Requiem by Fire
Wayne Caldwell

Random House
Hardcover/352 pages
ISBN: 978-1-4000-6344-4
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". . . a remembrance of a hardworking, better time in human history."

Like a Knight defending his dying horse in battle, the men and women of Little and Big Cataloochee in the mountains of North Carolina defend their homes, their families and, above all, their way of life.

Silas Wright, a farmer born in 1850, has an idea. In order for his small hometown to receive a new school, the old one must be destroyed. That way the government will have to build a proper building for the children of the town. Silas and friends light the match that ultimately brings in a windfall for the forgotten town in the mountains. But as with anything in life, there's always a down side. In this case, the government decides to take the land literally out from under the residents of Cataloochee, making the farms they've worked and toiled on for centuries into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

There are rules that come with this enterprise, the largest one being that all residents must either sell their land to the government at low prices and move out immediately or take less money and pay the government a yearly stipend to stay on their own property. If they choose to stay there are more rules still. They can no longer hunt on their land, and they can only catch a certain amount of fish. No matter whether they are cold or not from the harsh mountain winters, they're not allowed to cut down trees for firewood.

"Hearty folk" is an understatement when speaking about the men and women who have called Cataloochee their homeland. Some such as old Silas Wright will not be driven from their land by any means. As far as hunting, farming, and fishing are concerned, the old weather-beaten man doesn't care one iota for what the government says. He was born on his property and he'll die there, whether they like it or not.

A hometown boy by the name of Jim Hawkins is the local government's man. He comes back home to the mountains after meeting and marrying a girl from town. Nell is a well-educated woman who, although she loves her husband more than life, desires the city life. But like any dutiful wife, she moves with her husband back to the "sticks" so he can do his job. Jim is a good man. He wants nothing more than to protect the world he believes in with all his heart. Although he does try to keep the rules and regulations set forth by the government, he also turn his eyes away when old Silas catches as many fish as he wants to on his own land. Unfortunately, Jim’s wife yearns to go back to the city so her children can get a good education.


Requiem by Fire is not historical fiction, but it's human fiction. Life – with all the happiness and sorrows that it brings – is what this story is all about. Readers will look back on generations that have gone before to remember the people and places once steeped in love, life, and family. The comfortable sound of a family eating dinner around a large table are long gone from society, and the writer, along with this reader, believes we are the poorer for it. Text messaging and cell phones will some day be a thing of the past, but it's doubtful that they will be as missed as much as the generations of hard working families that built this country from the ground up. This book is one that will find a prominent place on anyone's bookshelf – a remembrance of a hardworking, better time in human history.


Reviewer: Amy E. Lignor