Episode 87

A Political Thriller from the view of John Quincy Adams with Author Michael B Zucker

🎙

In this episode of 'Talk With History', hosts Scott and Jenn engage in a captivating conversation with author Michael B Zucker about his book, 'The Middle Generation: A Novel of John Quincy Adams and the Monroe Doctrine'. Zucker shares his research experience, his decision to write the book in the first person, and details about Adams' intriguing character arc. Scott and Jenn learn about the global politics that Adams was involved with and discover his political nemesis from Austria...a man who helped bring down Napoleon himself. This episode offers valuable insights for history buffs and talks about the perfect balance between informed research and a political thriller that 'The Middle Generation' presents.

The Middle Generation: A Novel of John Quincy Adams and the Monroe Doctrine

Michael on X ( @MichaelZucker1 )

00:00 Introduction

00:00 The Perfect Person for the Job: John Quincy Adams

01:10 Welcome to Talk With History

01:33 Interview with Michael B Zucker: The Author's Journey

02:25 The Middle Generation: John Quincy Adams

02:48 The Eisenhower Chronicles: A Learning Experience

03:33 John Quincy Adams: The Master of Foreign Policy

04:03 The Middle Generation: An Overlooked Era

04:45 The Era of Good Feelings: A Time of Crises

06:24 The Monroe Administration: Navigating the Initial Crisis

07:13 The Founding Father Presidents: The Last Generation

07:30 The Historian and the History Nerd

07:49 John Quincy Adams: The First American Leader to Navigate Global Politics

11:08 The Character Arc of John Quincy Adams

12:53 The Middle Generation: A New Perspective

12:53 The Middle Generation: A New Term

13:47 The Research Process: A Deep Dive into History

24:42 The Middle Generation: A Political Thriller

29:25 The Middle Generation: A Year and a Half in the Making

33:56 Conclusion

-------------------------------------------------------

Want to support the team?

You can buy us a coffee here ☕️

-------------------------------------------------------

Explore more of our Walk with History media productions

📧 contact: talkwithhistory@gmail.com

Transcript
Michael:

somebody that Americans may not have heard Prince Clemens von Metternich.

Michael:

He was Austria's foreign minister slash chancellor in this period.

Michael:

He was a major architect of Napoleon's defeat.

Michael:

That, as Adams explains in the book that Metternich brokered Napoleon's

Michael:

marriage to his second wife, Marie Louise of Austria, in order to get Napoleon

Michael:

to think that Austria was a neutral state and would not threaten France.

Michael:

Which then convinced Napoleon that it was safe to invade Russia in 1812.

Michael:

Predicting Napoleon's defeat there, Metternich arranged for the rest

Michael:

of Europe to then strike France.

Michael:

After he just lost 600, 000 troops in Russia, which forced

Michael:

Napoleon's first abdication.

Michael:

And then he organizes what's called the Congress of Vienna in the Concert of

Michael:

Europe, which helps to avoid at least a major war in Europe of that scale

Michael:

for a hundred years until World War I.

Michael:

Wow.

Michael:

So This is sort of the adversary that Adams is going up against.

Michael:

Wow.

Scott:

Welcome to Talk With History.

Scott:

I am your host, Scott, here with my wife and historian, Jen.

Scott:

Hello!

Scott:

On this podcast, we give you insights to our history inspired world travels.

Scott:

YouTube channel journey and examine history through deeper conversations

Scott:

with the curious the explorers and the history lovers out there

Scott:

Now today is a little different.

Scott:

We haven't done an interview in a while and we were actually joined

Scott:

by Michael B Zucker the author of multiple books spanning from historical

Scott:

fiction to the book we are here to chat about today that goes into

Scott:

depth about the Middle generation is the title of the book our founding

Scott:

father specifically John Quincy Adams

Scott:

This sounds like a good holiday book for the history fan Holiday present

Scott:

for that for the history fan on there.

Scott:

The timing is I'm sure intentional for book for book releases now What a what

Scott:

I kind of wanted to just jump right into is is what brought you into kind

Scott:

of the history niche And are you working in that industry right now, and if not

Scott:

working in that industry, what kind of brought you around to this particular

Scott:

topic for the middle generation?

Michael:

So, I gained interest in history when I was around 15.

Michael:

Um, you know, like a lot of teenage boys, I had an interest in, you know...

Michael:

Superheroes and that type of thing.

Michael:

Um, and then I think World War II is initially what caught my attention of

Michael:

this sort of like global struggle of, you know, good and evil, that sort of

Michael:

thing, all these heroes and villains.

Michael:

So that was sort of the initial entry point.

Michael:

And then, uh, General Eisenhower became the person who I sort of Hooked on to from

Michael:

there, then to his presidency, which then kind of extended to like all presidents.

