A Distant Flame

Overview

A young Confederate sharpshooter, Charlie Merrill, has already suffered many losses in his life, but he must find a way to endure—and to grow—if he is to survive the battles he and his fellow soldiers face in July 1864 at the gates of Atlanta. From the opening salvos on Rocky Face Ridge in northwest Georgia through the trials of Resaca and Kennesaw Mountain, Charlie faces the overwhelming force of the Union army and a growing uncertainty about his place in the war.

Framed by a ...

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Overview

A young Confederate sharpshooter, Charlie Merrill, has already suffered many losses in his life, but he must find a way to endure—and to grow—if he is to survive the battles he and his fellow soldiers face in July 1864 at the gates of Atlanta. From the opening salvos on Rocky Face Ridge in northwest Georgia through the trials of Resaca and Kennesaw Mountain, Charlie faces the overwhelming force of the Union army and a growing uncertainty about his place in the war.

Framed by a story that finds the elderly Charlie giving a speech on the fiftieth anniversary of the Battle of Atlanta, A Distant Flame portrays love, violence, and regret about wrong paths taken. With an attention to historical detail that brings the past powerfully to the present, Philip Lee Williams reveals Charlie’s journey of redemption from the Civil War’s fields of fire to the slow steps of old age.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“The dramatic wartime events of A Distant Flame are written in the heart of Charlie Merrill—sharpshooter, lover, pilgrim, and friend of General Cleburne. This intense and memorable story of battlefield and hearth tells us that it is high time to assess and treasure the work of Philip Lee Williams.”—Marly Youmans, author of The Wolf Pit

“A must-read . . . a moving and beautifully crafted story that leaves one with hope for humankind’s redemption.”—Civil War Book Review

“A powerful work that surely will become a classic of Civil War fiction.”—Robert K. Krick, author of Stonewall Jackson at Cedar Mountain

“This strikingly fine novel leaves an indelible impression on the reader long after he puts it down. . . . As Stephen Crane once said about Civil War historical writing, ‘I want to be there.’ In A Distant Flame, Williams takes us there, and it’s a landscape that captures the heart.” —Robert J. Mrazek, author of Unholy Fire: A Novel of the Civil War

Kirkus Reviews
A sickly, sensitive, Shakespeare-spouting 17-year-old becomes a Confederate Army killing machine. The trouble is that Charlie Merrill spends much of his time stretching credulity. As he assesses the illustrious General Joe Johnston, he hardly seems his age: "He has restored hope," Charlie tells his own commanding general, adding that that's "[no] small thing for a man young or old." This at 17? And a private talking to a general? Which army? What planet? Clearly, General Patrick Cleburne, hero of the Tennessee campaign, has taken a shine to youthful Charlie: he plays chess with him, swaps philosophies and literary quotations with him, sends senior officers to fetch him to his tent whenever the press of military affairs permits, and presents him with the last of his precious Whitworths: that marvelous rifle issued only to super-snipers. The process of Charlie's achieving sharpshooter stardom could have been interesting, but it gets short shrift, offered as just one of those ironic contradictions: Charlie's "a bookish boy who also loved guns." At 15, he was almost carried off by a lingering illness, recovered, fell in love with a beautiful Bostonian, lost her, then left for the war a year or so later, where he slays with biblical ferocity in behalf of a cause he's lost faith in. Flash forward to 1914, and there's Charlie, venerable now, a respected writer and retired newspaperman, preparing to give a speech on the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Atlanta but in a funk because he doesn't quite know what to say about it. Never mind, Charlie being Charlie, he delivers, and the crowd erupts accordingly: cheers, screams, tears even-bull's-eye!The protagonist is a weakness, but buffs will findcompensations here. More than 80,000 books have been written about the American Civil War-and, with authoritative, vividly rendered battle scenes, Williams (Blue Crystal, 1993, etc.) earns a place somewhere, well, at least in the upper quadrant. Agent: Bill Contardi/Brandt & Hochman
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780820337869
  • Publisher: University of Georgia Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/2011
  • Pages: 328
  • Sales rank: 1,047,129
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Philip Lee Williams is the author of fifteen books of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. He lives in Watkinsville, Georgia, and teaches creative writing at the University of Georgia. Learn more at www.philipleewilliams.com

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Table of Contents


Prologue
Winter, 1864: Near Dalton, Georgia
July 9, 1861
July 22, 1914
April 19, 1864
July 26, 1861
July 22, 1914
April 20-May 8, 1864
July 27, 1861
July 28, 1861
May 8-13, 1864: Dalton to Resaca
July 22, 1914
August-September, 1861
May 14-19, 1864: Resaca to Cassville
July 22, 1914
October-December, 1861
January-March, 1862
May 22-31, 1864: Allatoona to Dallas
May 16, 1862
June 2-26, 1864: Dallas to Kennesaw Mountain
Summer and Fall, 1862
July 22, 1914
Winter 1862-1863
June 27, 1864: Kennesaw Mountain
July 22, 1914
July 21-22, 1864: Atlanta
July 23-September 1, 1864
July 22, 1914
July 22, 1914, 5:00-5:30 P.M.
July 22, 1914, 5:45-6:30 P.M.
July 22, 1914, 6:30-9:30 P.M.
July 22, 1914, 9:30-Midnight
November 1918
Author's Note
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