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A Distant Flame Paperback – April 1, 2011


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Editorial Reviews

Review

“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

From the Inside Flap

"A powerful work that surely will become a classic of Civil War fiction. A superb book."
- 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. In some ways it reminds me of the wonderful Raintree County. As Stephen Crane once said about Civil War historical writing, 'I want to be there.' In A Distant Flame, Mr. Williams takes us there, and it's a landscape that captures the heart."
- Robert J. Mrazek, author of Unholy Fire

"A Distant Flame takes a sultry summer day in 1914 and weaves it into a page-turning tale of Civil War Georgia. This is not 'moonlight and magnolias,' but Philip Lee Williams's bittersweet story of life, love, and loss in a small Southern town will touch your heart and move you to tears."
- David Evans, author of Sherman's Horsemen

"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, winner of the Michael Shaara Award

"A Distant Flame is the best story yet written about the Atlanta campaign and life on the home front in Civil War Georgia. It is also much more. It blends scrupulously researched history with powerful narrative to produce a compelling, multidimensional story of one man's life as shaped by the Civil War over a span of fifty years. It is a story of war, love, and community in a small north Georgia town, brilliantly told, full of insights into the complex impact of the Civil War on everyday Southerners."
- Thomas G. Dyer, author of Secret Yankees: The Union Circle in Confederate Atlanta
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 328 pages
  • Publisher: University of Georgia Press; Reprint edition (April 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0820337862
  • ISBN-13: 978-0820337869
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,008,679 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Philip Lee Williams is the author of 19 published books, including 12 novels, four works of non-fiction, and three volumes of poetry. His books have been published by such presses as St. Martin's, W. W. Norton, Random House, Grove Press, Ballantine, Dell, Viking/Penguin, and Mercer University Press, as well a number of other smaller and university presses.

Philip's autobiography It Is Written: My Life in Letters, came out in September 2014 from Mercer University Press. A new volume of poetry The Color of All Things: 99 Love Poems will be out in March 2015. It is the winner of the Adrienne Bond Award for Poetry.

His latest novel, Emerson's Brother, was published in May 2012. It is about the mentally challenged brother of noted American writer Ralph Waldo Emerson. His 1000-page novel, The Divine Comics, was published in November 2011 by Mercer University Press. This book is a modern re-imagining and updating of Dante's fabled Divine Comedy.

The University of Georgia Press republished his Michael Shaara Prize-winning novel A Distant Flame on April 1, 2011.

Williams's The Flower Seeker: An Epic Poem of William Bartram, came out in 2010. It was named Book of the Year by Books & Culture Magazine.

In May 2007, he received the Governor's Award in the Humanities from the State of Georgia during ceremonies in Atlanta, and in June of that year he was for the second time named Georgia Author of the Year, this time in the essay category in a program at Kennesaw State University. He has since been named Georgia Author of the Year twice more.

His most recent nonfiction book, nature essays called In the Morning: Reflections From First Light, came out in the fall of 2006 from Mercer University Press. He is a featured author in a textbook about Georgia authors for the state's eighth graders that was released in the fall of 2008.

His novel A Distant Flame was published by St. Martin's Press in September 2004. In April 2005, it was named winner of the Michael Shaara Award as the best Civil War novel published in the United States in 2004. Williams received the award in Boston in June 2005. The book was also named, by The Georgia Center for the Book, one of 25 books that "All Georgians Should Read." It came out in a trade paperback edition in November 2005.

His books have been translated into Swedish, German, French, and Japanese and have appeared in large-print editions as well. A number of his books have been optioned for film by such people as producer Richard Zanuck, director Ron Howard, and actress Meg Ryan. He was hired by M-G-M to write the screenplay of his own book, All the Western Stars, though the movie has not yet been made.

Two of Williams's unpublished manuscripts have also been optioned by producers in Hollywood.

Williams has also published poetry in more than 40 magazines, including Poetry, Press, Karamu, the Cumberland Poetry Review and many others. He has published essays and short stories, and one story, "An Early Snow," published in 2000, was nominated by The Chattahoochee Review for a Pushcart Prize.

