February 26, 2015

Spotlight on Jerome Charyn's I Am Abraham


PB Publication Date: February 9, 2015
Liveright Publishing Corporation
Paperback; 480p
Genre: Historical Fiction



Narrated in Lincoln’s own voice, the tragicomic I Am Abraham promises to be the masterwork of Jerome Charyn’s remarkable career.

Since publishing his first novel in 1964, Jerome Charyn has established himself as one of the most inventive and prolific literary chroniclers of the American landscape. Here in I Am Abraham, Charyn returns with an unforgettable portrait of Lincoln and the Civil War. Narrated boldly in the first person, I Am Abraham effortlessly mixes humor with Shakespearean-like tragedy, in the process creating an achingly human portrait of our sixteenth President.

Tracing the historic arc of Lincoln’s life from his picaresque days as a gangly young lawyer in Sangamon County, Illinois, through his improbable marriage to Kentucky belle Mary Todd, to his 1865 visit to war-shattered Richmond only days before his assassination, I Am Abraham hews closely to the familiar Lincoln saga. Charyn seamlessly braids historical figures such as Mrs. Keckley—the former slave, who became the First Lady’s dressmaker and confidante—and the swaggering and almost treasonous General McClellan with a parade of fictional extras: wise-cracking knaves, conniving hangers-on, speculators, scheming Senators, and even patriotic whores.

We encounter the renegade Rebel soldiers who flanked the District in tattered uniforms and cardboard shoes, living in a no-man’s-land between North and South; as well as the Northern deserters, young men all, with sunken, hollowed faces, sitting in the punishing sun, waiting for their rendezvous with the firing squad; and the black recruits, whom Lincoln’s own generals wanted to discard, but who play a pivotal role in winning the Civil War. At the center of this grand pageant is always Lincoln himself, clad in a green shawl, pacing the White House halls in the darkest hours of America’s bloodiest war.

Using biblically cadenced prose, cornpone nineteenth-century humor, and Lincoln’s own letters and speeches, Charyn concocts a profoundly moral but troubled commander in chief, whose relationship with his Ophelia-like wife and sons—Robert, Willie, and Tad—is explored with penetrating psychological insight and the utmost compassion. Seized by melancholy and imbued with an unfaltering sense of human worth, Charyn’s President Lincoln comes to vibrant, three-dimensional life in a haunting portrait we have rarely seen in historical fiction.

Praise for I Am Abraham: A Novel of Lincoln and the Civil War
“Thoughtful, observant and droll.” — Richard Brookhiser, New York Times Book Review

“Not only the best novel about President Lincoln since Gore Vidal’s Lincoln in 1984, but it is also twice as good to read.” — Gabor Boritt, author of The Lincoln Enigma and recipient of the National Humanities Medal

“Jerome Charyn [is] a fearless writer… Brave and brazen… The book is daringly imagined, written with exuberance, and with a remarkable command of historical detail. It gives us a human Lincoln besieged by vividly drawn enemies and allies… Placing Lincoln within the web ordinary and sometimes petty human relations is no small achievement.” — Andrew Delbanco, New York Review of Books

“Audacious as ever, Jerome Charyn now casts his novelist’s gimlet eye on sad-souled Abraham Lincoln, a man of many parts, who controls events and people—wife, sons, a splintering nation—even though they often are, as they must be, beyond his compassion or power. Brooding, dreamlike, resonant, and studded with strutting characters, I Am Abraham is as wide and deep and morally sure as its wonderful subjects.” 
— Brenda Wineapple, author of Ecstatic Nation: Confidence, Crisis, and Compassion: 1848-1877

“If all historians—or any historian—could write with the magnetic charm and authoritative verve of Jerome Charyn, American readers would be fighting over the privilege of learning about their past. They can learn much from this book—an audacious, first-person novel that makes Lincoln the most irresistible figure of a compelling story singed with equal doses of comedy, tragedy, and moral grandeur. Here is something beyond history and approaching art.” — Harold Holzer, chairman, Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation
“Jerome Charyn is one of the most important writers in American literature.” — Michael Chabon

