A Year-Round Guide to Franklin and Nantahala

Join The New York Times best-selling author and North Carolina native Wiley Cash as he highlights great writers across the state and their work each month. Listen in on conversations

Rosemary and Goat Cheese Strata

Join The New York Times best-selling author and North Carolina native Wiley Cash as he highlights great writers across the state and their work each month. Listen in on conversations

Our State Book Club With Wiley CashJoin The New York Times best-selling author and North Carolina native Wiley Cash as he highlights great writers across the state and their work each month. Listen in on conversations between Cash and his author friends as they discuss how North Carolina inspires them on the Our State Book Club podcast.


It’s one thing for your debut novel to spend more than a year on The New York Times Best Seller list, another altogether for it to win the National Book Award. But when it goes on to sell millions of copies and is adapted into an Academy Award-winning film, you have ascended to a rarefied air that few authors ever see. But Charles Frazier didn’t write 1997’s Cold Mountain to reach that literary air. He wrote it because he missed the mountain air he’d grown up breathing.

Frazier was born in Asheville and raised in Cherokee and Macon counties alongside people with roots in the area that went back to the 19th century. He left to pursue degrees at UNC Chapel Hill, Appalachian State University, and the University of South Carolina. He eventually spent a decade or so teaching at the University of Colorado Boulder before settling down with his wife and daughter on a horse farm just north of Raleigh in 1986. But no matter where Frazier lived after leaving the North Carolina mountains, he couldn’t shake his deep desire to know all he could about his home and its people.

While Frazier was looking for a book idea that would immerse him in life back home, his father told him of an ancestor named W.P. Inman. During the Civil War, a wounded Inman deserted the Confederate army and walked back to his home near Cold Mountain in Haywood County. With his ancestor in mind, Frazier began to write.

During the years that he worked on Cold Mountain, between caring for his young daughter, Annie, and making repairs around the farm, Frazier would often get in the car and head west, allowing him to imagine the route that Inman might’ve taken home. At night, he would ask Annie to read that day’s writing out loud, his ear searching for the music of the voices that he’d grown up hearing. That lyricism would enshrine Cold Mountain as one of the most iconic novels in 20th-century American literature.

Frazier followed up Cold Mountain with four more novels. Thirteen Moons (2006) portrays the cultural turmoil preceding the removal of the Eastern Band of Cherokee from their ancestral homeland. Nightwoods (2011), also set in western North Carolina, is about a woman who finds herself caring for her murdered sister’s children. Varina (2018) tells the story of the wife of the president of the Confederate States of America, following her through the upheaval of the Civil War until her death. And The Trackers (2023) takes readers out West, presenting us with a love triangle between a wealthy rancher, his younger wife, and a Works Progress Administration muralist who’s in over his head.

Regardless of where or when Frazier sets his novels, they all possess the same qualities: lyrical writing, heartfelt characters, and sweeping drama. Not bad for a mountain boy.


Stack of Charles Frazier's books including The Trackers, Cold Mountain, Thirteen Moons, Nightwood, and Varina.

Charles Frazier is the author of five novels. His most recent work, The Trackers, transports readers beyond the Southeast to the Wild West. photograph by Matt Hulsman

Masterpiece Found

Charles Frazier’s most recent novel, The Trackers, is noir fiction at its finest. In 1937, the government commissions our protagonist, Val, to paint a post office mural in a small Wyoming town. There, he bunks at a ranch that’s owned by a wealthy political neophyte and World War I sharpshooter named John Long, whose much younger wife, Eve, was once a singer in a cowboy band. Not long after Val arrives, Eve flies the coop with a small Renoir painting from Long’s extensive art collection. Not wanting to involve the authorities, Long enlists Val to hit the road in search of Eve and his priceless piece of art.

The Trackers is a sexy, harrowing novel that bears all the hallmarks of Frazier’s singular style. At one point, when Val is traveling by train out to Denver, Frazier writes, “Late night, the moon-bleached prairie landscapes outside the scratched windows flowed and fled in the moonlight, no more substantial than the landscapes of dreams.” A picture that only a true artist could paint.


Wine, Cheese, & Reads

Join us at The Barn at Fearrington Village on April 17 as we announce our next selection, Guests on Earth by Lee Smith. Enjoy drinks and hors d’oeuvres with Smith, Wiley Cash, and Our State Editor in Chief Elizabeth Hudson. For tickets, visit ourstate.com/trips/our-state-book-club-launch-event/. Can’t make it? Beginning April 2, listen to our book club podcast on Spotify or Apple Podcasts.

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This story was published on Mar 13, 2024

Wiley Cash

Wiley Cash is the author of three books, most recently the novel The Last Ballad.