Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A new historical novel from CPCC's president

Tony Zeiss has a plenty demanding day job -- president of Central Piedmont Community College, the state's largest community college. But Zeiss is also a history buff, a guy so passionate about the subject that he also finds time to write historical novels.

His new book, "Backcountry Fury" (Parkway Books; $19.95), tells the true story of Thomas Young, who was just 16 in 1780 when he fought against the Tories in the South Carolina backcountry during the Revolutionary War. Zeiss worries that students today are often ignorant about the Revolutionary War. He's hoping Thomas's story will educate while it entertains.

And it is a heck of a story. Zeiss discovered an intriguing quote from Thomas on an historical plaque at Kings Mountain National Military Park, on the N.C.-S.C. border near Interstate-85.

Then he found Thomas's memoirs and discovered the young man became a soldier at 16. He fought barefoot at the Battle of Kings Mountain, Zeiss learned, because his shoes had worn out. He suffered six saber wounds. He was captured and interrogated. But he escaped and lived to 83.

Though only 16, Thomas wasn't particularly young for a soldier, Zeiss told me. "The best estimate is 50 percent or more of all militiamen were teenagers," he says. Some soldiers were as young as 10.

This is Zeiss's second historical novel. His first, "Journey to Cherry Mansion," was a Civil War story. But this new one, Zeiss says, is better. "I give it a solid B, and maybe a B-plus," he says. "I’m proud of it."