“Jerome Charyn is merely one of our finest writers with a polymorphous imagination and crack comic timing. Whatever milieu he chooses to inhabit, his characters sizzle with life, and his sentences are pure vernacular music, his voice unmistakable.” — Jonathan Lethem

“Charyn, like Nabokov, is that most fiendish sort of writer—so seductive as to beg imitation, so singular as to make imitation impossible.” — Tom Bissell

“One of our most intriguing fiction writers takes on the story of Honest Abe, narrating the tale in Lincoln’s voice and offering a revealing portrait of a man as flawed as he was great.” — Abbe Wright, O, The Oprah Magazine

“Jerome Charyn, like Daniel Day-Lewis in Steven Spielberg’s superb 2012 movie, manages a feat of ventriloquism to be admired… Most of all, Lincoln comes across as human and not some remote giant… With that, Jerome Charyn has given Lincoln a most appropriate present for what would have been his 205th birthday this month: rebirth not as a marble memorial but as a three-dimensional human who overcame much to save his nation.” — Erik Spanberg, Christian Science Monitor

“Daring… Memorable… Charyn’s richly textured portrait captures the pragmatism, cunning, despair, and moral strength of a man who could have empathy for his bitterest foes, and who ‘had never outgrown the forest and a dirt floor.’” — The New Yorker

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About the Author
Jerome Charyn is an award-winning American author. With nearly 50 published works, Charyn has earned a long-standing reputation as an inventive and prolific chronicler of real and imagined American life. Michael Chabon calls him “one of the most important writers in American literature.” New York Newsday hailed Charyn as “a contemporary American Balzac,”and the Los Angeles Times described him as “absolutely unique among American writers.” Since the 1964 release of Charyn’s first novel, Once Upon a Droshky, he has published 30 novels, three memoirs, eight graphic novels, two books about film, short stories, plays and works of non-fiction. Two of his memoirs were named New York Times Book of the Year. Charyn has been a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. He received the Rosenthal Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and has been named Commander of Arts and Letters by the French Minister of Culture. Charyn was Distinguished Professor of Film Studies at the American University of Paris until he left teaching in 2009. In addition to his writing and teaching, Charyn is a tournament table tennis player, once ranked in the top 10 percent of players in France. Noted novelist Don DeLillo called Charyn’s book on table tennis, Sizzling Chops & Devilish Spins, “The Sun Also Rises of ping-pong.” Charyn lives in Paris and New York City.

For more information please visit Jerome Charyn’s website. You can also find him on Twitter and Goodreads.



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February 24, 2015

Caddy Rowland - Making History, Bohemian Style (Part 14)

Please welcome back historical fiction author and artist, Caddy Rowland, our monthly contributor here at Historical Fiction Connection.


The nineteenth century in Paris was certainly a strange time. Several themed nightclubs opened up during this century, and a few continued into the early twentieth century. Being from the Twin Cities, MN I am used to seeing themed cafes and bars, since the Mall of America is located here. We’ve had rain forests with live parrots, an African Savanna, a volcano erupting, and Atlantis all featured in cafes with various results.

For the next few guest posts I’m going to share some of the weird-themed establishments in Paris/Montmartre. The first one we will “visit” was named Cabaret du Néant (Tavern of the Dead). Authorities objected to the name, so it was then called Cabaret of Nothingness. Visitors followed a “monk” down a dark hall to enter.

The tables were wooden coffins and were decorated with imitation human skulls. Arranged haphazardly, the room appeared to have been the location of a catastrophe which had only recently occurred. Walls featured guillotines in action, battle images, skulls and bones, skeletons, and mottos about death.


Pallbearers took drink orders and cried out the drinks by calling them names of diseases and ailments. Paintings dissolved before the patron’s eyes, changing figures to skeletons.

Then, while a funeral march played and bells solemnly tolled, the patrons were taken to a second chamber. A volunteer from the audience would step onstage and enter a standing casket. After being wrapped in a white shroud, the crowd was stunned as the volunteer dissolved into a skeleton. Then she/he returned back to their original state. In a third chamber an optical effect showed a spirit walking around yet another random volunteer as they sat at a table onstage.


