The New York Times ran a feature a few weeks back, about how publishers have been searching in vain for the next Cold Mountain - a literary novel by someone other than Stephen King that editors won't be ashamed of, but will still turn into a best-selling sensation.
Not even Charles Frazier, the author of Cold Mountain, can't seem to do the trick, it seems. Sales of his follow-up novel, Thirteen Moons, proved merely whelming.
Still, the publishers keep hoping. Now comes Cataloochee, a historical novel set in western North Carolina, like Cold Mountain. It's by a first-time author, Wayne Caldwell, who's from Asheville (like Charles Frazier) and who studied at Chapel Hill (like Charles Frazier).
So, naturally, it's being touted as the next Cold Mountain.
That sort of stacks the odds against him from the start. Which is a shame: Cataloochee might not be a classic, but it's a rich, flavorful slice of fiction, thick with the aroma of venison and mountain apples.
Cataloochee is a decades-long saga, spanning four generations from the Civil War to the eve of the stock market crash. The real Cataloochee is, or was, a township snug against the Tennessee state line in Haywood County. Beginning in 1928, the government bought up the land for what would become the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The story's linchpin is Ezra Banks, a character straight out of Faulkner. He left home at 14 after his foul-tempered father whacked him with a hammer for sassing back, to join in the last throes of the Civil War.
Ezra, we're told "sprang from a line of men pretty good at hunting and fishing and gambling and drinking. But at farming they piddled."
As a dirt-poor Confederate private, he sees the fertile vales of Big and Little Cataloochee and vows to buy his way into it.
Read the rest here (byBen Steelman for starnewsonline.com Link).