Wildwood BoysBook - 2000
American history is a complex weave of heroism and courage, conquest and carnage -- and no novelist today better understands the checkered character of our past than Los Angeles Times Book Prize winner James Carlos Blake. In prose as richly colored as an artist's palette, he again proves himself one of our most accomplished authors in this epic story set amid the Civil War's guerrilla conflict along the Kansas-Missouri borderland.Wildwood Boys
Like his free-spirited father, William T. Anderson was never meant for the farming life. Born in Missouri on the coldest day of 1840, he is raised in a fiercely independent family given to the pleasures of poetry and music -- yet ever ready to defend itself. The family resettles in Kansas, where Bill and his brother Jim are tutored by their father in the rustling trade. They revel in the thrill of horse thieving -- until the imminence of the Civil War turns their adopted homeland into "Bleeding Kansas." Despite the family's efforts to stay clear of hostilities, the first Anderson casualty soon follows, and the rest of the family is banished back to Missouri.
Now the entire border region is aflame with violence Kansas "redlegs" spreading terror under the Union banner, Missouri "bushwhackers" flying the black flag of no quarter. Its loyalties torn between North and South, Missouri becomes the bloodiest ground of the Civil War, its major centers under Yankee control, its wildwood country ruled by rebel guerrillas. Before long the Anderson brothers are riding with Quantrill's raiders, the most notorious of the bushwhacker bands, though most of them are barely more than boys. Then Bill Anderson suffers a catastrophic loss -- and an implacable fury is unleashed in his anguished soul. He becomes the most fearsome guerrilla captain of them all and earns a name some whisper with reverence, some with terror: Bloody Bill.
From the raw clay of historical fact, Blake has sculpted a powerful novel of a man and an America at war with themselves. It is a poignant and brutally honest work about relentless passions -- including Bill's abiding devotion to a pair of unforgettable women with wills as indomitable as his own. The heroic and unsettling saga of "Bloody Bill" Anderson is as American as a Missouri country ballad of violence, honor, and ill-fated love. It is a story only James Carlos Blake could tell so splendidly.