Welcome to The Whirligig, the website for Richard Buxton.
Richard is a multi-award winning author. On this site he will talk about the writing craft. He'll muse about inspiration drawn from the world of the present and from the imperfectly remembered past.
Richard writes both historical fiction and stories set in the here and now, though his inclination is strongly towards the former. His time spent at university in upstate New York has imbued him with a lifelong interest in the story of America, in particular the schism and after effects of the American Civil War. He travels there as often as he can for inspiration and research. Learn more about what inspires Richard here.
Richard's first novel, Whirligig, set in Tennessee in the pivotal Civil War year of 1863, was released in the spring of 2017. He is also compiling a collection of short stories that explore the long shadow of the Civil War. Many of his stories have won awards or have been published. His story Battle Town won the 2015 Exeter Story Prize. Roller Coaster won the 2015 Bedford International Writing Competition. The Bread Man won the Fabula Press Nivalis 2016 Short Story Competition.
It was Christmas Day in 1860 and Lincoln, newly elected president but yet to be inaugurated, was at home in his reception room in Springfield, Illinois. The town was busy. Christmas was not a public holiday. He was trying to cope with a mountain of mail and a constant flow of visitors who were mostly there for their own interests rather than his. South Carolina had seceded five days ago. Civil War loomed, although the first shot wouldn’t be fired until the spring. Amongst the gifts he received from complete strangers this day, was a whistle fashioned from a pig-tail. The sender claimed he’d crafted it just to show it was possible. I can imagine it appealing to Lincoln’s earthy sense of humour. It probably got more attention from him than his more expensive gifts.
History is an escape, historical fiction arguably more so. Today, let’s stick to the factual and I’ll whisk you away from the culminating frenzy that is the US Presidential Election, away from voter suppression and a partisan press, to 1864, a time of honour and common decency in the conduct of a fratricidal civil war; a time of extreme crisis. Thousands of enlisted Americans were dying on the battlefields and in the army hospitals every week but, what do you know, it was an election year.
I’ve been away. For the last two weeks or so I’ve been sightseeing in Nashville…in 1864. It’s been great. I visited the Tennessee State Capitol, completed just five years back. I took in a show, The Married Rake at the New Nashville Theatre and downed a few drinks afterwards. I tried some of the street food: buttered corncob, apple cake and deep-fried pickle. It’s a cold November though, and there are more soldiers on the streets than civilians. The barricades are guarded. The forts bristle with cannon. There’s no trust in this city.