Author, Antonio Elmaleh  –  Photo: Jon Fauer

           Author, Antonio Elmaleh  –  Photo: Jon Fauer


Antonio Elmaleh was born and raised in New York City.  After an early exit from Duke University, he worked on such feature films as Sidney Lumet’s CHILD’S PLAY, THE LAST OF SHEILA, Neil Simon’s THE SUNSHINE BOYS, BANG THE DRUM SLOWLY, THE ALL-AMERICAN GIRL and Simon’s stage version of CHAPTER TWO.

Antonio worked in acquisitions at World Northal Corporation, which domestically distributed independent/foreign films such as: BREAD AND CHOCOLATE; COUSIN, COUSINE; The Who’s QUADROPHENIA; Nicholas Roeg’s BAD TIMING and Peter Weir’s THE LAST WAVE, as well as the first Chinese martial arts movies ever seen on American television. Later he was a development executive at 20th Century Fox and a freelance story analyst for Warner Brothers, Motown Production and Vestron Pictures.

From 1986-89 he managed a co-production slate of six films in partnership with BBC-TV and was Executive Producer of THE VISION, starring Lee Remick, Dirk Bogarde and Helena Bonham Carter. A story of American evangelicals taking control of the fledgling British satellite television industry, the film opened the London Film Festival in 1988.

Between 1989 and 1998 Antonio managed the portfolio of World-Wide Holdings Corporation, a privately-held real estate company. During that time he also bought and developed residential projects in New York City’s Tribeca and Chelsea neighborhoods.

In 1999, Antonio began researching and writing THE ONES THEY LEFT BEHIND, a novel about a Civil War veteran’s one-man peace march set during the stormy days of American Reconstruction. 


"A moving story of a Union Civil War veteran who makes an apparently quixotic journey through Georgia in 1867 reprising his march with Sherman's army, this time in a quest for peace and reconciliation to knit a divided North and South into one nation again. It is a page-turner that keeps the reader on the edge of his seat until the final pages reveal the outcome."

-- James M. McPherson, Pulitzer Prize Winning Author, Battle Cry of Freedom and Embattled Rebel: Jefferson Davis as Commander-in-Chief



I started writing this book fifteen years ago, in part spurred by a story I read on a flight home from South Carolina. It was about a man who made a one-man peace march right after the Civil War ended. At first I could not believe that such a story was true, given the hard feelings that ran so deep after the war. 

I had just finished volunteering on a Presidential campaign and happened to see a graphic of the electoral map of the 2000 election. It reminded me of another map, this one of the Presidential election in 1860. If one lopped off every state west of the Mississippi, because that was basically what the map of our country looked like then (apologies to California), what these two maps revealed was virtually the same story, namely that our nation was as divided now as it was then, seven hundred and fifty thousand dead and several million more wounded and homeless later. 

The shooting has stopped, but the Civil War is not over. Its lessons and morals still call out to us, perhaps louder and more urgently than ever before. And its dead ask us louder than ever, not just to remember them, but also to dedicate ourselves to seek the ways to unify rather than tear apart this great country, one that has yet to recover from Our War.



"It takes a unique courage to go to war since the odds of survival do not hail out to the brave. It takes a great deal more to make the journey home again. Antonio Elmaleh's insight and empathy concerning just such a saga are wonderfully invoked and marvelously illustrated in this volume, The Ones They Left Behind. I for one am still on that journey and can attest to its authenticity of emotion."

-- Thomas Steinbeck, Author, Silver Lotus


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Q. The Ones They Left Behind is based upon a true story. How did you come upon this story, and why did it impact you enough to write a book about it?

Antonio: I have read about the Civil War since I was a boy, but I had not read the book of Civil War ghost stories that caught my eye in the Charleston SC Airport convenience shop. One thing stood out - one story didn't belong in that book. It was a story, as I later learned, not about a ghost, but about a real person. And what it showed were several things: that one man can make a difference; that in the aftermath of our greatest national tragedy, someone stood up for values we claim we want to live by - community, forgiveness, justice, compassion, even common decency - but which all too often are not practiced exactly when they are needed most, when things get tough.

Q. Why is Historical Fiction so Important?

Antonio: When a writer succeeds in infusing yesterday's events with an immediacy that makes those events important and instructive to his readers today, then readers experience what went before in such a way that they can see not only where they were, but also where they are now and where they are going in the future. 

