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McLean-raised Author Awarded Cooke Fiction Prize

“Beyond the Wood,” a historical Civil War adventure and romance novel, was recently awarded the 2012 John Esten Cooke Fiction Award by the Military Order of the Stars and Bars. The $1,000 prize and award were presented to Virginia author Michael J. Roueche at the organization's yearly convention.

The award is given annually to encourage writers of fiction to portray characters and events dealing with Southern history in a historically accurate manner. The competition, open to book-length works, is judged on effectiveness of research, accuracy of statement, and excellence of style.

In accepting the award, Roueche said that “Beyond the Wood” was a “somewhat accidental labor of love, growing naturally out of my personal affinity for Virginia, its history and heritage, personal study of the war and battlefield tours, especially experiences in Manassas National Battlefield Park.”

“Beyond the Wood” tells the story of Union soldier Hank Gragg who refuses retreat from his first battle without a trophy from the battlefield. He finds the memento on the body of a dying Confederate officer who charges Gragg with delivering his last letter to his wife. Fed by compassion found in the Confederate’s letter and by bonds formed with the Rebel in his waning minutes, Gragg determines he will deliver the letter in person even though it means leaving his regiment and going behind enemy lines deep into Virginia. Meanwhile, the officer's widow struggles with burdens left by her husband and difficulties created by grasping opportunists. The book also includes a brief modern plot that highlights contemporary perspective on the war and the way it is remembered and celebrated.

The novel is Roueche's first. He was raised in McLean and now lives in Colorado. “Beyond the Wood” was published in 2011 by Vesta House Publishing and is available in trade paperback and for Kindle (Amazon) and Nook (Barnes and Noble). Roueche is currently writing a sequel and blogs at michaeljroueche.com.

In addition to the Cooke Fiction Award, the book also has been named a Finalist in the 2012 Next Generation Indie Book Awards; the 2011 Silver Medalist for Historical Fiction in the eLit Book Awards; and a 2012 Merit Book in the EVVY Awards program.

The Cooke Fiction Award is named for prolific Virginia novelist and biographer John Esten Cooke who served in the Confederate Army throughout the conflict. Among his writings are biographies of Thomas Jefferson, Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee. The Military Order of the Stars and Bars is a 501(c)3, non-profit, non-political educational, historical, patriotic and heritage group dedicated to preserving Southern history.