After starting out as a short story in the Missouri Review, this tale was expanded into the novel Woe to Live On, then made into a movie, by Ang Lee, as Ride With the Devil. Just to add to the confusion, the book was then rereleased in a movie tie-in version as Ride with the Devil. At any rate, it is a brisk, brutal, sometimes funny portrayal of a small band of Southern guerilla fighters, the First Kansas Irregulars, loosely associated with Quantrill (the Devil of the new title, as in "the Devil knows how to ride," a grudging compliment he was paid), as they carry out a series of increasingly bloody and senseless raids (including the Lawrence Massacre), killing men, women, children, and ultimately each other.
The narrator of the book is Jake Roedel, sixteen at its start, a young German orphan, often victimized by the surprising anti-German animus of his fellow bushwhackers. Woodrell makes a fairly daring choice in having the boy commit a brutality quite early in the book, thereby establishing that there is nothing romantic or heroic about their War. However, this also puts a considerable distance between the reader and the ostensible hero, making it hard to care too much about his eventual fate.
At least since Ken Burns's Civil War series there's been a tendency to look back at the War a little too fondly; and, of course, Southerners have been inclined to do so for much longer. This book offers a much needed antidote to such silliness, reminding us of just how ugly and wasteful a thing it was, and of how surely any war degrades into hatreds and killing, no matter how "noble" the cause..
-EXCERPT : from Woe to Live On
-REVIEW : of MUCHO MOJO By Joe R. Lansdale (Daniel Woodrell, NY Times Book Review)
-REVIEW : of THE LOST AND FOUND And Other Stories. By Anne Marsella (Daniel Woodrell, NY Times Book Review)
-REVIEW : of DANCING ON GLASS By Susan Taylor Chehak (Daniel Woodrell, NY Times Book Review)
-REVIEW : of DON'T THINK TWICE By Wayne Johnson (Daniel Woodrell, NY Times Book Review)
-REVIEW : of FAMILY NIGHT By Maria Flook (Daniel Woodrell, NY Times Book Review)
-REVIEW : of Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver (Daniel Woodrell, Washington Post Book World)
-INTERVIEW : A Quick Chat with Daniel Woodrell (Liz Rowlinson, Richmond Review)
-ESSAY: Daniel Woodrell reflects on how his small novel became a big movie (Ashley Fantz, Memphis Flyer)
: NOVEL TREATMENT : Daniel Woodrell discusses his first book-turned-movie.
(Andy Wang, Iron Minds)
Copyright 1998-2015 Orrin Judd