Reading and Re-Reading Some Civil War Fiction
I recently reviewed Ralph Peters’ newest Civil War novel, Darkness at Chancellorsville, for Civil War Monitor (you can read that review here). It was an enjoyable read by an author with a gift for capturing the essence of a character and telling a zip-along good narrative.
That, in turn, whet my appetite to revisit some other Civil War fiction recently.
First, I took the opportunity to re-read Robert Olmstead’s novel Coal Black Horse, a book I originally reviewed for ECW in July 2012 (you can read that review here). Set during the Civil War, it’s not really a novel about battles so much as the many effects of war. “In war,” Olmstead writes, “you get killed just for living.” He also turned my perception of war a little on its head. His protagonist, a young boy named Roby, sees the number of casualties on a battlefield, and considers: “He thought with all these men dead fighting war, it must be that war was winning.”
The week before, I reread Lance Weller’s Wilderness, a book I originally reviewed for ECW in January 2013 (you can read that review here). The prose is beautiful, but the story focuses on the harshness of life in a coastal frontier (think “Jack London” kinda harsh). I once heard a description of Quentin Tarantino’s movies as being stories of how violent people interact with each other; Weller’s book might be that, but poetic and quieted down by the expanse of the solitary wild, and it deals as much with loneliness as violence.
I have a few more works of creative Civil War writing I hope to hit up this coming semester, although I’m taking a break for a bit. It’s good to step away from the war for a while. Stephen King’s The Stand seems like a good book to revisit next….
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