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Roughly halfway through Independence, the fictitious Henry Houghton returns to his farm in Still River, Delaware, to visit his family and warn his neighbors of the urgent need to create their own militia. It is December 1776, and George Washington’s army is in full retreat, pursued by a much larger and better-trained British force under General Lord Charles Cornwallis. During Henry’s meeting with his neighbors, the oldest man in the village speaks up, “Our sons are getting killed. We’re trying to do business with paper currency that’s almost worthless. Two big armies are beating down on us, and now we are worried about the ruination of our land. I’m trying to remember what was so bad about being an Englishman.”

Mackenzie’s novel puts a fresh perspective on the revolution, dramatizing the struggles of conscience that every American faced as they tried to justify their cause of independence. The novel is about much more than that, of course, and includes vivid descriptions of famous battles such as Lexington, Bunker Hill, Saratoga, Trenton, and Yorktown. It also includes portrayals of historical figures such as George Washington, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, and others. Separate storylines take place in the American colonies, London, and Paris.

Mackenzie’s rich descriptions, multi-layered plot, and effective character development bring to mind some of the great historical novels of the past, especially Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities. Mackenzie’s Independence is a superb work of literature and should be recommended outside reading for every high school and college student studying American history.

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  • bobtaylor2532

Updated: Jun 17, 2022

People sometimes ask which authors have influenced me. I'm not sure how to answer the question other than to list my favorite books and authors. To the extent that I loved these books, I guess you can say that they influenced me, consciously or subconsciously.

As a child, I loved mystery stories such as Franklin Dixon’s series, The Hardy Boys. I haven't written any mystery stories, though, so I can't say that Dixon influenced me, other than to stimulate my interest in reading. Another childhood favorite was Howard Pyle's The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, which I read many times and read again to my own boys when they were young.

In my early and mid-teens, I read a number of historical novels (authors A.B. Guthrie, Thomas Costain, and Kenneth Roberts, among others). While I haven't written any historical novels, these writers certainly showed me how to write a great story.

By my late teens, I had graduated to literary fiction, including novels by the American novelists Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mark Twain, Henry James, Thomas Wolfe, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, and William Faulkner, among others. In my 20’s, I began reading world literature, including novels by George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, James Joyce, Charles Dickens, Lewis Carroll (well, I started reading Dickens and Carroll a little earlier), Thomas Mann, Marcel Proust, and Fyodor Dostoevsky. I have also read half-a-dozen Shakespeare plays, including Hamlet, Othello, and Macbeth along with many of Shakespeare's sonnets. I mention the tragedies by name because those are the ones I like the most. I don't really get the comedies, and I have not yet read any of the histories. Among his sonnets, number 29 ("When, in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes...") is far and away my favorite; in fact, at one time, I memorized it. King Lear is the next Shakespeare work on my to-read list.

Readers may be surprised to learn that I read very little science fiction, other than Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth and Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea, until a few years ago. After retiring in 2018, I read several science-fiction classics from the 20th century including George Orwell’s 1984, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five (part historical novel and part science fiction, strangely enough), and Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot.

I have always read a fair amount of non-fiction and enjoy biographies and autobiographies in particular. John Burk's The Life and Works of Beethoven, Arthur Schlesinger's Robert Kennedy and His Times, and Edmund Morris's The Rise of Theordore Roosevelt are my favorite biographies. My favorite autobiographies or memoirs include The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin; Dr. An Wang's Lessons; Bob Dylan's Chronicles, Volume One; Ansel Adams's Ansel Adams: An Autobiography; Diana Ross's Secrets of a Sparrow ; and Megyn Kelly's Settle for More. I am also a great admirer of Henry David Thoreau and used Civil Disobedience as the basis for my commencement address when I graduated from high school in 1963. Two non-fiction books that inspired me to include the impact of the human population in The First Robot President are The Population Explosion by Paul and Anne Ehrlich, which I read after I retired, and Al Gore's Our Choice, which I read in 2009 or 2010 soon after it was published. I included Paul and Anne Ehrlich in the Dedication of The First Robot President; and I mentioned Our Choice, along with two of Gore's other books, in Chapter 4. I also enjoy poetry, and my favorite poets are A. E. Housman, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Edgar Allan Poe, and Edwin Arlington Robinson.

I have probably omitted a book or an author from this list that I will think about later and wish I had included, but I believe the list is comprehensive enough to answer the question.

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  • bobtaylor2532

Anyone who purchased an earlier edition of The First Robot President will surely attest that it was beautifully designed. Tracy Atkins of The Book Makers designed the interior of the first and second editions, published in 2020, and set them in Times New Roman at my request. For the third edition, which I designed myself, I chose Baskerville Old Face; and for this edition, which I also designed, I selected Palatino Linotype. There is no other material difference between the third and fourth editions.

When I listened to the audiobook version of the novel, which was published in August 2021, I realized that Chapter 11, “Transition of Power” was too long; therefore, beginning with the third edition, I split it into three separate chapters, “Transition of Power,” “The Birth Lottery,” and “Geneva.” “Murphy’s Law,” formerly Chapter 12, is now Chapter 14. I made no material changes to the content of any of these chapters, nor did I do so elsewhere in the novel. However, I couldn’t resist the temptation to add another line of dialog to the exchange between Geraldine and the King of England in the first section of what is now Chapter 12. I also changed two references to Lockheed Martin in Chapter 8 to General Google Motors to be consistent with the storyline; and finally, I corrected a few remaining typographical errors that I overlooked in preparing the second edition.

I tip my hat to Mr. Atkins for laying the foundation of a beautifully designed book; and I hope that readers who, like me, enjoy owning the books they read will treasure it regardless of which edition they purchased.

Robert Carlyle Taylor

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