River Falls, WI

Anniversary of Tragic Event Brings New Attention to Work of River Falls Author

Walter Rhein


Image by Walter Rhein

The journey of many writers is often as twisted and convoluted as the plot of a gripping mystery novel. Readers in the River Falls area are no doubt familiar with author Dan Woll. His novels occupy a space on the shelves of local book stores and his columns regularly appear in local periodicals.

One of his works, Death on Cache Lake, has received a surge of new attention based on a tragic event that took the life of one University of Wisconsin Physics professor and injured three more.

August 2020 marked the tragic 50th anniversary of the Sterling Hall bombing in Madison Wisconsin. Death on Cache Lake re-imagines that night—Dan Woll

Writing has always been a passion for Woll. He refined his communication skills over a long career as an educator, and was often tasked with writing writing entertaining and informative newsletters for his community.

Like many books, Death on Cache Lake began as a passion project and gradually evolved into something of a personal legacy.

I wrote this book over almost 20 years with my life friend John Lyon. As we closed in on the finish, John's health was fading. He was afraid that he would not live to see it in print and he urged a vanity press publication. I argued for the traditional route to advantage a publishing house and I also had questions about financing it. John sealed the deal at my mother's funeral. He handed me an envelope and said, ‘Open it later.’ When I got home, there were 16 one hundred bills in it. I matched it and signed a contract to get the book published by December. John died two weeks before the first copies arrived. They found him in his trailer with a draft of our book on his lap—Dan Woll

Death on Cache Lake has been very well received by readers and critics alike. Like much of Dan’s work, it’s informed by his personal experiences which allow him to inject a sense of nostalgia and realism into the pages.

My adventures in the wilderness greatly influence the book. My years in Madison in the 60’s also color the work and the partnership between protagonists Caleb and John is informed by my 40 year friendship with my co-author—Dan Woll

The novel pivots on the Sterling Hall Bombing, and the anniversary of that tragedy has garnered a new influx of attention from regional media.

Any historical event transforms in our perceptions over time, and many readers have found it therapeutic to engage Woll’s reflections on such a life altering event. Even decades after a tragedy, many individuals wrestle with the incomprehensible foibles of human nature. Although none of us have the answers, there is often some comfort to be gained simply by sharing your pain and conflict with a community.

Many readers have discovered how Death on Cache Lake can help them organize their thoughts on the Sterling Hall Bombing in a way that’s easier to live with. One of the marks of great literature is when a work allows readers to find peace even within the context of senseless violence. That legacy alone is enough to ensure that Death on Cache Lake will endure.

A humdinger of a thriller, told with great style, and unlike many thrillers, with a sense of purpose—Dave Wood, Past Vice-President of the National Book Critics Circle and a former Books Editor for the Minneapolis Star Tribune

You can read more about Woll's work on DanWoll.com.

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Walter Rhein is an author with Perseid Press. He also does a weekly column for The Writing Cooperative on Medium.

Chippewa Falls, WI

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