Typically I’m using this blog to post reviews of newer books, mostly (but not always) books that I’ve recevied for review. In this case, however, many might note that the book is actually quite old. I’ve decided to review it here because it’s a book that is unlikely to have had a large reading audience, even in its prime.
August Derleth is a name that many might recognize, mostly for his science fiction writing. Derleth was a prolific writer in many genres, and he enjoyed writing about the area in which he lived…Wisconsin. According to an on-line biography, he considered his most serious work a series of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry about the Sac Prairie Saga. I believe that The House on the Mound is one of those works.
This is true historical fiction. Author Derleth recreates, in fiction form, historical events with actual persons from history. As Derleth notes in his note to the reader at the end of the book, all incidents (save one) are actual events. This makes it so much more incredible.
This books tells of Hercules Dousman, an entrepreneur who was involved in fur-trading, railroad building, and shipping. He was friend to the Indians and generally well-loved by all who knew and worked for him. This book takes place primarily in and around the area now known as Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin (not too terribly far from where I write this review). I’ve come to discover that the older I get the more I enjoy reading about history (I know…there’s a joke in there), and I enjoy readin ght ehistory of areas that I am familiar with.
What impressed me the most about this book is August Derleth’s ability to write about a character (Dousman) who, by any other writer would have likely been stereotypically a bit of a jerk…stepping on the little people and pushing around the Indians to make way for what he himself wants … but Derleth makes him quite likeable. Even in those passages where he is trying to make his young son, DéDé, more of a man because he thinks his wife is coddling him too much. We the reader, like Hercules Dousman, and respect him, and this is quite a talent for Derleth to have done. And the way Dousman deals with his bastard son…also keeps the reader liking the character.
Looking for a good book? Some nicely researched history and wonderful, three-dimensional characters drive this historical fiction work. Well worth reading!
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The House on the Mound
author: August Derleth
publisher: Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, 1996
paperback, 230 pages