"As a big fan of Civil War Era history, I LOVED this collection of stories. It doesn't show the battle part of the war, but rather, the non-battle portion, where the soldiers mingle with each other and the happenings that would go on in the encampments. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who loves history, of any kind!"
"mike1990", Reviewer on Librarything.com
"Mr. Matthews is a master of prose conversation and deadpan charm. He is ironic, cool, and shrewd, and he writes a lucid prose."
Tom O'Brien, New York Times Book Review
"Jack Matthews proves once again that he is in the top one percent of American fiction writers. Witty, polished, wise, ironic, with deep insight into the dark recesses of the human heart, Matthews' stories are often intense and humorous at the same time."
W.P. Kinsella (Author of Shoeless Joe)
"Few contemporary writers can – or want to – compose stories in the narrow tunnel of the interior, the rutted trail of memory between mind and heart, sometimes shutting out other people as well as time and place and usual props. Matthews takes us there, carrying a bright light."
Art Seidenbaum, Los Angeles Times
Jack Matthews (1925-2013) was distinguished professor of Fiction Writing at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio for over 4 decades. Winner of Guggenheim and several arts grants, Matthews has been anthologized widely, translated into several languages and nominated for a National Book Award. His own books have been praised by Eudora Welty, Anthony Burgess, Shirley Ann Grau, Tim O’Brien, Doris Grumbach, Walker Percy and a host of other famous and highly accomplished authors.
Matthews published 7 story collections over his lifetime, but this is the first one to be published in 23 years. Over the next few years Personville Press will publish 4 story collections of previously uncollected and unpublished stories. SOLDIER BOYS (the first of these four) includes a critical introduction and an extensive annotated guide to U.S. Civil War fiction published over the centuries. The publisher's website contains a study guide for teachers who want to incorporate themes from the "Soldier Boys" stories into lessons.
Earlier Jack Matthews fiction titles like Sassafras (1983) and Tales of the Ohio Land (1978) reveal a passionate interest for life in 19th century America. His last published novel, Gambler's Nephew (2011), turns its focus to the state of society before the Civil War (and specifically it is about the accidental shooting of a runaway slave by an ardent abolitionist). Matthews collected Civil War memoirs over his life and has published several essays about that.
Jack Matthews was a longtime admirer of Ambrose Bierce's fiction, and the "Soldier Boys" collection inevitably invites comparison with Bierce's masterpiece "Tales of Civilians and Soldiers." Both works capture the horror and metaphysical tragicomedy of war; "Soldier Boys" is chattier, more accessible, more determined to locate the humanity in everyone.
This excellent posthumous collection by Matthews (Gambler's Nephew) is inspired by memoirs and correspondence from Civil War soldiers and ranges from dreamy to nightmarish in its penetrating descriptions of lives lived between the battles. Deceptively ordinary language ("Sometimes it seems we're in better health when we're on a march and dead tired and desperate and hungry... it's almost like you just don't have the time or energy to get sick") reveals thoughtful insights from young soldiers who witness and participate in the atrocities of war. Highlights include "The Silver Link," in which a sweet exchange of letters between young, illiterate lovers in 1863 leads their friends, who are reading and writing for them, to fall in love; "Johnny Kincaid," in which a soldier is haunted by a ghost after burying one of his comrades in a grave dug for an enemy; and "The Killing of Old Mortality," about two soldiers ordered to kill a prolific and deadly sharpshooter. Throughout, fully realized characters enliven the themes of war and survival and elevate these stories above standard Civil War fiction. Matthews's fans will be well satisfied with this collection, and new readers will discover an alluring storyteller. (BookLife)