Coal Black Horse
At one level, a stock transformation through a journey story.
At another level, an American Divine Comedy.
A boy travels from the purity of his home and childhood into the depths of hell and returns a man. Hell in this case takes form as the Civil War and specifically, the aftermath of the Battle of Gettysburg; where the death, blood and horror signal the start of a national return to self-evident truths.
The magic of this story is made by the boy's guide; a shaman who casts a mystical spell...more
This book was a win...more
The above quote tells quite a bit about Olmstead's Coal Black Horse . It is garnish and flair, it is pretty words and gruesome descriptions of the horrors of war, but it is a story without a point, except to say that life is without value and, eventually, someone will end yours and it will all be over.
Olmstead borrows heavily from the styles of Howard Bahr and Stephen Crane to create this book. From The Red Badge of Cour...more
Olmstead's prose is lively and full of detail as he spends every last syllable as carefully as possible, not wasting a single word. He does no...more
It's 1863 Civil War America and a mother with a premonition pulls her son, Robey, from bed in the pre-dawn hours and gives him one command, go to the battlefields and bring your father home. Without Jackson, the Confederacy is lost, and the war is just as good as over.
Jarring immediacy, and sleepy eyed confusion are perfectly handled in the prose that opens the novel, and it pulls one into the worry and wonder at having a great and terrible task suddenly thrust upon the...more
Olmstead has a gift for detailing his imagery...more
Robert Olmstead has previously published three novels, a short story collection (River Dogs), and a memoir. Brief and intense, Coal Black Horse has generated high praise and seems destined to become the author's breakout book. Critics inevitably compare the novel to Charles Frazier's masterpiece, Cold Mountain, and other classics of Civil War and postapocalyptic fiction: Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage, E. L. Doctorow's The March, Cormac McCarthy's The Road, and Michael Shaara's Killer...more
It's easy to look back on a battle and say, That was the Battle of Gettysburg. It was fought in early July 1863 with 50,000 casualties. You had Meade on one side and Lee on the other. You can go back and draw up the battle plans in your head and watch how it was supposed to go and how it really went.
It's another thing to be there. Particularly from the...more
Throughout reading it, I found myself st...more
- "50,000 men who were killed, and wounded and missing from the rolls. They were in parts and pieces. They were whole an...more
I won't belittle the work and call it merely a coming-of-age tale, but I will use the "picaresque" label. Things got a bit off for me about half-way through. While I think parts of the story were profound, I think he clutters it with extra stuff: needless characte...more
Olmstead was born in 1954 in Westmoreland, New Hampshire. He grew up on a farm. After high school, he enrolled at Davidson College with a football scholarship, but left school after three semesters in which he compiled a poor academic record. He later attended Syracuse University, where he studied with Raymon...more