Let the Band Play Dixie

Lawrence Wells, Author
Lawrence Wells, Author Yoknapatawpha Press $17.95 (391p) ISBN 978-0-385-23467-2
Reviewed on: 06/26/1987
Release date: 07/01/1987
In this rollicking yet sometimes poignant novel, Wells combines real-life people and fictional characters, all of whom meet in Gettysburg at an unorthodox football game that accrues unintended symbolic meaning. In 1896, Richard Canfield, the nation's foremost gambling-house operator, decides to gain respectability by sponsoring a charity football contest between the ablest Northern and Southern collegiate athletes. First, however, the opposing coaches, Amos Alonzo Stagg of the University of Chicago, and John Heisman of Alabama Polytechnic, must select players. With some artful lying, feisty Kate Kuykendall, the football coach of an all-black high school in Kentucky, gets her rugged squad added to the South's contingent. When all the participants arrive in Philadelphia for workouts, hostile crowds heckle the Southerners, and others try to exploit the event. Sociologist W.E.B. Du Bois wishes to use the occasion to publicize the plight of the city's blacks; avaricious politicians want to turn a profit. In addition, the heralded match seemingly revives the tensions between North and South, white and black, a fact which makes the outcome even more consequential. The charactersincluding a zealous neophyte reporter and a one-legged war veteranare colorful, and there are instances of delectably absurd comedy, but this book by the author of Rommel and the Rebel will appeal most to football fans and Civil War buffs. (August 21)
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