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The Dead are Dancing, a novel by William Lloyd Roller
Reviews

"Congratulations on The Dead Are Dancing...very much recognize Billy, the chickens, the coward taunt, the pathos of war. Very well done and history has been on your/our side on this one...beautiful. "

Arlie Russell Hochschild, author of Strangers in Their Own Land, National Book Award Finalist

 

"After you read William Lloyd Roller's The Dead Are Dancing, America will never seem quite the same ... you begin to comprehend how deeply this novel penetrates into American culture and history. Outrageously satiric and utterly original."

H. Bruce Franklin, author of Vietnam and Other American Fantasies, John Cotton Dana Professor of English and American Studies, Rutgers University

see website: andromeda.rutgers.edu/~hbf

 

"A powerful exploration of the darkest regions of the American psyche. Approach this novel on tiptoes, and prepare for a firefight."

C.D. Payne, author of Youth in Revolt and Frisco Pigeon Mambo

see website: www.nicktwisp.com

 

"Serious satire, like any serious literature, causes us to re-examine our own way of  looking at things.  Satire is a twisted vision, twisted in such a way that it forces us to see the deeper meaning in things and to make us ask questions about ourselves.  The Dead Are Dancing  is a shining example.  Like Voltaire's Candide, The Dead Are Dancing is wonderfully entertaining, utterly absorbing, and disturbingly violent.  The image of America in The Dead Are Dancing is shocking, all the more so because it will gradually dawn on you as you read it that what William Lloyd Roller, beneath the delightful strangeness of his narrative, has uncovered is the sordid and ugly truth of our recent history.  And with a visionary's clarity, he warns of an even more ugly and sordid future yet to come."

James N. Frey, author of The Winter of the Wolves and How to Write a Damn Good Novel

 

"Novels by mental health professionals risk collapsing into case studies in which the literary notion of character is reduced to a character disorder or some other form of psychopathology.
William Lloyd Roller is an accomplished clinician and group therapist.  He is also a fine fiction writer and chooses in The Dead Are Dancing, to present this timely and fascinating exploration of violence and patriotism in the American psyche through the lens of a novelist's artistry.

Billy Richcreek grows up in a small Illinois town where war veterans, guns, and patriotism form the core of working-class culture.  Billy becomes a crack marksman as a child on his father's backyard shooting range, but after witnessing his father shoot his baby sister in a fit of rage against his mother, his life changes.  He wins celebrity as a high school football legend.  As the Vietnam War evolves, he has second thoughts about the violence that permeates the Heartland.  Eventually, his earnest search for personal integrity leads him to stand up to the town
elders and gets him ostracized for protesting a war that just about everyone else supports enthusiastically.

This totally engaging novel moves quickly through Billy's coming of age amidst extreme domestic violence, his parting of ways with a best friend who goes off to war but soon returns to join Billy as a peace activist, Billy's struggles with the mores of the sexual revolution and his less-than-glamorous sexual initiation, his charismatic leadership of an incipient peace movement, and a fantastic ending that provides fitting literary closure to the irony, humor, and timelessness of this poignantly written and provocative book.  Although the reader easily grasps the novel's relevance to current events, this nuanced and layered work of fiction never degenerates into the flat realism of an explicitly cautionary tale.

The Dead Are Dancing raises questions about conformity and social action.  Why did the townspeople who once cheered for Billy Richcreek as he tore through opposing football teams turn against him as soon as he questioned the war?  What makes it possible for a Billy Richcreek to rise above the disapproval of his neighbors and lead a struggle for peace?  Roller does not provide easy answers, but the way he raises questions makes this book a solid contribution to our thinking about violence and social responsibility."

Terry A. Kupers, M.D., is institute professor in the Graduate School of Psychology at the Wright Institute in Berkeley, California.  He is the author of Prison Madness, among other works.

 

"When I began The Dead Are Dancing, I took a deep, involuntary plunge into a world so exaggerated and macabre that I had to clean my glasses and start over.  It took a bit, but I finally caught on to Mr. Roller's distinct style.

It is satire -- but not the sort one might expect from a G.W. Shaw or Oscar Wilde.  No delicate innuendo here.  Roller lays out his characters, his plot, and his theme in baldest terms.  Rolling gunfire, repressed rage, hero-worship, the trashing of all that's dear to meet an impossible standard, pressure on young minds to turn them against themselves, serving Mammon, Baal, and Beelzebub wrapped in the clothes of politicians.

At times, I felt I was in another "real" world, not a fantasy at all, it was so compellingly consistent.  At the same time, the author's observations are sophisticated and insightful, baring human nature with a sharp knife drawn from stem to sternum, and across the gut, like the exploratory incisions of a coroner on a corpse.

I was forced to look at the worst parts of myself and my culture, and the best.  I suffered again the confusions once experienced when I worked hard at being a warrior, while dismissing, as evidence of cowardice, the peacemaker in me.  

Read it if you dare!

Woody Powell is executive director of Veterans for Peace.
Visit their website at: www.veteransforpeace.org