Michael:

Um, so my first sort of major novel as an adult is called The Eisenhower Chronicles,

Michael:

which is sort of like an HBO miniseries in a novel format, like 15 different episodes

Michael:

through World War II and his presidency.

Michael:

Um, and that, I think that's a good book.

Michael:

I'm proud of it, but at the same time, it was sort of like a learning experience.

Michael:

Um, and by the end of it, I wanted to do a somewhat similar topic,

Michael:

just kind of test what I learned as a writer from that experience.

Michael:

And so John Quincy Adams, to me, made sense, sort of, if Eisenhower was this

Michael:

sort of giant of 20th century America, Adams was this giant of early 19th

Michael:

century America, they were both, in my view, these masters of foreign policy.

Michael:

Um, and this novel largely focuses, focuses on Adams's

Michael:

time as Secretary of State.

Michael:

Uh, he's usually ranked as the greatest Secretary of State in American history.

Michael:

And so just some of the different things, like, you know, part of the reason why

Michael:

the title is The Middle Generation is the idea that it's this kind of overlooked

Michael:

era, kind of sandwiched between the Revolution and the Founding Fathers, and

Michael:

then later Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War and to most Americans, this second

Michael:

generation of that era, they might know that somebody like Andrew Jackson, or

Michael:

they may have heard of like the Monroe Doctrine, but it's largely overlooked.

Scott:

Yeah.

Scott:

I guess to your point that, you know, there's a lot of people that they know a

Scott:

lot of the flagpole moments, but there's all this stuff that happened in between.

Scott:

And it sounds like that's what you kind of dive into.

Scott:

Yeah, so

Michael:

it's, so it's Adams as Secretary of State, and it's, um, so James Monroe is

Michael:

president, um, you know, so what's called the era of good feelings, as the novel

Michael:

shows, and it's, you know, very, a lot of research went into it, about 400 pages

Michael:

of notes, um, that I was working off of, that there was multiple crises going on,

Michael:

that Monroe and Adams were navigating.

Michael:

Um, the biggest one is one that I was surprised I never heard of given my

Michael:

interest in foreign po like the history of American foreign policy, um, which

Michael:

is sort of the origin story behind the Monroe Doctrine, which was that the,

Michael:

what was called the Holy Alliance, which was this alliance of, I'm not using this

Michael:

word in the modern context, but again, it's historical context, of conservative

Michael:

Monarchies in Europe, namely Austria, Russia, which was a large German state,

Michael:

and Russia had joined together after defeating Napoleon in order to enforce

Michael:

the peace in Europe, that they blamed the Enlightenment and the American and

Michael:

French revolutions on Napoleon and 25 years of warfare, um, so they were More

Michael:

than a little suspicious of, sort of, the Enlightenment project, Napoleon

Michael:

at one point had invaded Spain and tried to put his brother in charge of

Michael:

Spain and removed King Ferdinand, who was the Spanish monarch, and that was

Michael:

seen as illegitimate across Spanish America, so both Mexico, Central

Michael:

America, and most of South America.

Michael:

South America and Mexico were waging wars of independence against the

Michael:

Spanish Empire in this period, and that's sort of the initial crisis that

Michael:

The Monroe administration inherits.

Michael:

And so, and that's where the book starts is that is Monroe, Adams, and the rest of

Michael:

the cabinet, um, sort of navigating that situation of, you know, most Americans

Michael:

support South American independence, um, and most of them want to, at the very

Michael:

least, diplomatically recognize these new republics emerging in South America.

Michael:

But.

Michael:

Adams is concerned that if we recognize them, that could lead to war with

Michael:

Spain, which could then lead to war with the Holy Alliance, which the

Michael:

United States, this is the second generation that the United States exists.

Michael:

Monroe is the last of the founding father presidents.

Michael:

We're not really in a position to go to war.

Michael:

Right.

Scott:

Most of Europe.

Scott:

So it was, it was from, and again, I kind of joke all the time, right?

Scott:

And I never assume people listen to the podcast, although we've been growing

Scott:

a little bit, but I never assume.

Scott:

And we joke all the time, right?

Scott:

Jen's the historian.

Scott:

She's got a graduate degree.

Scott:

She's working on her own historical fiction book.

Scott:

You know, all this stuff.

Scott:

And I am, I am married into history Nerd Himm.

Scott:

He

Jenn:

knows it though.

Jenn:

He has a political science degree, so, so has a PolySci I,

Jenn:

and he has a master's degree in,

Scott:

in national, but it's military oriented master's degree, . Um,

Scott:

but it, it sounds to me like John Quincy Adams, and please correct me

Scott:

if I'm wrong, was like one of the.

Scott:

One of the first, you know, like you said kind of this this next generation

Scott:

of leaders in America that kind of really had to navigate these global politics

Scott:

because we just couldn't literally afford to get into like a large scale war with

Scott:

you know, all of these other large nations like we're just trying to Settle and

Scott:

grow and yeah and grow the nation right

Jenn:

now.

