Sunday, September 22, 2013

Review: Of Blood and Brothers, Book One

By E. Michael Helms 

“Brother against brother” is a frequent theme often used in literature about the American Civil War.  So prevalent is this theme that there is quote from a movie, the title of which I cannot seem to recall, that states, to the best of my recollection, “The worst fights I ever saw were between brothers.”  There are documented cases in the Civil War of brothers choosing opposing sides, though considering the number of men who would eventually fight in the war which spanned across four years,  such occurrences are relatively rare and increase in numbers the closer you get to the border states separating the North from the South.  The war did tear families apart, fathers and sons, uncles and nephews, and cousins often found themselves fighting on opposite sides.  The soldiers who came back from the war came back with not only the physical scars on their bodies, but emotional scars as well.  After the war it was left to its survivors to bind up their physical and emotional wounds, and not only heal a war torn country, but their broken personal relationships as well.  Some were more successful at it than others.  E. Michael Helms’ novel, “Of Blood and Brothers,” is on such tale of brothers, who by a quirk of fate found themselves fighting on opposite sides of the war.

It is May 28, 1927 and Calvin Hogue, a cub reporter on the staff of his uncle’s newspaper, the St. Andrew Pilot, finds himself assigned to write a feature article the Malburn Family Reunion at Econfina on Florida panhandle.  He first speaks with Alma Hutchins nee Malburn who points out her uncle, Daniel Malburn, a veteran of the 6th Florida Infantry, Calvin quickly introduces himself and thus begins the first of many sessions with the Malburn brothers.

Elijah Malburn, Daniel’s brother, while working at the salt works along St. Andrew Bay is taken prisoner by Union forces. Faced with imprisonment, he reluctantly chooses to join the 2nd US Florida Cavalry.

“Of Blood and Brothers” is the first of two books covering the story of the Malburn brothers as they tell their stories to Calvin. Book One follows the exploits of Daniel Malburn and the 6th Forida Infantry through the battles of Chickamauga and Lookout Mountain/Missionary Ridge, meanwhile Elijah learns to his horror must lead a destructive raid on the Econfina Valley — his lifelong home.

Mr. Helms’ novel is a well written and engaging and easy read.  My only criticism of it comes on its last page with the words “To Be Continued.”  For it is in reality only half of a novel.  Book Two, the sequel to Of Blood and Brothers, will be released in March of 2014. The story of the Malburn brothers, Daniel and Elijah, picks up where Book One in the series ends.

ISBN 978-1938467516, Koehler Books, © 2013, Paperback, 282 pages, $16.95.  To purchase click HERE.

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