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When Johnny Came Marching Home


In Heffernan’s best novel to date, a young, one-armed Civil War veteran investigates the death of a troubled fellow soldier in 1860s Vermont and Virginia.

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What people are saying…

“Heffernan swings his vivid tale back and forth between past and present, war and peace—a neat tour de force he pulls off with admirable assurance.”
Kirkus Reviews

“A solid historical from Edgar-winning Heffernan.”
Publishers Weekly

“Moving back and forth in time, the well-paced narrative involves the reader with powerfully vivid descriptions of horrendous battles like the Wilderness and Gettysburg, of terrible raids on civilians, and of great physical and mental anguish suffered by the soldiers. Heffernan skillfully presents a realistic and evocative tale of war and its lingering effects.”
Historical Novels Review

“Sliding back and forth in time—before, during, and after the Civil War—William Heffernan creates a powerful, intriguing, and complex novel about the intricacies of friendship and the devastating effects of war.”
Jonathan Santlofer, author of The Death Artist

When Johnny Came Marching Home evokes a young soldier’s reluctant relationship to violence and brutality with a chilling realism that brings the reader face-to-face with the moral complexities of even the most noble of wars. Following in the literary tradition of Ernest Hemingway, James Jones, and Larry Heinemann, William Heffernan is able to somehow find grace and beauty amidst the horror of battle.”
Kaylie Jones, author of A Soldier’s Daughter Never Cries

“A carefully constructed and evocative Civil War–era tale that will hold you from first to last page. The author has a rare gift for transporting the reader in time and place. Put this one at the top of your list. No one does this kind of novel better than Heffernan.”
—John Lutz, author of Serial

“Heffernan, three times nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and an Edgar Award winner, knows his history and his mysteries . . . This is really a story of war and redemption and what happens to idealistic kids who have to turn into killers.”
Globe & Mail (Canada)

“Mystery fans will zip through this, fans of historical fiction will enjoy the fin de guerre mood.”
Library Journal

Praise for William Heffernan:

“Heffernan is a master of scene, setting, characterizations, plot, and dialogue.”
—Nelson DeMille

“William Heffernan is one of the rare mystery writers who cares about soul.”
—Martin Cruz Smith

“Heffernan writes in a way that challenges the mind and the soul.”
—Michael Koryta, author of The Silent Hour


An excerpt of the digital edition of When Johnny Came Marching Home is available for free download as part of Akashic’s Historical Digit.

When Johnny Came Marching Home is a mystery, a love story, and William Heffernan’s best book to date. The novel tells the story of three boys who grow up in rural Vermont in a seemingly indestructible friendship, then see their lives ruined as they go off to fight in America’s “great and noble war.”

Trapped in what appears to be an endless bloodbath—vividly presented with Heffernan’s meticulous historical research—the boys gradually begin to change until their close-knit childhood ties are little more than a fractured memory. By war’s end, one boy is dead, one returns a physically crippled and emotionally compromised man, and the third comes home as an unfeeling psychopath.

The novel turns on the subsequent murder of the psychopath, and the offer of redemption for the wounded young man who must investigate the crime. When Johnny Came Marching Home is a story about war and how it affects the lives of all who become a part of it, both directly and peripherally. Although set during the Civil War, this book casts shadows of what we endure today and the horrors to which young soldiers are subjected.

Read an interview with William Heffernan at SaltyEggs.com.

Click here to download a reading group guide for When Johnny Came Marching Home.

Book Details

  • Paperback: 300 pages
  • Published: 10/2/12
  • IBSN: 9781617751356
  • e-IBSN: 9781617751431
  • Hardcover
  • IBSN: 9781617751271


WILLIAM HEFFERNAN is the Edgar Award–winning author of nineteen novels, including the international best sellers The Corsican and The Dinosaur Club, as well as The Dead Detective, When Johnny Came Marching Home, A Time Gone By, Cityside, and Beulah Hill. He divides his time between his forty-foot trawler in Florida and visits to his children around the country. Prior to turning to fiction thirty-six years ago, Heffernan was a New York City newspaper reporter who was nominated three times for the Pulitzer Prize. The Scientology Murders is his latest novel.

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