Jenn:

We're a small country at the time.

Jenn:

I mean small economically and small military wise.

Jenn:

We're not, we're not like France or Germany or England at the time.

Jenn:

So we can't really fight that type of war.

Jenn:

And so we have to be very careful of who we are recognizing.

Jenn:

And who we make mad.

Jenn:

Yeah,

Scott:

so is, is that really kind of why you, what you found when you were doing,

Scott:

you know, 400 pages plus of, of research?

Michael:

Yeah, so, um, you, you, as you were saying, we weren't a big country yet.

Michael:

So what's interesting is this is the period where...

Michael:

You know, and Adams spearheaded this effort to sort of elevate the United

Michael:

States from being what we would now call a minor power into a medium power, and

Michael:

then by like the end of the 1800s with the war, the Spanish American War and Teddy

Michael:

Roosevelt, we become a great power, but so we spend most of the 1800s as kind of a

Michael:

medium power, and this is the point where that happens, and Monroe is interested

Michael:

in this, but Adams in particular, Um, is hoping to take advantage of the Spanish

Michael:

Empire's collapse and set the United States in control of the North American

Michael:

continent in order, largely, both for its own purposes, but he's also hoping that

Michael:

if he does that, the country will like him and elect him as the next president.

Michael:

One of the major subplots and not just subplots, but like, you know, central

Michael:

to his sort of character arc in the novel is the issue of whether that was

Michael:

actually his desire to become president.

Michael:

And how much of it is Being the eldest son of John and Abigail Adams and their

Michael:

legacy, very extreme expectations of him.

Michael:

Um, they didn't quite put it in these words, but almost framing it

Michael:

as, you know, we established this country so you will become president.

Michael:

Um, so this extreme ambition and also there's a, um, a quote that, uh, Abigail

Michael:

Adams says at the end of the first section of the book and it's an actual quote

Michael:

of hers where she says something to the effect that, If you are not basically

Michael:

the most virtuous person that a human can possibly be, then I'd rather you

Michael:

had just died in the ocean, be here.

Michael:

Oh, it's a loving mother.

Michael:

So it's this, it's extreme, um, ambition and virtue simultaneously

Michael:

that he feels obligated to fulfill.

Michael:

And that's sort of the foundation of.

Michael:

John Quincy Adams as a character in the novel and sort of his arc in the novel

Michael:

of trying to live up to both of those extreme and somewhat contradictory values.

Michael:

That's,

Scott:

that's interesting.

Scott:

So, so you mentioned the, the character arc of John Quincy Adams in your book.

Scott:

I mean, what can you kind of like, I'm going to paint like a, a, a

Scott:

little bit of that picture of that character arc as he's going through.

Scott:

Yes.

Scott:

And

Jenn:

can you tell us like, what's his age, ages here?

Jenn:

And is he now he's the, is he the first president to have a foreign wife or?

Michael:

Yes.

Michael:

And then she's another very important character is, um, Louisa Catherine Adams.

Michael:

Um, she's probably the second most important character in the book

Michael:

after John Quincy Adams himself.

Michael:

And part of her character arc is, and it's.

Michael:

You don't initially get the connection with this, but you, by the end of the

Michael:

first section, you can kind of see how this all fits, is Adams is quite hard on

Michael:

his own family, um, both on his wife and his three sons, especially his eldest

Michael:

son, and and It seems pretty clear to me, and I think most of his biographers

Michael:

also say this, that the pressure that his parents were putting on him, he was

Michael:

in turn taking out on his own family.

Michael:

Um, and not, not ordering his sons to become presidents, but still putting a

Michael:

lot of weight on them to be successful.

Michael:

We would probably now call it, at least verbally abusive to his wife and sons.

Michael:

And, you know, that was sort of, so it was like his parents, Their way upon him

Michael:

sort of distorted his own personality.

Scott:

Yeah.

Scott:

I mean, that sounds like, like human nature, right?

Scott:

You know, people, people change and we learn a little bit, you know,

Scott:

over the decades, over the centuries, but people don't change that much.

Scott:

You know,

Jenn:

if it's generational, it absolutely is.

Jenn:

It absolutely is.

Jenn:

So, so my question, I have a couple of questions to, um, middle

Jenn:

generation, did you coin that term or is that something you had seen or

Jenn:

something that has been used before?

Jenn:

That

Michael:

specific phrase, as far as I know.

Michael:

Uh, I just came up with that.

Michael:

It's actually, I like it.

Michael:

That's a good one.

Michael:

It

Scott:

paints a picture,

Michael:

um, very, you know, quickly.

Michael:

And the idea is that, you know, obviously he's the son of the second president.

Michael:

And, um, a lot of his, I mean, his career was started when George

Michael:

Washington appointed him ambassador to the Netherlands, um, in the 1790s.

