Twenty-year old Michigan farm boy Will Castor finds his life changed forever as he is thrust into the harsh realities of nineteenth-century combat on the last day of the battle of Chickamauga. Wounded physically and mentally, Will escapes the battlefield aided by a war weary Confederate deserter, but can’t escape the echoes of death and horror that will remain with him for the rest of his life.
Returning to Michigan after the war, Will deals with guilt and recurring nightmares from his war experience, finding relief in the numbing effects of a bottle of whiskey and the bawdy houses of East Saginaw. He joins the rough and tumble world of Michigan’s lumber boom as a land looker seeking the majestic white pine. Alone in the vast northern Michigan wilderness, he comes face to face with his demons and must make a decision—life or death
Echoes of Distant Thunder is a compelling historical drama vividly portraying Michigan’s rich history, landscape and participation in the Civil War. Author Frank P. Slaughter, a re-enactor with Battery D First Michigan Light Artillery, brings stark realism to the battle scenes with his knowledge of Civil War tactics and munitions. On this the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, Will Castor’s story could be the story of veterans from all wars as they continue to fight the battles that can’t be left on the battlefield.
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This is a definite must read for anyone who loves the Civil War time period. This is not just a story of the Civil War. This is Will Castor¿s story of survival. Survival can¿t always be measured in the physical sense. Anyone who has gone to battle must survive mentally as well. Will must learn to put the demons that haunt him to rest if he is to have any kind of decent life. This book was very authentic in its portrayal of the battle field. This has to do with the fact that Mr. Slaughter is himself a re-enactor. I felt as if I was on the battle fields at times. This is not a comfortable feeling. There again this book is not a feel good book. Most books that are historically accurate take us out of our comfort zone and force us to face many unpleasant things. This book is like that. We as readers are forced to face the devastation of battle both upon the land, humans both body and mind. I have a couple of friends who are not only history teachers, but find the Civil War to be their favorite topic. I will definitely recommend this book to them. I would also read any other book by this author. It is not often I read a book so full of history that does not at some point bore me. This book kept me drawn in until the end.
In the interest of full disclosure, I must start by saying that I have served with the author in the same living-history unit for some time, and value our friendship. With that said, I will also state that I have read my share of Napoleonic-era and Victorian-Military fictional history, and have come to appreciate the elements that are needed for a first-class effort. Mr. Slaughter has met or exceeded those standards. "Echoes of Distant Thunder" follows the wanderings of main character Will Castor, from the third day of the Battle of Chickamauga in September of 1863, where he serves with a Michigan artillery battery, to his post-war journey of trial, transformation and ultimate redemption. Mr. Slaughter's attention to detail throughout the book is truly remarkable, from the description of the esoteric maneuverings, equipments, and loading and firing procedures of a Civil War battery, to the use of arcane terms and processes of mid-19th century logging & horse and carriage operations. Should the author continue on his writing career (and I, for one, would strongly encourage him to do so), he may need to publish a companion "Book of Terms"! But then, this is one of the beauties of good, solid historical fiction: the ability to introduce the reader to new worlds and vocabularies, without leaving one completely baffled. As for the battle scenes, the action is ramped up furiously within a short space, throwing the reader into a scene from Hell, complete with nail-biting tension, and some of the most grim and gory descriptions of battle I have ever encountered. This is not for the faint of heart, and those looking for a more romanticized account of warfare should look elsewhere. Will's romantic entanglements are handled with a deft hand, owing more to real life than is the norm. There will be no "Happily Into The Sunset" chapter in Will's life, until he can eventually come to grips with his post-war nightmares and personal Demons. I was particularly impressed with the author's ability to jump time frame, seamlessly, without any awkwardness whatsoever, from paragraph to paragraph. This is a true Gift. All in all, Mr. Slaughter is to be saluted for this first effort, and I highly recommend "Echoes" to both the casual and serious reader of military historical fiction. You will not be disappointed.
Even though this isn't my reading genre, this book was recommended to me and I couldn't put it down. I had to slow down my reading so I could absorb the plot. The author's detail of his characters and the events made me feel their emotions and see them vividly. The veteran's battle scars (physical and mental) affect him in ways that are complex and conflicting. A book club would have a lively discussion.