Jim and Sue Gindlesperger have had a long fascination with the Civil War, so it wasn't unnatural for Jim to be exploring the Civil War section of a local cemetery in the early 1990s while his daughter obtained information from nearby grave stones for a college project. When he discovered the grave of an escapee from Libby Prison he began a project of his own, hoping to learn more of the escapee, who apparently had been a local citizen. Several trips to the National Archives uncovered some limited information about the escape, but there were still some holes in the story. He contacted the National Park Service and asked if they could flesh out what he had uncovered. The surprising answer was that they had even less information, and they asked if they could use the information that Jim had discovered. They also suggested that he publish what he had found, resulting in his first book, Escape From Libby Prison.
That book received the George Washington Honor Medal for Excellence from the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge, was featured in a Discovery Channel documentary, and was optioned by Warner Brothers to be made into a feature movie. The screenplay was written and Tom Hanks and Dylan Sellers were selected as co-producers before Warner Brothers decided to drop the film from their production schedule.
Escape From Libby Prison was followed by two more books, Seed Corn of the Confederacy (which is no longer in print) and Fire on the Water, with the latter gaining Jim his second George Washington Honor Medal for Excellence.
In the meantime, Jim and Sue had been visiting battlefields all over the East over a span of more than 25 years, and they had collected hundreds of photos and stories. They decided to do a joint venture, writing So You Think You Know Gettysburg?, a series of stories of the men and monuments at Gettysburg. Their first book together resulted in a Bronze Medal award in the ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year competition in New Orleans in 2010. The book's success led them to write two more books in the So You Think You Know . . . series: So You Think You Know Antietam?, and a second volume of So You Think You Know Gettysburg? that was written in response to readers' requests. While neither won any awards, the Antietam book was a finalist at the 2012 Book of the Year awards, the same competition that awarded the couple's first Gettysburg book the Bronze Award two years earlier.
Following publication of the second volume of So You Think You Know Gettysburg?, Sue began laying the groundwork for their next project together, researching the field hospitals that arose following the Battle of Gettysburg. While she was doing that, Jim stepped outside the Civil War genre to begin a separate project that he had been hoping to do for a long time. That project culminated with his acclaimed book, Arlington: A Color Guide to America's Most Famous Cemetery. That book was released March 7, 2017 and features a history of the cemetery, a discussion of how the unknown soldiers were selected and by whom, and a collection of the heroic accounts of some 250 men and women interred there. It was quickly selected to be carried in the gift shops of such prestigious institutions as the cemetery itself, the National Building Museum, the Library of Congress, the National Gallery of Art, the Smithsonian Museum Shops, and the Manassas Museum Store, Late in the summer of 2018 Jim received word that his Arlington book had been awarded the Silver Medal in the Travel Book Category in ForeWord Review's Book of the Year competition.
Having completed that rewarding project, Jim joined Sue in the Gettysburg field hospital research, although the press of other projects has led Sue to turn over the writing duties to Jim. The manuscript has been completed and a contract signed with Blair publishing in Durham, NC. Publication is scheduled for the Fall of 2020.
With that project completed, the two have no intention of sitting back and taking it easy. Sue plans to follow her longtime dream of writing an historical novel, the subject of which hasn't been finalized yet, although she has a number of ideas from which to choose.
While she is working on that, Jim plans to resume his research into the trial of Henry Wirz, commandant of Andersonville prison and the only person hanged for war crimes for actions in the Civil War.
Jim and Sue are both members of the Friends of Gettysburg Foundation, Save Historic Antietam Foundation, Friends of Flight 93, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the American Battlefield Trust, and the Johnstown Area Heritage Association.
Jim has served as a consultant on a joint project initiated by National Geographic, NASA, Google Earth, and Carnegie Mellon University to map and digitally photograph Civil War sites using high resolution robotic cameras with full panoramic capability.
In addition to the organizations listed above, Sue is co-founder of PennWriters, a professional organization of published and aspiring writers.
Both have ancestors who fought in the Civil War. Sue had ancestors who fought for the South, while Jim had ancestors on both sides, including one who was killed at the Battle of Gaines' Mill. They live in Johnstown, Pennsylvania and they regularly do booksignings and lectures throughout the eastern United States. If you would like them to speak to your group or make an appearance at your event, please contact them to schedule.