Get Well, Daniel Woodrell

By David Corbett

Daniel Woodrell goes in for surgery today to repair a shoulder that never healed right after a nasty accident while gigging for suckers on the Current River with celebrity gourmand Anthony Bourdain.

Reports are varied and contradictory, but from what I can piece together from reports I’ve heard or read, it appears that, while in the boat at night on the river, Bourdain went for a fish and his spear caught in a low-hanging branch that snapped back with thunder-crack velocity, knocking out the boat’s lights and generator and planting Daniel face-first in the bottom of the boat. In the darkness, calling out for Daniel but getting no response, everyone feared he’d been thrown overboard—worse, that he was drowning somewhere under the tumbling current. When the lights came back on the film crew spotted Daniel helpless at their feet, unconscious with a broken shoulder, and sped him to a hospital.

The repair work proved inadequate, shall we say. Daniel now faces a bi-planar osteotomy at the Mayo Clinic, to be followed by two months in an immobilizer and rehab for the rest of the year. How far has Anthony Bourdain set back the progress of American letters? We shall see. Apparently he felt terrible about the accident at the time—Daniel is one of his favorite writers, he says—but those TV personalities move swiftly on, running to the next gig, as it were. (Shortly after the accident, Bourdain was in Naples, where he was having “a very good time.”)

If for some reason you don’t know who Daniel Woodrell is—shudder the thought—let me introduce you to one of the finest writers of our generation. I doubt I can say anything of general interest that isn’t said better in this interview with Craig McDonald for the Mulholland Books website.

For a taste of Daniel’s writing, you can start with this remarkable short story, “Night Stand,” that appeared in Esquire. It’s included in the collection The Outlaw Album that came out last year. I’d say I recommend it, but that doesn’t get halfway near how I feel about the matter. Daniel is one of very few writers I can honestly say that I’ll read anything to which he’s attached his name, and I routinely hand over my dog-eared copy of Tomato Red to friends who’ve yet to enjoy his work, saying, “Trust me, you’ll love this,” and they always do.

Two of his books have been made into films: Woe to Live On, perhaps my favorite of Daniel’s novels, adapted by Ang Lee into Ride with the Devil; and Winter’s Bone, a remarkable film based on a breathtaking novel, each unique in its own way, each unforgettable.

Saul Bellow is rumored to have said that a writer is a reader inspired to emulation. Well, I can attest that reading Daniel’s work has driven me to be a better scribbler. I know I can’t equal his language—Daniel is a stylist of the first order, by which I mean the prose serves story perfectly, exquisitely—but I can strive to match his honesty, his attention to detail, his sense of rhythm and his knowledge of the human animal. I want to reach within and write from the place where his words have landed and lingered. In a way, I think I need to. I’ll feel small somehow if I don’t.

Here’s to a successful surgery and a quick convalescense. May the bones set right and the healing begin. Somebody bring the whiskey.

If you’d like to wish Daniel well, or let him know how much you enjoy his books, please leave a comment. I’ll be passing this link along for him to enjoy once the anaesthesia wears off.

And if you’d like to share a story of a wonderful outing gone wickedly wrong, that might put a smile on his face. Misery loving company and all that.

* * * * *

Jukebox Hero of the Week: Seems appropriate that we should tap into the old-time music that appeared on the Winter’s Bone soundtrack, particularly this haunting number, “Hardscrabble Elegy,” by Dickon Hinchliffe:

38 thoughts on “Get Well, Daniel Woodrell

  1. PD Martin

    Hi, David. Great post as always! That certainly sounds like a nasty injury, especially for a writer. Ouch!

    Wishing Daniel all the best for his surgery and recovery.

  2. Phillip Thomas Duck

    I definitely pass along my best wishes. Daniel is one of my favorite writers. I've posted previously to this blog stating that I read GIVE US A KISS once each and every year. The moment I discovered the book was a watershed moment in my own writing life. Elegant, tough, poetic. I realized not the potential of a crime novel, but the potential of a novel, period. Get well soon.