Michael:

So it's like his career starts with Washington and John Adams.

Michael:

The rest of this is kind of discussed more in the authors note at the

Michael:

end, but that's his career ends as a mentor to Abraham Lincoln in Congress.

Michael:

That's so cool.

Michael:

That's so cool.

Michael:

So he, so he's like the primary link between the founders and Lincoln.

Michael:

And I think the concept of the middle generation.

Jenn:

And then you said in your research, where did you

Jenn:

do the bulk of your research?

Jenn:

Like what archive were you looking in and where were you researching from?

Michael:

So by far the most important source of information was That Adams kept

Michael:

a 51 volume diary throughout his life.

Michael:

Whoa.

Michael:

Um, which, thankfully, the Massachusetts Historical Society

Michael:

digitized and has on their website and built in a search engine.

Michael:

Yes!

Michael:

Wow.

Michael:

For the win.

Michael:

Yeah.

Michael:

Which, in terms of like the 400 pages, at least half of that is from there.

Michael:

It's diary entries and kind of pulling, like, okay, this is, like, is he, because

Michael:

he wrote down a lot of the time, like, you know, cabinet meeting today, I said this,

Michael:

Treasury Secretary Crawford said this.

Michael:

I told him he was wrong over this and, um, really laying them out

Michael:

and, yeah, so that was a hugely critical source of information.

Michael:

Yeah, both in terms of, you know, what happened and just getting a

Michael:

sense of, um, his voice, I think.

Michael:

Yeah.

Michael:

Because it is a first person novel, so it's, you know, very much rooted

Michael:

in his perspective and sort of as he's navigating these different

Michael:

situations, so I think just...

Michael:

Getting that, the sound of his voice, you know, really in my head.

Michael:

So I can embody it.

Michael:

Yeah.

Michael:

And

Scott:

that's, and that's kind of a, you know, for, for

Scott:

historians like you too, right?

Scott:

I won't put myself in your category.

Scott:

I'm not, I'm not that smart, but, uh, but, but for historians like you, when

Scott:

you're doing that kind of research, that's probably like the most valuable

Scott:

source you could get from the person.

Scott:

Right.

Scott:

And like you said, you, you read enough 51 volumes that, you

Scott:

know, to really get his voice.

Scott:

Right.

Scott:

And I mean, that's, that's a lot of writing.

Scott:

I mean, I think if I wrote that much, people would be able to figure out.

Scott:

Kind of my tone and my personality through that.

Scott:

So, um, that's really neat that you were able to get so much of your material, you

Scott:

know, basically directly from the source.

Scott:

Yeah.

Jenn:

And then is he living in DC during this time?

Michael:

Yes.

Michael:

Um, so he's living, it was at the time it was called Washington City.

Michael:

Okay.

Michael:

Um, But yes, he was living in, and I don't remember off the top of my head the

Michael:

exact addresses, but they're in the novel.

Michael:

He lives in two different locations, um, in, in D.

Michael:

C., and it says, like, it's at the intersection of here and here,

Michael:

and then later here and there.

Michael:

And I have to look at the novel to remember exactly where.

Scott:

Yeah.

Scott:

So in your research, and as you were writing the book, was there any kind

Scott:

of one thing that You know, one or two things that kind of really stood out

Scott:

to you that surprised you when you were doing this research that to either learn

Scott:

about John Quincy Adams or something that he did that you didn't know or

Scott:

most people don't know that that they should or that you learned and you were

Scott:

just like, Oh my gosh, I can't believe.

Scott:

I, I can't believe this is true and it's not better, better known.

Michael:

Well, the first one I would say is, again, I actually need to fully

Michael:

finish the point from earlier that the origin story of the Monroe Doctrine, um,

Michael:

so if anybody who's read about, you know, Napoleon in that era of European history

Michael:

may have heard of the Holy Alliance.

Michael:

But that, as South America was gaining its independence, the Holy Alliance sort of...

Michael:

declared that they would not legally recognize these new republics as

Michael:

independent, and that they wanted to reimpose the Spanish Empire, because they

Michael:

feared that, in the same way that American independence led to the French Revolution,

Michael:

that South American independence would lead to another European cataclysm.

Michael:

And Adams figured out, fairly quickly, that they were trying to spook us into

Michael:

making a joint statement with Britain.

Michael:

Against this, which would sort of tell the world by making a joint statement

Michael:

that the United States could not defend the Western Hemisphere on its own, and

Michael:

we would lose a lot of our credibility as we were trying to rise in the world.

Michael:

Oh, interesting.

Michael:

Um, and one of the key leaders of the Holy Alliance is somebody that Americans

Michael:

may not have heard of, some might have, um, Prince Clemens von Metternich.

Michael:

Who, he was Austria's foreign minister slash chancellor in this period.

