By Howard Frank Mosher (Shaye Areheart Books, 332 pages, $25)

Early on in this captivating Civil War novel about a brash young Vermonter who undertakes a perilous journey south in search of his brother, a Union physician missing after the battle of Gettysburg, Mosher's inspirations are clear: Homer. Twain. Hemingway. Charles Frazier. Yet this beautifully written, kaleidoscopic novel captivates on its own terms, and is successful both as high literature and rip-roaring, often graphically violent adventure novel, in which even weapons have names and personalities. Its hero, Morgan Kinneson, a long-legged, sharp-tongued sharpshooter who falls for a mysterious escaped slave girl, is easy to hang with and hard to leave at story's end.



By Raymond Goodwin (University of Wisconsin Press, 170 pages, $22.95)

A faded old photograph in the back of Whipple's general store/burger joint in Moorestown, Mich., inspired Raymond Goodwin to write this workingman's memoir of his days in a rundown Michigan sawmill in 1979. The men, posing three generations ago, stood in front of a sun-drenched sawmill and spoke through the years to Goodwin. "They were from the heyday of Michigan's lumbering era, the time of lumberjacks, river drives, horse-drawn wagons loaded down with logs, and pine trees reaching for the sky." In his first of 30 pithy, sometimes uneven but humorous chapters, Goodwin writes about staring back at the old photo. "When the dead look back at you with those glaring, imploring eyes, the one, the only thing on their minds is that you remember them." Even though his own days stacking lumber came at the end of the boom, Goodwin vowed "to keep our extended history, our common ground, from eroding from memory like sawdust blown off the roof of a windswept sawmill." We meet a host of wacky characters with names such as Whiskey-Tim, Lanny Boy, Tattoo Man and Dar-Dar, rolling from bonfires to bar brawls and always back to work at the sawmill -- a place, a time and a series of relationships all gone for good, except in Goodwin's memory. "Peer into any of the old photographs and along with the pleas for remembrance you'll see the wild-eyed stares and the sense of insanity, or the hilarity, or maybe both, about to metastasize once the camera was hooded and backed away." Even then, the pictures Goodwin shares are clear and focused.