Daniel Woodrell takes on the Border Conflict handled so ably by James Carlos Blake in his Wildwood Boys. Here, we follow some young men ready to raise hell as part of the First Kansas Irregulars, i.e., “Bushwhackers” as they move from boys playing at war, to young men in war, to something a bit darker that perhaps goes a bit beyond war.
It is a fine novel, written with care, but I would be less than candid if I did not say that I read it after the aforementioned Wildwood Boys and kept wanting this novel to be that novel. It is undoubtedly well-written, but perhaps a florid passage here and there that smacks of “significance” raised me out of the spell of the tale occasionally.
That criticism is of me and not this book as perhaps I lack the discernment to divine this undoubtedly talented artist’s method.
I will close with a quote, not from the book in question, but from the author himself that he offered in an interview. For this quote alone, I am indebted to him.
“The Ozarks is where I learned my values. It’s better to be poor than to be beholden. Wealth is not the object of life. You should be polite as long as possible and, when you can’t be polite anymore don’t run.”