This particular cabaret and show existed in the 1890’s. There was also one in New York City, I believe at the same time. Not a lot more is known about this cabaret, but I thought it was bizarre enough to share what I do know about it with you.

Who said people were uptight and morally superior in past times? Those who say it haven’t studied history much! In next month’s blog we’ll be traveling to yet another unusually themed cabaret in Montmartre. I’m not going to tell you exactly where we’re going, but I’ll give you a clue: You better dress cool because the place we’re going won’t ever freeze over.

Historical Fiction by Caddy Rowland: 




Contact and Social Media Info. For Caddy Rowland:

Author Email: caddyauthor@gmail.com
Twitter: @caddyorpims

February 19, 2015

Spotlight on Carmela Cattuti's Between the Cracks

02_Between the Cracks_CoverPlease join Carmela Cattuti as she tours the blogosphere for Between the Cracks: One Woman's Journey from Sicily to America, from February 9-27, and enter to win a Kindle Touch eReader, loaded with an eBook of Between the Cracks!

Publication Date: August 15, 2013
Three Towers Press
Formats: eBook, Paperback
Pages: 324
Genre: Historical Fiction

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READ AN EXCERPT.  

Join Angela Lanza as she experiences the tumultuous world of early 20th century Sicily and New York. Orphaned by the earthquake and powerful eruption of Mt. Etna in 1908, Angela is raised in the strict confines of an Italian convent.

Through various twists of fate, she is married to a young Italian man whom she barely knows, then together with her spouse, immigrates to the U.S. This novel is an invitation to accompany the young Angela as she confronts the ephemeral nature of life on this planet and navigates the wide cultural gaps between pre-World War II Italy and the booming prosperity of dynamic young America. Author, artist, and teacher Carmela Cattuti created Between the Cracks as an homage to her great-aunt, who survived the earthquake and eruption of Mt. Etna and bravely left Sicily to start a new life in America.


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03_Carmela Cattuti_AuthorAbout the Author

Carmela Cattuti started her writing career as a journalist for the Somerville News in Boston, MA. After she finished her graduate work in English Literature from Boston College she began to write creatively and taught a journal writing course at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education As fate would have it, she felt compelled to write her great aunt's story. "Between the Cracks" has gone through several incarnations and will now become a trilogy. This is the first installment. To connect with Carmela email her cattutic@gmail.com or leave a comment at betweenthecracksnovel.blogspot.com.

Between the Cracks Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, February 9
Guest Post at Book Babe

Tuesday, February 10
Spotlight at What Is That Book About

Thursday, February 12
Guest Post at Boom Baby Reviews

Monday, February 16
Review at Back Porchervations
Spotlight at Bookish

Wednesday, February 18
Review at Book Nerd

Thursday, February 19
Spotlight at Historical Fiction Connection

Friday, February 20
Spotlight at My Book Addiction and More

Tuesday, February 24
Guest Post at Let Them Read Books

Wednesday, February 25
Guest Post at A Literary Vacation
Spotlight at Layered Pages

Thursday, February 26
Review at Svetlana's Reads and Views

Friday, February 27
Spotlight at Passages to the Past

Giveaway

To enter to win a Kindle Touch eReader (valued at $59) & eBook of Between the Cracks, sponsored by author Carmela Cattuti, please complete the giveaway form below.

Giveaway ends at 11:59pm on February 27th. You must be 18 or older to enter. Only one entry per household. All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion. Winner will be chosen via GLEAM on February 28th and notified via email. Winner have 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen. Please email Amy @ hfvirtualbooktours@gmail.com with any questions.


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February 10, 2015

Spotlight on Heather Webb's Rodin's Lover


Publication Date: January 27, 2015
Plume
Formats: eBook, Paperback
Pages: 320
Genre: Historical Fiction

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A mesmerizing tale of art and passion in Belle Époque France.

