River Falls, WI

River Falls Writer Celebrates Wildland Firefighters in His Book ‘Further’

Walter Rhein

Image by Dan Woll

Writers must strive to continually reinvent themselves in order to remain relevant. That has certainly been the case for Wisconsin author Dan Woll. He is best known for his article, The Untold Story of the Barneveld Tornado, but his novel Further represents a departure from his usual writing process.

Inspired by the success of his Barneveld article, Woll embarked on a mission to interview fascinating personalities and record their most poignant stories. These stories are collected in an anthology entitled Further. At its center is a chapter celebrating wildland firefighters. With raging fires dominating the news for the last year, Further has never been more timely.

Much of my writing has been first person. ‘Further’ represents an effort to step outside my own experience. My first boss told me, ‘Don't fall in love with your own ideas.’ To a small extent I had fallen in love with my own adventures and accomplishments and it was an eye-opener to dig into the exploits of other regular people doing extraordinary things. The people I introduce the reader to in ‘Further’ are unique. Some are funny, some are phenomenal and some are heroic like the Colorado wildland firefighters I interviewed. They are all memorable—Dan Woll

Fire season ranges from late spring until the winter rains. In the next few weeks, we can expect to see more and more stories of wildland fires and tales of the heroic people who contain them. Woll’s article Team Venom offers a more in depth insight than anything you’re ever likely to see on the evening news.

'Further' is anchored by the chapter, ‘Team Venom,’ a no-holds barred interview with two wildland firefighters. It is more pertinent that ever. 2020 was a horrific fire season. If you want to know what it's like to be in the middle of a raging inferno, read the 'Team Venom' chapter. There is a notable and moving film (‘Only the Brave’) starring Josh Brolin, Jeff Bridges and Jennifer Connolly about the firefighters who were tragically lost in the Granite Mountain fire, but it's a story told by actors. ‘Team Venom’ is the story of firefighting in the mountains told by two guys who did it—Dan Woll

Throughout Further, Woll spends time getting to know a variety of fascinating individuals. The tales are recounted with warmth, and often achieve moments of astounding insight. Further is a book that wrestles with the panoply of America through the lens of a Wisconsin perspective.

I roved far from Wisconsin for the stories in ‘Further.’ Sure there are fun pieces about bike racing in Wisconsin, saving a sinking pontoon on a northern lake and even a Badger football game but the other stories traverse the country. Literally, as I recount in the story of young Jessop Keene who rode from San Diego to Boston in 21 solitary days on a bicycle. There’s a boat wreck on a wild river in Montana and I take the reader to the wilds of the Pembina Wilderness area on the Canadian border. I put the reader in the middle of a raging forest fire in the Rockies, and I share one first hand experience—what it feels like to climb the route that Alex Honnold has now made famous in the movie ‘Free Solo’—Dan Woll

Woll recounts how his informal interview style seemed to put his subjects at ease.

I think what's interesting about the stories in ‘Further’ is that I was able to get some normally close-mouthed people to open up. There's no one in this book who likes talking about himself, (with the exception of me), and yet once I cracked the nut open so to speak, the stories poured out. Everybody wants to be listened to and I was fortunate to find some very special people on nights when they felt ready to share. In more than one interview someone said to me, ‘I've never told this to anyone before.’—Dan Woll

Woll is looking forward to resuming his circuit of regular public appearances. He donates the proceeds earned from books sold at Freeman Drug in River Falls to the local free clinic.

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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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