Given that 'historical' (facts) seems to clash with 'fiction' (make believe), it is obligatory to research the history of the story so that the writer has a command of the world in which the story lives. Only through understanding and tracing the effects and implications these true events have on made-up characters can those events 'come alive'. When a character does and says things that resonate so personally that they drop your reader right into the shoes of those characters, readers live through what the characters do, feel and say. That reader is entertained, has been moved and has also learned something all at once.

Q. What do you think we, as a country, failed to learn from our experience of the Civil War?

Antonio: "A house divided against itself cannot stand."

Q. What inspired you to do an audiobook of THE ONES THEY LEFT BEHIND?

Antonio: There are two parts to my answer. The first one is ego – I have never narrated an audiobook, much less one of my own book, yet I believed I could do it well. I know the characters’ dramatic arcs and voices (I’d better, after living with them for fifteen years!). I also couldn’t stand the thought of sitting in a recording studio listening to someone else do it while constantly thinking, “no, not like that.” 

It was critical to find a director who had a deep affection and admiration for the book itself and who would keep me on point with dialects, beats in scenes and overall character arcs, especially given my inexperience. I found Lisa Cahn, a veteran of 20 years in audiobook direction and production. How I found Lisa leads me to the second part of my answer – my daughter had worked with her and introduced us.

I would venture a guess that many parents would be thrilled to do a project with their children that taps into their professional skills and interests. My daughter Sarah is a professional voice-over actor with a wonderful gift for dialects and character. Lisa and I agreed that period music would support the drama and sense of setting so important to the story. My son Andrew is a musician with a special affinity for the slide guitar. I asked them to contribute their talents, which they did beautifully. All to the joy of a proud papa.

Q. Why do you think this story resonates with readers?

Antonio: I believe people sense fundamental disconnection in their lives. Their government, their religion, their schools, their workplace, the institutions that were reflections of their sense of community, are in profound disruption, with no vision of what will replace or transform them. Into this void, it is easier for people to take positions that either promise such new vision, or harken back to an idealized past that never existed. Each position excludes anything that confuses, distorts or challenges it. Hence, people stop talking to each other, stop agreeing to disagree and only listen to the echo chambers of ones that agree with them.

This story asks us to stand in people's shoes that are not at all like us on face value, follow the truth wherever it takes us, seek unity with humility with the ones we don't agree with and lead by example, not by lecture.


Frank DeLuca, Senior Vice President,
The Civil War Trust Washington, D.C.
"The Ones They Left Behind is a riveting and compelling read about a former Union soldier, Harriman Hickenlooper, who sets out on a personal odyssey to save his farm and heal the great wounds of the Civil War. Along the way, each person he encounters in this hostile environment reveals something of the bad and the good angels of our nature and forces Harriman to confront prejudice, fear, danger and violence. In his first novel, Antonio Elmaleh lifts our spirits as basic human decency prevails and a good man finds redemption and love."

Teacher-in-Residence & Chief of Staff: Teachers Regiment Civil War Trust - James A. Percoco
As Reviewed In The Civil War News April 2015
"Not very often a book comes along that makes the past profoundly relevant to the present. Such is the case with Antonio Elmaleh's new historical novel, The Ones They Left Behind."

His book is a breath of fresh air given our current state of affairs in a deeply divided United States. Not only does the book resonate with hope and redemption, but it touches on other issues and pathos that we as a nation contend with, including the plight of being a wounded warrior." READ THE FULL REVIEW


Sharon Chance, Sharon's Garden of Book Reviews and GoodReads
"I was absolutely entranced by this beautifully written novel. I am a fan of Civil War novels and have read quite a few - and The Ones They Left Behind is one of the most uniquely told stories that I have had the pleasure to read..." READ MORE and HERE

John C., History Buffs and Next Chapter Book Reviews
"This is a very well-written historical novel that takes you back in time to post-Civil War America during the Reconstruction period. At first sight you think this book is merely about one man’s journey in search of personal redemption, but the novel actually encompasses so much more. The author did his research and describes the period well. It was a very enlightening and enjoyable read." READ MORE and HERE

Civil War Notebook Review of The Ones They Left Behind and Reviews From The Reading Chair
The Ones They Left Behind is well written and engaging. It is a quickly read page turner that I found myself unable to put down." READ MORE

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Available in Four Formats: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook, and AudioBook


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