Who Dwelt by a Churchyard

Berry Fleming, Author Permanent Press (NY) $18 (160p) ISBN 978-0-932966-88-9

Long consigned to obscurity, Flemming's early novels ( Colonel Effing ham's Raid ; The Make Believers ) have been reissued recently to critical praise. Now comes proof that the 89-year-old author has lost none of his creative powers, as evinced by this new novel, a moving account of a man reliving the history of his world and the events of his life. As newly widowed Allen Embry consigns to the fireplace his cherished snapshots, forgotten reminders recreate the leisured gentility of the ante-bellum South and its Civil War aftermath, recounted in letters from the battlefield to his ``Esteemed Parents'' by Allen's great-uncle Asa. Reminiscence uncovers hints of a wife's infidelity, followed by a shot (carelessly fired?) which cripples her doctor-husband's hand and ends his surgical career. Interspersed are photos of Allen and his Alice, traveling the world on her considerable means, unmarried until Allen finds a job and can marginally ``provide.'' Childlessness dogs them, giving credence to her family's suggestion that they are unsuited, until finally a daughter, Ada, is born. But far from cementing their marriage, Ada wedges them apart, is the passive cause of Alice's death as well as of the birth of Allen's doubt. The novel precisely mirrors an old man's sometimes explicit, sometimes faltering memory, implying more than it states and offering, like The French Lieutenant's Woman , a dozen endings to the story. (Jan.)