'Cold Mountain' Author's New Book

Charles Frazier, author of "Cold Mountain" debuts his new novel "Thirteen Moons" during an audience interview at Meredith College on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2006, in Raleigh, N.C. (AP Photo/Sara D. Davis)
AP Photo
Charles Frazier's "Cold Mountain" was successful not just as a book, but also as the 2003 film staring Jude Law and Nicole Kidman. The film was nominated for seven Academy awards.

Frazier, who won the National Book award for "Cold Mountain" in 1997, has finally — after nine years — penned a new novel called "Thirteen Moons."

Frazier has a penchant for writing historical fiction. "Cold Mountain" was set during the Civil War. "Thirteen Moons" is another epic story set in the glorious North Carolina countryside. With this book, Frazier tackles the transformation of America from the middle of the 19th century through the 90 year life span of Will Cooper, Frazier's central character.

The book begins when older people still wear revolutionary era knee britches and ends with Cooper sitting on the porch watching cars go by and listening to the phone ring.

"Will is a guy who — he's moving forward towards something every minute of the day, every year of his life," Frazier told CBSSunday Morning correspondent Rita Braver. "He's got that American sense of momentum."

Frazier based Will Cooper on a real person, William Holland Thomas, who like Frazier's fictional character was taken in by Cherokee Indians as a boy. Thomas was also a successful businessman. His desk, journals, deeds, and other papers are displayed at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian in Cherokee, N.C. Barbara Duncan who runs the Museums Education Department says that by buying up a lot of private lands, Thomas was able to save a small group of Cherokees from being banished from North Carolina.

"More than 15,000 Cherokees were removed in the process at least 4,000 of them died. About 1000 Cherokees got to stay here in the mountains of North Carolina," she said. "Will Thomas was kind of their white chief. He was the person that they sent to deal with the federal government."

Will Thomas's exploits in Washington inspire some of Frazier's most humorous scenes like Cooper's take on President Andrew Jackson and Senator John C. Calhoun.

"Between them Jackson and Calhoun had two of the most alarming heads of hair I had ever seen on white men," Cooper reflects. "They hated each other and yet continued to share their lofty hairstyles, which struck me as having all the features of placing exploding possums on their heads. Of course they were both from South Carolina and thus given to strange enthusiasms."

The North Carolina Cherokee community that Will Thomas helped preserve is still going strong. The Indians have a thriving tourist trade and own an area of 56, 000 acres and are thrilled with the idea of a book based on the man who's still recognized as an important tribal chief. Chief Michele Hicks says he isn't troubled by the fact that Charles Frazier doesn't paint an idealized portrait of the Cherokees.

"People have jealousies, people turn on each other. There's you know, barbaric practices. People get scalped in the book. These type things did occur and its something that again, that we must remember," he said. "And I think it's very important that we teach ourselves, but also teach our children …what history really was about."