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Author Jeff Shaara on his new novel about Theodore Roosevelt

  • Scott LaMar

Airdate: May 24th, 2023


The bust of four men are on Mt. Rushmore – George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt – considered by many to be among the nation’s greatest presidents. But what made them stand out?

New York Times best-selling historical fiction writer Jeff Shaara has a new book out about the life of Roosevelt. It’s called The Old Lion – A Novel of Theodore Roosevelt.

Shaara appeared on The Spark Wednesday and talked about why he wrote about Roosevelt,”This is one of the most interesting people who’ve ever lived. And when I wanted to change from writing about a number of different characters and telling the story through four or five different points of view. I thought it’d be a challenge to just take one point of view and tell that story and the character of TR. There aren’t too many more people that have as much going on in their lives that are as fascinating as he is and from all the way from his childhood, all the way up through his days as a cattle rancher in the Dakotas, to his days in Washington, to his days of the Spanish-American War, his presidency, and his trip to the Amazon later in his life that nearly killed him. He’s a family man with six children. He loves them all. He had two wives. The first part of that story is, is a catastrophic time in his life. And he bounces back from that and goes on to be one of the great men that we’ve certainly ever produced in this country. And he was fun. He was just fun to write.”

Shaara was asked what made Roosevelt so interesting,”When he goes to the Dakotas, he’s in his twenties. He goes out there to go hunting and he finds out that it’s a fascinating place. If he wants to be a cattle rancher, he knows absolutely nothing about the cattle rancher, but he puts a bunch of money into it and he does that for about three or four years. And it’s one of the highlights of his life that’s pretty much sums up his personality. If he wanted if he thought it would be fun, if he thought it would be interesting, he would find a way to do it. And that even includes no politics. No. I love the story of how he becomes vice president of the United States under William McKinley. It’s because McKinley needed the vice president. His vice president had died and they had a vacancy in the office. And so all these political bosses were putting up their favorite people. And in Albany, New York, where Roosevelt is governor of New York, he is so despised by the political bosses who just hate what he’s trying to do. They hate is reform movement. So they put his name up as vice president. He accepts it reluctantly. But the main reason they do that is to get him out of Albany. They get him out of the state house in New York because he’s such a pain to those people. And of course, he goes he accepts the job as vice president, knowing it’s a dead end job, knowing that it’s he has no power. And he says at one point, he says, I can leave Washington for two weeks and nobody will even know I’m gone. And he does that a few times. And then, of course, a short time later, William McKinley is assassinated. And just like that, TR becomes president of the United States. You know, he always had that as an ambition somewhere buried in the back of his mind. But the way it happened was a surprise, a really poor surprise. He didn’t expect that. And yet what he does, he rises to the occasion as president and accomplishes well, I mean, what he accomplishes in the eight years he’s in office is an extraordinary thing and extraordinarily positive for this country.”

Jeff Shaara will be appearing at Midtown Scholar Bookstore in Harrisburg Thursday, May 25 at 7 p.m. to discuss The Old Lion — A Novel of Theodore Roosevelt.

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