As a woman, aspiring sculptor Camille Claudel has plenty of critics, especially her ultra-traditional mother. But when Auguste Rodin makes Camille his apprentice—and his muse—their passion inspires groundbreaking works. Yet, Camille’s success is overshadowed by her lover’s rising star, and her obsessions cross the line into madness.

Rodin’s Lover brings to life the volatile love affair between one of the era’s greatest artists and a woman entwined in a tragic dilemma she cannot escape.

Advanced Praise for Rodin’s Lover
“Rodin’s Lover is a textured historical novel that captures the indomitable spirit of artist Camille Claudel, a woman whose mighty talent was nearly eclipsed by her potent love for fellow artist Auguste Rodin. Can two passionate, creative talents thrive together or will one flame inevitably consume the other? Webb gracefully explores this ignitable relationship while illuminating Claudel’s untold heartbreak and evocative artwork. A story of human emotion, once raw and malleable, now preserved to lasting stone.” ~ Sarah McCoy, New York Times, USA Today and international bestselling author of The Baker’s Daughter

“Rodin’s Lover is the story of Camille Claudel–one of history’s boldest and most brilliant artists. Forced to choose between a torturous love affair and the art that consumed her, Claudel is an audacious and authentic character who deserves to be remembered. RODIN’S LOVER is epic and unflinching–a book you won’t soon forget.” –Deanna Raybourn, NYT bestselling author and Rita Winner of City of Jasmine waltz

“Rodin’s Lover is an evocative portrait of the talented and explosive Camille Claudel who struggled between passion as the lover of Rodin and recognition as an innovative sculptor in her own right. From smoky cafés to clay-streaked ateliers, Heather Webb has created a vivid picture of Belle Époque Paris.” –Jessica Brockmole, author of Letters from Skye

“Dazzling!….. In Rodin’s Lover, author Heather Webb brings to life, with vivid detail, the story of brilliant and tormented sculptress Camille Claudel and the epic love affair with the legendary sculptor who worshiped her. Deeply moving and meticulously researched, this book will capture your heart, then hold it tightly long after the final page.” –Anne Girard, author of Madame Picasso

“A rich, sensuous novel…[was] written with great empathy for the very human Rodin and his lover, this novel of the visceral world of the 19th century Paris ateliers, of clay-stained dresses and fingernails, lithe models who vow to remain and then go, family love which stays through all difficulties and talent which endures, comes vividly to life.” –Stephanie Cowell, author of Claude & Camille: A Novel of Monet

“Rodin’s Lover is a taut and engrossing look at sexism in the arts through the eyes of a lesser known figure, Camille Claudel, inspiring the reader to examine what’s changed and what hasn’t.” –Julie Kibler, bestselling author of Calling Me Home


About the Author
Heather Webb grew up a military brat and naturally became obsessed with travel, culture, and languages. She put her degrees to good use teaching high school French for nearly a decade before turning to full time novel writing and freelance editing. Her debut, BECOMING JOSEPHINE, released January 2014 from Plume/Penguin. Her forthcoming novel, RODIN’S LOVER, will release in winter of 2015.

When not writing, Heather flexes her foodie skills or looks for excuses to head to the other side of the world.

For more information, please visit Heather’s website. She loves to chitchat on Twitter with new reader friends or writers (@msheatherwebb), on Facebook, or via her blog. Stop on by!


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Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @msheatherwebb @PlumeBooks

February 06, 2015

Tessa Arlen's Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman - Guest Post and {Giveaway}


Why does the Britain of the early 1900s intrigue and delight so many of us?

Today the great houses of Britain’s landed aristocracy with their vast, exquisite interiors and views of sweeping parkland attest to the power of rank and wealth of a bygone age. They also provide a stunning backdrop for elegantly clothed men and women with gracious manners who star in numerous costume dramas acquired for Masterpiece Theatre from the mother-lode of British television. We are presently enraptured by the first two decades of the 1900s.


Imagine you have been invited for a Saturday-to-Monday, as the Edwardians called a weekend, to one of their glorious country houses. Here is a little advice to bear in mind for your short stay, after all you might want to be invited back!