An essay of Williams's appeared in the fall 2010 issue of The Georgia Review.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Karl K. Pence on September 27, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Through the point of view of Charlie Merrill in all but one crucial spot, A Distant Flame pulls us right up to the fire and passion of the experience of the War Between the States for the ordinary Southern boy. It sears that experience onto a permanent sense of reflection seeking understanding which, we learn, is attainable this side of death. Deft time switching from the novel's "present," 1914, back to a sickly boy's consideration of early Civil War 1862 and to his actual participation in the Chicamauga to Atlanta events of 1864. All this in the context of a 50-year survivor's ultimate chore--understanding it. Loss of loved ones on multiple levels, all genuine and honest. Objectivity and distance as a survival strategy, represented by Charlie's sharpshooting. This is in some ways a novel of "Compensation" (with a clever nod to Mr. Emerson). Not a line of drudgery. Though not comic, written with appropriate humor. The horror does not titillate. Nor does the romance in this anti-romance reflective of the 50 years of post Civil War American literary realism. In the end, it is not about the South, however: Charlie could have been from Goshen, Indiana, or a town in Michigan, just as well.

This novel is its own screenplay. It has more to say and show than Cold Mountain and more about the soldier and the town in the war than Killer Angels even pretends to offer.

Buy it. Read it. It is a modern story well told.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By M. R. Campbell on November 17, 2005
Format: Hardcover
While young Charlie Merrill can hit a target 2,000 yards away with a Whitlock rifle, he is an unlikely soldier. We see him before the war as a frail, sickly teenager who is well-schooled in poetry and classical literature, living in one of the many North Georgia towns that is not altogether convinced in the wisdom of secession, much less war. We see Charlie Merrill in 1914 as his home town prepares to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the battle of Atlanta, thinking back on the loss and the sacrifice and the love that tied them together. And those of us who have walked the old works of Kennesaw Mountain where hikers now commune with a quiet wood and families spread out blankets and picnics on the warm grass of summer afternoons, see Charlie Merrill in in the contrasting bloody hell of 1864 rendered here in graphic detail. This novel received the Michael Shaara Award for Excellence in Civil War Fiction in 2004. It is a well-deserved honor, for A Distant Flame stands very near the top of the 80,000 books published about the civil war.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By K. Freeman on March 30, 2006
Format: Paperback
A literary Civil War novel that alternates between Charlie Merrill's grim existence as a sharpshooter in the Army of Tennessee, his sickly but love-touched boyhood and his old age.

I have very mixed feelings about this novel and I note from the other blurbs and reviews it's gotten that my opinion is a somewhat contrarian one.

I certainly have no issue with the research, which appears to have been painstaking. I found, though, that my engagement with the story wavered many times as I read. I honestly can't decide if this is a significant literary work told in a poetic style or if it's essentially sentimental in its themes and given to purple prose in its execution. I had trouble with the narrative's total humorlessness, with the saintly profundity of every character, with the endless repetition of variants on "Slavery was wrong." Yeah, obviously slavery was wrong. Every modern reader, hopefully, realizes that. But I'm not really convinced that the nineteenth-century Georgian character Charlie Merrill would realistically feel so unequivocally about it, and, as ever, the statement would have worked better shown than told. The race relations shown in the novel are all actually idyllic.

And along those same lines, I'm tired of reading about Confederate characters who don't believe in what they're fighting for. I think sophisticated modern readers can deal with protagonists who are fighting for a variety of reasons, some of which we do not consider today to be good. Merrill's lack of commitment to any aspect of his cause (whether resisting invasion or states' rights or his comrades, except for his single companion Duncan, or slavery) actually makes his battlefield actions more, not less, morally questionable for me.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By John Galt on November 1, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This work is fundamentally different from most historical novels of the Civil War. It is interesting in that it gives more than a singular temporal sequence of wartime events surrounding the main character's involvement in the Battle of Atlanta. This presents a varied chronological sequence (and commensurate changing perspective) as viewed through the long lens of fifty years.

Without revealing too much detail, this story is told from pre-war, late-war, and long post-war perspectives of a Confederate soldier. Charles Frazier's "Cold Mountain" most aptly delved into long-sought hopes and dreams postponed, a theme that defined the life of many Confederate soldiers throughout and during the closing days of the War. Without taking anything from Mr. Frazier's book, "A Distant Flame" travels one step further. This work allows the final chapter to be written as it relates to an old Confederate soldier's life. It focuses on his struggles to find meaning in not only the events that surrounded his participation in the War, but also, with regard to a lifetime of hopes and the weight of disappointments relating to family and friends lost, and of love unwillingly deferred. From the perspective of this reader, in the end it tells a tale of hope and redemption.

I highly recommend this work. It is a well written, high caliber book [appropriate to that most effective for a sharpshooter]. It is hoped that the author (Philip Lee Williams) will have much more in store for us fortunate readers in the future.
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