All the Danger
Caught in war’s crossfire are two orphan girls, three tramps, an army major, an itinerant preacher—and an obsessed undercover operative. When modern America emerges after the Civil War, another war erupts—a war of ideas. The original hope of liberty and equality through self-employment and ownership is challenged by a large new industrial class of impoverished renters.
Her scream was lost in the whistle and snort of the train as it pulled away from the station, so none of the seated passengers turned and none of those still getting settled looked. Locke instantly put himself in front of the girls and went straight for Spencer, when the latter, eyes wild, revealed the gun in his hand; but Locke kept advancing, even when the gun was aimed right at his face, until he was inches from the end of the barrel. “Get off the train,” he whispered; in reply, Spencer cocked the trigger. “Shoot, you son-of-a-bitch, it will be the last thing you ever do.”
The Last of the Mohicans, probably the most influential American novel, tells our quintessential story of the frontier. All the Danger re-imagines it. The characters are the same, yet different. The time is no longer before the Revolution. The setting is no longer the primeval forests of the Adirondack wilderness, but the Pennsylvania Railroad, a different kind of wilderness. The first is inhabited by native Americans, the second by wage-workers in large enterprises, largely immigrants, both groups despised and feared. In both cases there is a war of extermination to purify the nation.
In his seventh work of fiction, award-winning novelist David Vigoda weaves another gripping story around a seminal idea that motivates us. In All the Danger, that idea is the meaning of ‘America.’
Published by Collioure Books in "trade" (high quality) paperback.
Set in the turmoil of an America emerging from the Civil War, barely intact and ideologically shattered, All the Danger follows the clash of values and politics that continues the struggle in its aftermath. It embraces the perspectives of a cast of characters who each take leaps into the new unknown in different ways:
"How do we know when this is departing?" asked Abigail.
"We do not know."
"How do we know where it is going?"
"We do not know that either, Abigail, we shall just have to wait and see."
It would have perhaps been simpler to follow this story from a single protagonist's viewpoint, but David Vigoda doesn't take the easy way out. His readers will appreciate the resulting impact of a much-changed, almost alien country that is studiously depicted from different perspectives.
This allows for a greater focus on how the ideals that evolved from the Civil War are immediately tested by the realities of poverty and a class structure that neither side wants to admit. Under the guise of 'Reconstruction' lies a powder keg of social unrest that simmers at all levels of society. This dovetails the experiences of characters ranging from orphans on the run to an army officer, a wandering preacher, three tramps, and others who gingerly traverse a much-changed America.
Vigoda excels at crafting descriptions that deftly capture the controversies and confrontations of the times, mirroring the country's choices in the microcosm of his characters' interactions:
"I believe we share the same attitude toward these idlers." Burke made no reply. "Would you agree that, so long as they remain in our midst, the shiftless are a constant menace?" Still he made no reply. "Is this not the alien menace we have feared, ever since the communist revolt in Paris six years ago?"
After a long pause, Burke replied, "I agree that they present a direct threat to society--but I fail to see what relevance..."
"With no end in sight to this economic depression, they will not disappear of their own accord. Something must be done."
America will survive, but its internal cultural wars may tear it apart in All the Danger. Lest readers think this is just another Civil War story, it should be pointed out that Vigoda creates scenarios with disturbing parallels between those conflicts and ideological clashes in modern America.
From the perspective of industrial workers in this novel's 1877 world, who were described as "savages," to today's media depictions of liberals and conservatives as being a danger to America and a threat in need of remedy, All the Danger is aptly named. It's not just about the dangers facing 1877 America's efforts to rebuild. It's about the same kinds of forces at work in American society today.
For this reason, All the Danger should be viewed as more than just another Civil War novel. It's a blueprint and mirror for events taking place today. Same place and methodology, different times.
Frightening, disturbing, and relevant, All the Danger should be on every American's reading list.
Typically for such situations, no one alone possessed sufficient courage, but together they goaded each other to feats of prowess until they were making lewd comments that involved Cady lying on her back with her skirts raised. When one of them touched her, she slapped him with all her strength; shocked, he fell back with a hand on his cheek, then, angry and desperate to restore his standing, attacked her.
At that moment, a stranger approached with an even, somehow unhurried yet rapid stride, appearing suddenly from the side of the tracks by the yard, and planted himself directly in Spencer’s path; and there he waited, saying nothing. “Stand aside,” barked Spencer, in a voice that combined determination with fear.
“Willingly, if you will let go of the girl. She seems to be under some compulsion.”
They talked and talked, but he could see the fatigue on her face and urged her to follow her sister’s example; and as soon as he said it, she felt it and suddenly could barely stay awake. “Sleep,” he urged gently.
“Will you sleep?”
“I will watch over you. Have no fear.”
“But I have no fear, not with you beside me.” So moved was he, he exclaimed that he would die where he was, should it come to it, and then it was her turn to smile. “Let us hope it does not come to that.” She was asleep in seconds and he was certain he could watch her forever.
So the night passed, until the moon set and a pale streak made the turntable at the open center of the roundhouse barely visible, while the locomotives in their stalls yet lay in darkness. Tommy signaled that it was time to leave to Moody, who then gently awakened the girls, and they, half awake, began to gather their few things... Locke and Hobbes both appeared, and the three had just enough time to exchange nods when a war whoop was heard, loud and close and immediately joined by a tumult of yells and cries, all imitating the imagined way of Indian warriors, that filled the roundhouse for nearly a minute.
“I do appreciate that you remain with us. I feel safe with you. That is why I must ask you something.” There was another silence, during which she was amassing the courage to speak, which she did suddenly. “This morning, that awful man said some terrible things about you. Of course I... But later, I think I must have turned unexpectedly, I found you looking at me. Perhaps not just looking. And now I worry that I have let that brute poison my mind. Was that the sum of it, just looking?”
The shooting began with children throwing pebbles from the adjacent hillside, expanded to some teenage boys throwing stones, and then the soldiers were being pelted from all directions. The first ‘shots’ might have been firecrackers remaining from July Fourth, but soon came real bullets, from both hillside spectators and troops below. Amid general gunfire, one of the soldiers fired into the crowd a few feet away, and someone went down.