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Local author explores southern view of Civil War

Rensselaer author Rich Busse's first novel, In the Beauty of the Lilies, is his tribute to his life-long passion about the Civil War.

"When I graduated high school, my journalism teacher took me and my best friend, who was also a Civil War devotee, to Gettysburg and dropped us off," he recalled. "We spent days roaming the battlefields, you could in those days, and I felt this affinity with Seminary (Ridge, the primary Confederate position)."

The novel is written from the perspective of a fictional war correspondent named Royal Chapman, in honor of Busse's teacher. Presented in an informal mix of poetry, collected thoughts and complete journal entries, the book does not need to be read in order to be understood, he said.

"The book is all fiction but the tone of the book is true. It sums up the war memories of many combat veterans who fought for the South, and it could be for both sides, at least as far as the combat goes and the citizens who endured it.

"I still say I wasn't the author, I was the translator. I feel like they were there lined up at my elbow telling me their stories."

Busse drew on his experiences in the Vietnam War as he crafted the stories of the combat veterans and civilians in the book.

"War doesn't change," he said. "Only the weapons of war change."

The novel's title comes from a line in the Battle Hymn of the Republic.

"He's looking for the beauty of the lilies in the souls of men at war," Busse said.

Busse, a long time resident of Rensselaer, and a member of the Prairie Writer's Guild, formerly worked as a reporter for the Chicago Tribune and the Times of Hammond.

He said he is now considering a sequel to the novel featuring the stories of some of the people the protagonist meets along the way.

In the Beauty of the Lilies can be checked out from the Library, or purchased online.