Whatever you do don’t alienate the servants: It is important not to underestimate how the Edwardians related to those who ensured their comfort and provided them with flawless and devoted service. Servants employed in the great houses were part of the family, but not of it; a sizeable distinction because it relies on generations of subtle understanding of the polite, but offhand tact, used by the uppers when they addressed the lower orders. Butlers, footmen and personal maids will be extraordinarily unforgiving if you wear incorrect attire for the country, and cruelly punishing if you are either patronizingly familiar or arrogantly dismissive. So beware! The butler and the housekeeper will be far more intimidating than the charmingly eccentric dowager duchess or that affable old colonel you will be seated next to when you arrive in time for tea.


Your Edwardian great-grandmother would have been able to give you some good advice. Huge pointers for your comportment this weekend would be restraint, restraint, and more restraint in a way we can’t begin to imagine today. Your great-grandmother would be the first to remind you to lower your voice to a well-modulated murmur, that it is rude to interrupt, or even be too enthusiastic. Do not comment on your surroundings, the magnificence of the house, or marvel at the deliciousness of your dinner. You are not on a ‘girls’ night out’, no matter how confiding and wickedly risqué your new Edwardian girlfriends appear to be, or how many glasses of wine the footman pours for you at dinner. So sorry I meant to say self-restraint – just place your hand palm down over your wine glass to indicate no thank you, when you feel a delighted shriek start to emerge.


This was a time when women were treated like goddesses . . . then they married and were kept at home to incubate an heir and a spare. While the men at your country house weekend enjoy shooting and fishing, you encouraged to watch and applaud, but not join to in. When they sit back to their port and a cigar after dinner your hostess will beckon you away with the other women – important that you go with them. Despite the luxurious existence of the early 1900s, most women today would find it impossible to live the hidebound, restricted life of early 20th century women. So after you have lugged in the groceries after a hard day at the office, made dinner and then helped the kids with their homework before putting them to bed, just in time to collapse on the sofa to catch an episode of Downton, try not to sigh too deeply when Mathew Crawley goes down on one knee in the swirling snow to propose to Lady Mary. Most of us would have been Ivy slogging away in the scullery and not Lady Grantham reading a novel in the drawing room!


Did the Edwardian Shangri-La portrayed in Downton Abbey really exist at all even for the upper classes? The short answer is ‘Yes’ if you were Lord Grantham and not his valet. If you have a problem not seeking to right the inequities of life, then don’t get on that train at London’s Marylebone station for the country. Certainly there were drunken, abusive husbands, negligent and thoughtless parents, spendthrifts and philanderers in the Edwardian age . . . and wronged wives looked the other way. The trick to coping with the darker side of human nature, if you were of society, was that it must never be referred to, never confided and most definitely never publicly acknowledged. However if you are an egalitarian at heart and social ostracism doesn’t bother you too much, you might join Mrs. Pankhurst’s suffragettes and militantly proclaim your opinions. I have heard that Holloway Prison was equipped with a special wing for militant members of the WSPU!


The third housemaid will unpack your trunk for you – five changes of clothes a day for three days need an awful lot of tissue paper. Here’s a titillating scrap of fresh society gossip to share with the company – gossip was the spice of Edwardian life. Gladys, the Marchioness of Ripon, an ultra-sophisticate with a ‘past’ was a wonderful example of the Edwardian double-standard and loved to gossip with her close coterie of friends. Alone in her lover’s house one day she discovered a pile of rivetingly indiscrete love letters written to him by one of her social adversaries, Lady Londonderry. Gladys swiped the lot and generously shared the juicy bits – read aloud after dinner – with her closest friends. After the fun was over she honorably returned the letters to their author at Londonderry House ─ when she knew husband and wife were dining alone. The butler approached his Lordship and handed over the ribbon-bound bundle. After studying the contents, in silence, Lord Londonderry directed him to carry the letters to the other end of the dining table. Silence still reigned as Lady Londonderry came to terms with her awful predicament, a silence that was never broken between the two of them again. Far worse than having an affair, Lady Londonderry had ‘Let down the side.’ Adultery was a fact of life, indiscretion unforgiveable; to be the subject of common gossip shameful and the scandal of divorce out of the question. Lord Londonderry never spoke to his wife in private again, and maintained a distant, cold courtesy to her in public for the rest of their long marriage - so much more entertaining than a splashy tabloid divorce!

