Veteran novelist delves into Civil War

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Robert Olmstead always considered his war the Revolutionary War, when he was growing up on a farm in New England.

It was not until he was teaching at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania did the novelist first visit Gettysburg, where he was transfixed by another great American conflict.

He returned countless times to the national military park, in the middle of the day and at midnight, on his own and paid $25 to ride with battlefield guides while they drove his car and narrated history.

"I just found myself driving down there again and again and again," Olmstead said.

Out of that experience and after a decade of research and writing, Olmstead has produced "Coal Black Horse," a Civil War novel now in stores that generated enormous publicity ahead of its publication.

The book, published by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, N.C., is the No. 1 April selection by BookSense, an organization representing 1,200 independent bookstores around the country whose picks often help drive sales.

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