Michael:

He was a major architect of Napoleon's defeat.

Michael:

That, as Adams explains in the book when he's analyzing Metternich, that

Michael:

Metternich brokered Napoleon's marriage to his second wife, Marie Louise of

Michael:

Austria, in order to get Napoleon to think that Austria was a neutral

Michael:

state and would not threaten France.

Michael:

Which then convinced Napoleon that it was safe to invade Russia in 1812.

Michael:

And, predicting Napoleon's defeat there, Metternich sort of arranged for the

Michael:

rest of Europe to then strike France.

Michael:

After he just lost 600, 000 troops in Russia, which forced

Michael:

Napoleon's first abdication.

Michael:

And so, this is, you know, the overall leader of the Holy Oh, and then he

Michael:

organizes what's called the Congress of Vienna in the Concert of Europe,

Michael:

which helps to avoid at least a major war in Europe of that scale for a

Michael:

hundred years until World War I.

Michael:

Wow.

Michael:

So This is sort of the adversary that Adams is going up against.

Michael:

Wow.

Michael:

And their diplomatic chess match is the main conflict of the novel.

Michael:

A chess match over the Western Hemisphere's independence from Europe.

Michael:

And I don't want to spoil the ending, but the Monroe Doctrine emerges from this.

Michael:

sort of showdown between America's greatest Secretary of State

Michael:

and who the person who might be Europe's greatest ever diplomat

Scott:

You know, I'm not gonna lie like the way you spelled that out.

Scott:

I mean that could absolutely be a miniseries

Jenn:

Well now Michael, that's so interesting now with the movie coming out

Jenn:

Everyone's gonna want to know the what happened what happened and who the other

Jenn:

people and it's a perfect time, right?

Jenn:

Because it makes it gives us an American hero in the story to,

Scott:

you know, side of it.

Scott:

Yeah.

Michael:

Yeah.

Michael:

And I didn't know that Ridley Scott was working on this when I started.

Michael:

But another thing you mentioned the timing with the holidays,

Michael:

obviously, that was a factor.

Michael:

But also, um, November 2023, which is, you know, the month of this release

Michael:

and at least when we're recording this.

Michael:

Um, it's also the 200th anniversary of the Monroe Doctrine.

Michael:

Oh yeah.

Michael:

Okay.

Michael:

Which is another thing I, when I started working on it, I didn't

Michael:

know that, but then it occurred to me after I looked at the date,

Michael:

like 20 times, like, wait a second.

Michael:

Oh,

Scott:

I'll have to, I'll have to make sure when we start kind

Scott:

of sharing this and stuff like that, we, we kind of toss that out

Jenn:

there.

Jenn:

Yeah.

Jenn:

Is it so the Monroe Doctrine, I assume is in the National Archives.

Jenn:

Is it something you could visit?

Michael:

Um.

Michael:

Well, it's, it was part of President Monroe.

Michael:

We, now, nowadays we would call it a State of the Union address.

Michael:

Oh.

Michael:

It was just like a speech.

Michael:

Um, it was part of a, it was part of his, they at then they called

Michael:

it the annual message to Congress.

Michael:

Okay.

Michael:

It was just like a section of, of his speech where he's laying out that,

Michael:

you know, we oppose future European colonization of this hemisphere.

Michael:

Mm-Hmm.

Michael:

. And in exchange we won't get involved in European affairs.

Michael:

Yeah.

Michael:

Um, I don't know where the archive, like, the archive of that speech

Michael:

would be, probably either National Archives or maybe Highland, which

Michael:

is his, Monroe's estate in Virginia.

Michael:

Yeah,

Jenn:

we haven't visited there yet.

Jenn:

Um, because it would be cool to visit it for the 200th anniversary.

Scott:

That would be pretty neat.

Scott:

Yeah, I, I, I'm, I'm fascinated.

Scott:

I'm curious.

Scott:

So do you go, so in this book, are you focusing primarily on the American side

Scott:

or do you, you kind of spell out a little bit more, uh, of the, the European side

Scott:

of things, like you were telling us about Metternich and everything like that?

Scott:

Because that story sounds quite, quite interesting.

Michael:

Well, since it is a first person novel, it pretty much sticks with Adams.

Michael:

Okay.

Michael:

Um, but he does, he, he talks a lot about like, you know, This is who Metternich

Michael:

is and this is what he's done and why he's, you know, kind of building up

Michael:

the adversary, you know, to kind of help feed the conflict of the novel.

Michael:

Like this is the threat that we are facing.

Scott:

Have you, have you ever thought, I'm, I'm sorry, I'm, I'm latching on to

Scott:

something that I just find so interesting, but the, with the, with the Metternich

Scott:

character, I mean, have you thought about like, hey, you know, how neat

Scott:

would it be to kind of write almost like a companion novel, same era, but from.

