional session.”

“You’re underestimating the time required to visit New England during winter.”

“Not if we travel by steamship. I’ll tell Brent tomorrow that he must run the Department for a few days. He’ll understand.”

“Daniel is a considerate man.” A pause. “Can we visit John and Charles?”

“You can. I won’t have time.”

“They need their father.”

“They’ll have to do without. For now.” 


1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for hosting M. B. Zucker today, with such a fascinating excerpt from The Middle Generation.

    Take care,
    Cathie xx
    The Coffee Pot Book Club