Ohio University Press · Swallow Press ·

A Swallow Press Book

How Fire Runs
A Novel

By Charles Dodd White

Selected as a Fall 2020 Okra Pick by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) · Finalist for the 2020 Foreword Indies Awards (Adult Fiction – Thriller & Suspense) · Finalist for the 2020 Weatherford Award for best books about Appalachia · Winner of the 2021 Independent Publishers "IPPY" for Best Regional Fiction – South

“White imbues his prose with deep compassion and finely honed storytelling. These skills were already on display in White’s 2018 novel, In the House of Wilderness, but here they accelerate, fueled by powerful confrontation with the violent racism and environmental hazards that endanger our current national atmosphere. White holds nothing back, and these scenes spark and blaze.”

Emily Choate, Chapter 16

“White separates the principled from the opportunistic, the heroic from the cowardly, in a series of harrowing scenes accelerating at such a pace that the final chapters of the novel seem to disappear. Not merely action for its own sake, White again demonstrates the sure hand that illustrates consequences of many characters’ choices and sore trials of their resilience.”

Thomas Alan Holmes, Appalachian Journal

How Fire Runs faces down one of the most worrisome contemporary social developments, a phenomenon that, after the Charlottesville Unite the Right rally, is demonstrably problematic in Appalachia: the resurgence, expansion, and organization of white supremacist and fascist groups…. The novel warns that it is … the transformation of fear and suffering into hate for the perceived other that kindles flames and allows fires to run.”

Appalachian Review

How Fire Runs in saner times might read as a cautionary tale against the lure of authoritarianism and racist agitators. As it stands, however, the novel instead reads like reportage from the front lines of an increasingly polarized and frightening political and social landscape… White delves headfirst into the difficult questions of how a community must respond to a threat anathema to what they believe.”

Jim Coby, North Carolina Literary Review

A chilling, timely reminder of the moral and human costs of racial hatred.

What happens when a delusional white supremacist and his army of followers decide to create a racially pure “Little Europe” within a rural Tennessee community? As the town’s residents grapple with their new reality, minor skirmishes escalate and dirty politics, scandals, and a cataclysmic chain of violence follows. In this uncanny reflection of our time, award-winning novelist Charles Dodd White asks whether Americans can save themselves from their worst impulses and considers the consequences when this salvation comes too late.

Charles Dodd White is the author of four novels, including two from Swallow Press: How Fire Runs and In the House of Wilderness. He has received the Appalachian Book of the Year Award and the Chaffin Award for his fiction. He lives in Knoxville, Tennessee, where he is an associate professor of English at Pellissippi State Community College.   More info →


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Retail price: $22.95, T.
Release date: October 2020
272 pages · 5½ × 8½ in.
Rights:  World

Release date: October 2020
272 pages
Rights:  World

Additional Praise for How Fire Runs

“A spellbinding tale….Well-drawn characters are matched by evocative prose. Socially conscious readers will want to check this out.”

Publishers Weekly

“No novel could be more timely than this suspenseful thriller that follows a delusional white supremacist who gathers an army of supporters who seek to turn an East Tennessee community into a bastion of his racist precepts.”

Appalachian Mountain Books, April 4, 2021

“Although a deftly crafted work of fiction, How Fire Runs offers a sobering perspective on America today. A compelling and original work… especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Contemporary Literary Fiction collections.”

Midwest Book Review

“Both action-packed and introspective, How Fire Runs is a timely literary thriller that is hard to put down. Charles Dodd White continues to prove himself as one of the best prose stylists of Appalachian literature in a novel that transcends region to become raw commentary on this volatile moment in America.”

Silas House, author of Southernmost

“Moments of introspection from White’s well-delineated characters help How Fire Runs straddle successfully the contingent and the literary, transcending the ‘ripped from the headlines’ nature of many works dealing with political issues. Loss and the need to build an identity through connections that are more intimate than ethnic kinship is a theme that pulsates just as strongly in the personal stories of Kyle, Gavin, and Delilah’s partner, Harrison. Coupled with the tense pacing of a thriller and an apocalyptic ending [that] pits its characters against the fury of nature, White’s novel is an artful and suspenseful page turner.”

Gonzalo Baeza, WV Independent Observer

How Fire Runs is at once elemental and blisteringly contemporary—a story rooted in our past, yet crackling amid the fires of the American present. Charles Dodd White writes with the steady hand of a master, confronting complicated truths and emotions with clear eyes and grace, giving us a constellation of characters grappling over the identity of their town… and America itself. This is a brave and important novel from one of our best.”

Taylor Brown, author of Pride of Eden

“Charles Dodd White puts to use his deep knowledge of the people who live in eastern Tennessee, the good as well as the bad. It’s a powerful portrayal of contemporary life in a landscape that serves as its own omnipresent character. White’s work gets better and better.”

Chris Offutt, author of Country Dark

“With artfully complex characters…White’s work captures the rhythms of rural life as they begin to beat faster in the face of calamity.”


“A work of artistic merit and a significant (and timely) contribution to our ongoing national discussion of extremism.”

Mark Powell, author of Firebird: A Novel

“Line for line, White is one of the most talented writers at work in the American South.”

David Joy, author of The Line that Held Us

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