Scott:

From the European from Metternich's perspective.

Scott:

I mean, how interesting would that be right from someone who's a key player?

Scott:

And all of all the stuff that you were spelling out with Napoleon and

Scott:

France and everything that's going on But this character that a lot

Scott:

of people may not be familiar with but was so pivotal Maybe the middle

Scott:

generation over in Europe, but I mean have you have your thought about that?

Scott:

I mean what made you want to write this as a kind of first person perspective?

Scott:

vice the typical third person

Michael:

Right.

Michael:

I mean, part of it was, again, with the Eisenhower book, I

Michael:

had kind of experimented a bit.

Michael:

So some chapters are in third person, others are in first person.

Michael:

Okay.

Michael:

And I just learned that I liked first person a lot.

Michael:

And a couple of editors who had worked on that book said that those were

Michael:

actually the best chapters of that book.

Michael:

So that was kind of like, okay, that's, well, let me see if I could write

Michael:

an entire book in the first person.

Michael:

So I'd committed to that before, um, kind of seeing what this actual conflict.

Michael:

Um, as far as writing about Metternich, I think.

Michael:

I actually think I have that in my list of potential novel ideas, but I want

Michael:

to find things that, like, have not been written about too much, and there

Michael:

are a number of biographies of him.

Michael:

Mm.

Michael:

Yeah, I

Scott:

think Napoleon's a pretty popular topic.

Scott:

Yeah.

Scott:

So,

Michael:

yeah.

Michael:

Uh, absolutely.

Michael:

And then, um, I don't think there's been much historical fiction of

Michael:

Metternich outside of whenever he shows up in some sort of Napoleon content.

Michael:

I mean, I have ideas for what I want to do.

Michael:

Next and I don't know if I'm gonna get to metternich

Scott:

at some point Yeah, I just I just thought that was interesting

Scott:

right from a non historian One of the questions I actually have on here is

Scott:

you know, if you're gonna convince a non history fan like myself to read your

Scott:

book You know How would you do that?

Scott:

And to me little interesting anecdotes like that, you know, whether it's the the

Scott:

global kind of political chess you know that that you were mentioning between

Scott:

John, quincy adams and and metternich or some of the other interesting aspects of

Scott:

it Like if you were going to try to say hey, I know you're not a history person

Scott:

But here's why you might be interested in my book Like what do you think one of

Scott:

the one or two of those things might be?

Michael:

Well, I mean I went I really tried to write this So it reads more

Michael:

like a political thriller than like a, than like a textbook of some kind.

Michael:

Like, every scene has, you know, maneuverings, calculations, revelations

Michael:

of some kind, um, so I think, I mean, the idea was that the plot really kind

Michael:

of Keeps driving forward in that way and then it's also a character study

Michael:

for people who are more interested in really digging into a person.

Michael:

So as as I said, you know, Adams has this sort of complicated character arc

Michael:

that plays out throughout the novel.

Michael:

I mean, I don't want to keep away

Scott:

ending, but yeah, no, but that's I mean, that's that's perfect, right?

Scott:

So again, you kind of again, write it more as.

Scott:

Your, your classic, you know, first person fiction novel, but

Scott:

it's, it's incredibly historical and, you know, deeply researched.

Scott:

Michael, I

Jenn:

commend you because John Quincy Adams, when you talk

Jenn:

about him, he seems perfect.

Jenn:

Right?

Jenn:

Because he's witnessing his father.

Jenn:

He's part, he's watching all of this.

Jenn:

He's being kind of manipulated by his parents.

Jenn:

So he's always strategic there.

Jenn:

You know, what do they want from me?

Jenn:

What are they really looking for when they are saying this to me?

Jenn:

He has a foreign wife.

Jenn:

So he can kind of get some ideas about foreign policy from her and

Jenn:

then he's kind of The background guy in all of this, he's really standing

Jenn:

back and watching all of it, and kind of taking, you know, taking the time

Jenn:

to be strategic in what he's doing.

Jenn:

It's, it, he really is the perfect person for this.

Jenn:

It's almost like he was born for this.

Scott:

Yeah, for this kind of, like you said, a political thriller.

Scott:

I think that's a great way to pitch it to someone who's like, Uh, I

Scott:

don't know about John Quincy Adams.

Scott:

Like, I don't know, this is different.

Scott:

This is, this reads much more like a political thriller.

Scott:

From a researched perspective, really in his voice.

Scott:

I think that's incredibly fascinating.

Michael:

Thank you.

Michael:

I mean, one other thing I'll just throw in with regards to the character study part

Michael:

is that, um, Cause my, obviously my wife read the book, and she thought he was very

Michael:

relatable in that, in the sense of this parental pressure, not just to succeed,

Michael:

but part of why I think, sort of, hurt him as like a, his like, both his mental

Michael:

health and then why he, Became the sort of human porcupine figure to everybody else

Michael:

was that I don't actually think he wanted to be, um, a politician or in diplomacy.