  3. Sarah W

    Oh, no! I hadn't heard.

    Mr. Woodrell's books would have pride of place on my shelves if I didn't keep loaning them out! Tomato Red taught me more about description and voice, through sheer osmosis, than any three writing workshops could have. And Winter's Bone hurt and healed my heart in equal measure. But Muscle for the Wing . . . that's the one I never let anyone borrow, for fear I won't have it on hand when I want it.

    My best wishes for a swift recovery to Mr. Woodrell — we need him!

  4. Nancy Martin

    I was a big fan of Tony Bourdain. (I was on a first name basis with him in my dreams. Hubba Hubba.) But I saw that particular episode after reading Winter's Bone and was HORRIFIED. Haven't seen Tony since–on TV or otherwise. Best wishes for a quick recovery. When it was my turn to host my neighborhood book club, I asked the club to read 3 books—True Grit, Hunger Games and Winter's Bone. Terrific discussion material. Everybody stayed late, and it wasn't just the wine.

  5. David Corbett

    Phillipa, Phillip, Sarah and Nancy:

    Thanks so much. Just what I was hoping for. I knew I could rely on the Murderateros for a great get well card.

  6. RB Love

    A wild story that will hopefully make its way into another Outlaw Album – if it's not already a complete fabrication created by the equally talented Mr. Corbett.
    Taking nothing away from any other writer, Mr. Woodrell's work is the best stuff I've been lucky enough to come across since Thom Jones and where and what happened to Thom Jones?
    Must repair shoulder and get back to work.
    Sending all the positive vibes and healing mantras I can muster. Fuse.

    RB Love

  7. Lynn Kostoff

    Dear Daniel,
    Best wishes from the swamps of SC. Hope you're well soon. Lynn Kostoff

  8. Lynn Kostoff

    Dear Daniel,
    Best wishes from the swamps of SC. Hope you're well soon. Lynn Kostoff

  9. Jon B.

    Daniel – Best wishes for a speedy recovery. You are one of my literary heros. It was a huge thrill to speak to you briefly at Bouchercon in St. Louis last year,

  10. Dennis Tafoya

    Daniel is one of a kind. I first encountered his work in Woe to Live On, which I treasure and re-read every couple of years. He's an inspiration and an indispensable guide to doing excellent work, and meeting him last year was one the absolute highlights of my writing life.

    Heal up fast!


  11. Gordon Harries

    Laura Lippman has a line (I think it may be the blurb included in my copy of Winter’s Bone) that the fact that Daniel Woodrell isn’t a superstar is proof all by itself that writing isn’t a meritocracy. Which can only be true, as every writer I’ve spoken to reveres the guy.

    My own favourite is Give Us A Kiss (I felt very close to that novel when reading it and have felt the same intensity/inherent truthfulness of the text whenever I’ve revisited) with Woe to Live On a very close second, both feel like haunted reads.

    All the best to Mr. Woodrell.

  12. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Daniel, I don't know you, but greatly admire your work and wish you a speedy and painless recovery.

    But I'm sorry – "gigging for suckers?" Did you honestly expect anything good to come out of any activity with a name like that?

  13. Peter Farris

    I temporarily lost the ability to speak English when I approached Dan for an autograph at Bouchercon. Later that evening in the hotel bar, a writer pal remarked that he considered Woodrell America's greatest living author. I wholeheartedly agree. Here's to a speedy recovery.

    – Pete Farris, Cobb County, Georgia

  14. Schwartz, Stephen Jay

    I met Daniel at Bouchercon in San Francisco. I've yet to read his work, but your blog has inspired me to do so. Since I love everything you recommend, David, I know I'll be impressed.

    I hope you get better soon, Daniel. Next time just watch the show on TV, like the rest of us lumps of dough.

  15. Keith Rawson

    Recover quickly, Daniel, all of us need you up and completing the Maid's Version! Rest and mend, sir.

  16. Daniel Penfold

    Mr. Woodrell, your sentences have given me more pleasure over the years than can be described. It is an honour and a privilege to wish you a speedy recovery.
    Get well soon!

