Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Sympathy for the devil?

The Lawrence Journal-World has denounced my novel, I, QUANTRILL. The subhead was, Why should we care whether William Quantrill had an unpleasant relationship with his mother?

"It is difficult to believe we need a book purporting to show the 'human side' of William Quantrill, who led the devastating 1863 raid on Lawrence," the Journal-World said in an editorial. "Who really cares, except perhaps devotees of the Confederacy, who still are inclined to consider this murderer a hero."

I'm flattered, of course. Despite the claims that nobody cares, the Journal-World did devote a rather lengthy article and an editorial full of righteous bluster to my novel. But my goal was not to create sympathy for the devil.

But if the Journal-World editorial board had actually read my damned book, they would have known that already. The novel is not an apologetic. It is intended as a bloody and gritty and sometimes surreal first-person account of the last weeks of the infamous guerrilla's life. It is, if anything, an indictment of the cycle of violence of which the raid on Lawrence was a part. And it doesn't let Quantrill off the hook -- in the end, paralyzed and waiting for death, he recognizes his culpability, and is damned by it.

"The 244-page book notes that Quantrill died in 1865 in Kentucky after being shot by Union supporters," the editorial continues. "Most of us familiar with the depth and scope of the atrocities committed in that 1863 slaughter are inclined to hope he suffered."

After 145 years, so apparently is Lawrence.