Michael:

I think my sense is that he was more interested in astronomy and poetry.

Michael:

Yeah.

Michael:

Huh.

Michael:

And his parents being John and Abigail Adams pushed him into this.

Michael:

And that's never explicitly said, but it's sort of hinted at in the book

Michael:

that like, you know, looking at the stars or writing a poem is how he

Michael:

sort of relaxes and feels at peace.

Michael:

And so she was so, you know, as she was reading, she said she felt like

Michael:

he was a very relatable character to focus on for anybody who's, you know,

Jenn:

I mean, because when you think about it, let's think about this.

Jenn:

Like George Washington has no children, I mean, no, you know, biological children.

Jenn:

And then Jefferson, he does, he has a daughter.

Jenn:

So Adams John Quincy Adams is like the first boy of America

Jenn:

when you think about it.

Jenn:

Oh sure, right?

Jenn:

So that's a lot of pressure.

Jenn:

I think it's great that you fleshed out this story and you found something that

Jenn:

is, you know really is something that's so foundational to America and really a

Jenn:

part of a bigger story with this whole Napoleon coming out like it really is and

Jenn:

you have John Quincy Adams who Doesn't want to be thrust into the middle of all

Jenn:

of this political negotiation, but he's good at it Because he's watched it for

Jenn:

a long time and he's and he is kind of like He kind of can see what's going on.

Jenn:

So I think this is fantastic.

Scott:

Yeah, that's that's super interesting How how long did it

Scott:

take you to do all this research?

Scott:

It must take a

Michael:

little while Yeah, so it took about three months of sort of

Michael:

just saturation in the research to sort of learn who Adams was, the

Michael:

other players we haven't discussed, you know, Henry Clay and John C.

Michael:

Calhoun yet, but they're very important side characters, um, as well as Monroe

Michael:

and sort of, so it's about three, three months of research to learn everybody

Michael:

and basically plan out the story.

Michael:

And then the rough draft took about six months.

Michael:

And then the second draft, which was kind of like the main draft,

Michael:

was another three months or so.

Michael:

And then just a few more months of just kind of just polishing it.

Michael:

So all in all, it was a year, a year and a half.

Michael:

Yeah.

Michael:

Yeah.

Jenn:

Okay.

Jenn:

Okay.

Jenn:

So you say the other characters involved.

Jenn:

So again, what's the, what's the timeline of the book?

Jenn:

What, what are we looking at a year?

Jenn:

What are you looking at?

Jenn:

Uh,

Michael:

no, so it covers the entire Monroe presidency, which

Michael:

is the full length of when Adams is Secretary of State.

Michael:

So it starts in 1817, the end of 1817, and it ends in 1825.

Michael:

I was surprised to learn that Adams was allied with both John C.

Michael:

Calhoun and Andrew Jackson in this period, um, and enemies with Henry

Michael:

Clay, because I think to anybody who is at all familiar with these people,

Michael:

you would expect it was the reverse.

Michael:

That Adams and Clay seem like natural allies, because on domestic politics,

Michael:

they agree almost entirely with regards to, um, infrastructure, well now we

Michael:

would call it infrastructure, back then they called it internal improvements,

Michael:

um, so, uh, somewhat more active.

Michael:

federal government some looking more like alexander hamilton than thomas jefferson

Michael:

in terms of domestic policies um as well as both being um opposed to slavery adam's

Michael:

more than clay but both being opposed to slavery whereas john c calhoun is sort

Michael:

of to the extent that he's remembered it's largely as The leading defender

Michael:

of slavery in that second generation and as well as setting the ideological

Michael:

foundation for the confederacy during the civil war, including the concept of

Michael:

the state nullification of federal law.

Michael:

And then Andrew Jackson, of course, um, is mostly known for the Trail

Michael:

of Tears and, um, other, you know.

Michael:

Things that are viewed negatively nowadays.

Michael:

Uh, so, the fact that Adams was allied with Calhoun and Jackson and opposed to

Michael:

Clay, and again, I don't want to give too much away, but there's a large reversal

Michael:

of allegiances throughout this novel.

Michael:

Of these different figures figuring out, like, who can I team up with

Michael:

in order to sort of both win these debates, but also who we can bunch

Michael:

states together to win the Electoral College come, uh, the 1824 election.

Michael:

Um, So yeah, that was another sort of Another aspect that I wasn't expecting

Michael:

when I started off with this topic

Scott:

Well, I I tell you what it I mean the way you kind of describe the

Scott:

era and the setting in both You know kind of some internal conflicts and

Scott:

alliances and then global You know, politics and chess, chess matches, it

Scott:

sounds like a prime setting for, to your point earlier, a political thriller.

