Kirkus Reviews Man of War

An amusing and insightful memoir about the wacky world of historical reenactments.

Living in Los Angeles, the past was never a subject that writer, radio producer and actor Schroeder spent much time thinking about, preferring to immerse himself in the never-ending stream of current events and activities of modern life. However, his perspective changed after attending the “largest multicultural living history event west of the Mississippi,” which featured 75 groups including Romans, Vikings and Civil War and Revolutionary War soldiers. “I found it fascinating to learn about history in a three-dimensional, interactive way,” writes Schroeder. “To ask questions of people who loved a time period so much they felt compelled to dress like one of its inhabitants.” The author’s curiosity extended to the “vibrant, eccentric subculture” of the reenactment world and feeling what participants describe as the “period rush”—the “sensation that you’ve traveled back in time.” During his travels, Schroeder lit a canon at an old fort during a reenactment of a French and Indian War battle; helped row a large wooden boat down the St. Lawrence River in an attempt to experience life in the 1700s; dressed up like a Nazi; volunteered to be a radio operator in a Vietnam war game; and reenacted the Civil War in Florida. After traveling thousands of miles, reenacting more than 10 time periods and reading dozens of books on the subject—he even staged his own historical reenactment in Los Angeles—Schroeder realized he knew less about war but more about history and contemporary America.

An entertaining read. The companionable author’s gimlet eye rarely misses the absurd or touching incidents he encountered during his explorations.