National author Thom at library Nov. 23

Indiana author James Alexander Thom loves to visit the past — and allow his characters to look forward a bit.

He said as much when he visited Columbus a decade ago when his novel “Follow the River” was the focus of the first local Community Book Read.

“As a historical novelist, you take people back and look forward from that point,” Thom said at that appearance. “You never really know about tomorrow, do you?”

He will discuss and read from his latest book, “Fire in the Water,” at 6 p.m. Nov. 23 in the Red Room of the Bartholomew County Public Library, 536 Fifth St. in Columbus.

The book features Paddy Quinn, who appeared in “Saint Patrick’s Battalion” as a Civil War correspondent. The central action in this novel is the explosion of the paddle-wheeler Sultana near Memphis in the final days of the Civil War. The explosion killed about 1,800 home-bound Yankee survivors of the Andersonville prisoner-of-war camp in Georgia.

The undercurrent of the novel is the national mourning for President Abraham Lincoln, whose corpse was en route on his funeral train to Springfield, Illinois, at the time of the disaster.

Columbus’ Viewpoint Books has made the presentation possible. Book sales and a signing will follow Thom’s reading.

Information: 812-379-1266;

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Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at or 812-379-5672.