Scott:

This sounds great.

Scott:

Um, it sounds incredibly interesting, so I, I, I'm excited

Scott:

to, uh, I'm excited to read this.

Scott:

Yeah, potentially get our hands on it.

Jenn:

I think this could be the next, uh, Hamilton, Quincy Adams.

Scott:

This is a mini series or something like that, right?

Scott:

You know, like, like, let's get some Hollywood writers.

Scott:

The Writer's Strike just, just ended, right?

Scott:

Not too long ago.

Scott:

So let's get some, some book copies out there and they can

Scott:

write the next, uh, next HBO mini series or something like that.

Scott:

I

Jenn:

love this.

Jenn:

This is fantastic.

Jenn:

So I can't wait to get this out.

Scott:

Well, let me, um, let me get again, kind of best place for people to find

Scott:

you to look up your book and, and then, uh, and then I'll, I'll sign off here.

Scott:

But again, this kind of remind everybody, you know, if they're interested in that is

Scott:

that is titled just the middle generation or is it the full, you know, John Quincy

Scott:

Adams and the Monroe Doctrine, the middle generation, is that the full title?

Michael:

Uh, so the, the main title is the middle generation and then it's subtitled.

Michael:

A novel of John Quincy Adams and the Monroe Doctrine, um, which it's just in

Michael:

this kind of digital age, it's helpful both with the algorithm and just to

Michael:

kind of catch people's attention to say like, this is what this product is.

Michael:

Yeah, sure.

Michael:

Absolutely.

Michael:

So that was a part of the thinking, um, there.

Michael:

But yeah, so, uh, if they're interested in the novel, the easiest place is Amazon.

Michael:

Um, it's also on, on Barnes and Noble and the other major,

Michael:

uh, book selling websites.

Michael:

Um, if they're interested in following me online, the best places.

Michael:

I mean, I still call it Twitter.

Michael:

I guess, technically, it's called X now.

Michael:

I, I, I

Scott:

still call

Michael:

it Twitter too.

Michael:

Yeah, I think most people still call it Twitter.

Michael:

Um, at, uh, it's, so, at Michael Zucker

Scott:

1.

Scott:

Cool.

Scott:

Well, I, I absolutely encourage people to, to look up, uh, Michael's book, The Middle

Scott:

Generation, um, subtitle is a novel.

Scott:

John, uh, John Quincy Adams and the Monroe Doctrine.

Scott:

So look that up on Amazon.

Scott:

It sounds absolutely fascinating, especially as a political thriller

Scott:

from a first person perspective.

Scott:

I, it sounds to me like our audience would be incredibly keen on this.

Scott:

So if you're listening, this is a great kind of, uh, if you're still looking for

Scott:

those, those Christmas gift ideas for, for that history fan in your household.

Scott:

This sounds like it might be right up your alley as

Jenn:

exactly.

Jenn:

And if you're going to see Napoleon and you want to say, Oh, well, let me tell

Jenn:

you a little something what happened after Napoleon from the American

Jenn:

side and flex your knowledge muscle.

Jenn:

This will be a great book to get as well.

Jenn:

There you

Scott:

go.

Scott:

So for those listening, thank you for listening to the talk with history

Scott:

podcast and please reach out to us at our website, talkwithhistory.

Scott:

com, but more importantly, If you know someone else that might enjoy

Scott:

this podcast, or you think they might enjoy this book, please shoot

Scott:

them a text and share it with them.

Scott:

We rely on you, our community to grow, and we appreciate you all every day.

Scott:

We'll talk to you next time.

Scott:

Thank you.

Scott:

Yeah, Michael, that was, that was great.

Scott:

I'm, I'm super interested.

Scott:

Me too.

Scott:

If you're interested, I know this one's going to

Jenn:

love to read it.

Jenn:

I think this is great.

About the Podcast

Show artwork for Talk With History
Talk With History
A Historian and Navy Veteran talk about traveling to historic locations

About your hosts

Profile picture for Scott B

Scott B

Host of the Talk With History podcast, Producer over at Walk with History on YouTube, Editor of HistoryNewsletter.com
Profile picture for Jennifer B

Jennifer B

Former Naval Aviator turned Historian and a loyal Penn Stater. (WE ARE!) I earned my Masters in American History and graduate certificate in Museum Studies, from the University of Memphis.

The Talk with History podcast gives Scott and me a chance to go deeper into the details of our Walk with History YouTube videos and gives you a behind-the-scenes look at our history-inspired adventures.

Join us as we talk about these real-world historic locations and learn about the events that continue to impact you today!

Supporters of the show!

Thank you to everyone who supports the show and keeps us up and running. Doing this with your support means that we can continue to share history and historic locations for years to come!
Support Talk with History now
J
Jack B $5
Thank you for the great podcasts and for sharing your passion! Love hearing about the locations you visit.