At 7 p.m., if I'm not assassinated, I'm going to speak and sign books at the Lawrence (Kansas) Public Library. The Lawrence Journal-World ran a story today on my appearance, under the head Devil's Advocate: Emporia author seeks to humanize Quantrill. This story has generated dozens of comments on the Journal-World's site, and a surprising amount of passion, regarding my novel, I, QUANTRILL.
Take this post, for example:
This publicity-seeker's 15 minutes of fame isn't going to change (W.E. Connelly's 1910 portrayal of Quantrill). I'll tell you one thing: If this guy had been born a lot earlier and had shown up in Lawrence to promote a book like this even as late as the 1940's, he'd have been tarred and feathered and run out of town on a rail.
Okay. Perhaps I should repeat that my book is a novel, not history, and it is told from the point-of-view of the fevered dream of a dying man. Yes, I did a lot of research for it, but I wasn't trying to defend W.C.Q. It's a novel. And Quantrill wasn't all bad.
The post continues:
I happen to be out of town right now, but were I in Lawrence I would without a doubt show up at this guy's love-fest and make him wish that he'd stayed in Emporia for the day. As it is, when I return I will put it on my list to reread the copy of Connelly that has been in my family since it was published, so as never to forget the real William Clarke Quantrill and what happened in my forebears' beloved city on August 21, 1863.
There are some posters who are pointing out that Quantrill was not much better than Jim Lane, who raided Missouri and hid in a cornfield during the Lawrence Raid. There were a lot of atrocities to go around. It was war. And the cycle of violence continued for generations. But the point is that I, QUANTRILL is a novel, which means it is a fiction. I am drawn to writing about individuals that society has labeled as monsters. Such as Civil War serial killer Alf Bolin in HELLFIRE CANYON, which won the Spur award from the Western Writers of America.
Oh, well. I hope some of these posters actually show up at the library. Perhaps some of them will actually read the damned book. And by the end they'll find out that what my Quantrill did, even in his own mind, was unpardonable.
For an impartial newspaper review from someone who has actually read the book, click here.