  17. Gar Haywood

    Nothing can make a writer feel more clueless and shamefully ignorant of his craft than having EVERYONE he knows in the business rave about the work of someone he hasn't yet read. So I'm finally getting around to joining the Woodrell fan club by reading TOMATO RED. And sure enough, it's damn good.

    Get well, Daniel.

    And David: That rumored quote from Saul Bellow — "a writer is a reader inspired to emulation" — Oh, my God, that is EXACTLY how I feel about myself. There is no way to articulate what a writer is by my definition better than that.

  18. David Corbett

    More well-wishes coming in on the Facebook front — from Dee Phelps, Luz Vega-Hidalgo, Terry Shames, Carol Johnsen — and the elusive, inimitable Dennis McMillan.

  19. Allison Davis

    Daniel, time to get Dragon speaks or similar software (to avoid any pain in "writing") as we all wish for you to continue to write while you heal . And here's to a drink at the next Bouchercon when you are all healed and feeling better. (David knows I'm good for that.) Maybe you can spend some of that healing time thinking of an appropriate meal for Mr. Bourdain…

    All the best to you. Allison

  20. Zoë Sharp

    I was briefly a stablemate of Daniel Woodrell at Busted Flush Press, and it was an enormous honour.

    Meanwhile if he wants anyone to do the keyboard-monkey stuff while he dictates, I can be on a plane in a couple of hours …

    Heal fast – there are words yet to be written with your name on them 🙂

  21. Johnny Shaw

    Here's to a speedy recovery, Mr. Woodrell. I'll always appreciate the time you gave this fledgling writer at Bouchercon and in Portland. It's hard to really express how important you and your work are to those of us that write rural fiction. Us country boys got to stick together. Get well soon.

    Johnny Shaw

  22. Shizuka


    Winter's Bone was one of the best films I've seen.
    And it's really because of the story.
    Your characters there and In Tomato Red are some of the most interesting
    I've encountered.

    Your accident sounds like a scene in one of your novels.
    Maybe it'll inspire?

    In the meantime, I hope you recover fully and have great friends and audiobooks
    for company.

  23. Christine McCann

    Sending thoughts of care, comfort and as much healing mojo as I can your way, Daniel! [Tennessee whisky to follow. 😉 ] So sorry you're having to go through all this crap. Hugs to you and Katie! xo

  24. Doug Levin

    Nice appreciation, David.

    DW – Good luck with your recovery. I'm going to give up gigging for suckers before I start. (But I plan to gig for invasive African bullfrogs if I ever move to Florida.)

  25. Tom

    Daniel, best wishes for a swift and successful recovery.

    David, thanks for this introduction to someone whose work I will now go find.

  26. Reine

    David, thank you for passing this information along- and the beautiful music.

    Daniel, I am very sad to hear of your accident. Mayo is a great place though, and being in rehab – as crappy as rehab is – is better than not being there, for reasons you will thankfully, probably, not understand.

    Looking forward to many more books from you.

    Heal well. xo

    Reine, Quad Class of 2005
    Walking is highly overrated.
    Reading a book is not.

  27. twist phelan

    Daniel, your work has given me many hours of wonderment and gut-wrenching awe. Best wishes for a swift and complete recovery.

  28. Pari Noskin

    I'm certainly wishing you well. I know the pain starts hitting hard after those IV drugs go away.

    An outing that went wrong?
    I don't have one really, but . . .
    I do remember crossing the English channel with a bunch of horridly loud and obnoxious English rugby players — some well known team — and about halfway through the trip, the weather turned and the water became choppy and every single one of those bastards got sick.

  29. David Corbett


    I'm writing back for Daniel. Thank you so much for that loving blog. It's really touching to read and to see all the messages.

    The surgery went really well, and he's back in the hotel room this afternoon. Flying home tomorrow. He's so much better today than last night–the anesthesia has worn off.

    Aside from pain, the shoulder already feels more stable. And tell Leslie he's definitely following her advice! Thank God for little pills. 🙂

    Very best to you,


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