In several of the stories, mention is made of "The Irish Wilderness." This is an actual place, an area
in the eastern Ozarks where an Irish Catholic settlement was started by a priest shortly before the Civil War. I live near
there. Largely due to the predation of irregular troops called "bushwhackers," the inhabitants abandoned their homesteads.
It has been known as the wilderness ever since. The Irish who fled there weren't the only victims of the bushwhackers.
After the war, the mayhem continued in the form of vigilantes and people carrying out vendettas. I decided to feature this
tradition of violence and blood feud in this seventh tale, appropriately title "Devilry."
No. The bushwhackers
and border ruffians don't still run wild in the hills today. The "Baldknobbers" featured in Branson skits and alluded
to in "The Shepherd of the Hills" are long gone. However, the lore still exists, as does suspicion of, and
even hatred toward, the outsider, the "other." I suppose it exists everywhere to some extent. Sheriff Shug Shively
would explain it by saying that all of us are "positively inclined toward evil."
I set out
to write Devilry with a single thought in mind: what a person is "sure of" is more important to him than what is
true. Thereby tragedy ensues, and evil is excused.
Brief vignettes from the Civil War and post-war era are interspersed
within the narrative. They are not there for decoration.