I couldn’t resist writing a mystery of betrayal, blackmail and revenge set in 1900s England because of this wonderful double-standard in Edwardian England. There is nothing more delicious than putting a group of privileged elitists on the spot at a country house Saturday-to-Monday by subjecting them to a police enquiry as to where they were, and who they were with, at the time of death.

About the book
Publication Date: January 6, 2015
Minotaur Books
Formats: eBook, Hardcover
Genre: Historical Mystery

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Lady Montfort has been planning her annual summer costume ball for months, and with scrupulous care. Pulling together the food, flowers and a thousand other details for one of the most significant social occasions of the year is her happily accepted responsibility. But when her husband’s degenerate nephew is found murdered, it’s more than the ball that is ruined. In fact, Lady Montfort fears that the official police enquiry, driven by petty snobbery and class prejudice, is pointing towards her son as a potential suspect.

Taking matters into her own hands, the rather over-imaginative countess enlists the help of her pragmatic housekeeper, Mrs. Jackson, to investigate the case, track down the women that vanished the night of the murder, and clear her son’s name. As the two women search for a runaway housemaid and a headstrong young woman, they unearth the hidden lives of Lady Montfort’s close friends, servants and family and discover the identity of a murderer hiding in plain sight.

In this enchanting debut sure to appeal to fans of Downton Abbey, Tessa Arlen draws readers into a world exclusively enjoyed by the rich, privileged classes and suffered by the men and women who serve them. Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman is an elegant mystery filled with intriguing characters and fascinating descriptions of Edwardian life—a superb treat for those who love British novels.

A Party for Winston, the second book in the series to be released in January 2016.

Praise for Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman
“Tessa Arlen has a worthy debut with Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman. With a deliciously gruesome murder and an unlikely pair of sleuths, this is a treat for fans of Downton Abbey who will want to devour it with a nice steaming pot of Earl Grey.” —New York Times bestselling author Deanna Raybourn

“In her debut novel, Tessa Arlen weaves an evocative tale of the passions, loyalties and ambitions that divide and unite two classes, upstairs and downstairs, in a stately home. She instantly transports the reader to Edwardian England.”—Christine Trent, author of Stolen Remains

“A dash of noblesse oblige sparkles between the upstairs/downstairs world of Lady Montfort and her housekeeper, Mrs. Jackson, as they work together to unmask the identity of a killer at large on the Montfort’s country estate. As sharp as a Nancy Mitford novel, Tessa Arlen’s sophisticated Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman deserves its place among the Great and the Good of classic mystery.”—Lyndsy Spence, founder of The Mitford Society and author of The Mitford Girls’ Guide to Life.

“Thoroughly enchanting. Arlen’s debut will appeal to fans of Downton Abbey, with its vivid descriptions, firm grip on the intricacies of the time period, and skilled portrayal of the often complicated relationship between upstairs and downstairs.” —Anna Lee Huber, author of the Lady Darby mystery series

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About the Author
TESSA ARLEN, the daughter of a British diplomat, had lived in or visited her parents in Singapore, Cairo, Berlin, the Persian Gulf, Beijing, Delhi and Warsaw by the time she was sixteen. She came to the U.S. in 1980 and worked as an H.R. recruiter for the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee for the 1984 Olympic Games, where she interviewed her future husband for a job. DEATH OF A DISHONORABLE GENTLEMAN is Tessa’s first novel. She lives in Bainbridge Island, Washington.

For more information please visit Tessa Arlen’s website. Read Tessa Arlen’s blog at Redoubtable Edwardians. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Subscribe to Tessa Arlen’s Newsletter.

Read my review of this fabulous book here.


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Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman