Gallagher to hold book signing | News

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. – Back around 2003, Mike “Mig” Gallagher, a Marine, visited Gettysburg and left wondering if anybody from his native state of California served in one of the bloodiest and most pivotal battles of the American Civil War.

He learned there indeed was a Union regiment representing California in name, having been founded by a former resident of the state, although the soldiers actually came mostly from Pennsylvania.

Gallagher soon started exploring the idea of writing a historical fiction book about their experiences, but the process took until 2021 to complete when he finally published “California Blood at Gettysburg: from antebellum California to a bloody Pennsylvania ridge,” based on the lives of two fictional protagonists – Roarke, an Irish immigrant, and a Mexican immigrant named Rigo.

The former Westmont and Windber resident is now promoting his book.

Gallagher, a former employee at the National Drug Intelligence Center, plans to hold a meet-and-greet and book-signing at Chameleon Bookstore, 144 Gazebo Park in downtown Johnstown. It is scheduled to take place from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Friday.

He will then hold an event at Windber Public Library, 1909 Graham Ave., from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. Saturday.

The “reception has been really positive” to the book, according to Gallagher, who is already working on a sequel.

“The real challenge that I’ve had and I’ve heard other authors have is, ‘How do you get the book beyond your inner circle, your family and friends?’ ” said Gallagher, who now lives in Virginia. “That’s a marketing challenge that I’m still facing, a business challenge, but to tell you the truth, I’m more interested in writing the second book than I am in marketing the first book. I’m spending more energy and time writing the second book. At some point, I’m going to try to figure out the business end of this.”

Gallagher describes the book, which ends at Gettysburg, as 80% history and 20% the story of the protagonists from his imagination.

“They come together,” Gallagher said. “They become friends. They both have strengths and weaknesses, and they kind of grow based on the other’s strengths. Their weaknesses are balanced by the other’s strengths, and they both grow. They both become stronger, better men as they move into war and the battlefield.”

Mike Messina, owner of Chameleon Bookstore, said the book “got me.”

“I don’t read a lot of historical fiction, but I enjoyed it,” Messina said.

“I did enjoy it. It’s an interesting story, and he does tie a lot of different real-life characters who lived together into a pretty good story.”

Gallagher’s follow-up book, “California Rifles at Chattanooga,” which continues the story of Rigo and Roarke, is expected to be more evenly divided between history and fiction. 

Dave Sutor is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5056. Follow him on Twitter @Dave_Sutor.

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