A Novel By Bill Foley




Pillar of Fire is an exhilarating journey through the 1920s led by two unlikely lovers: the Reverend Ida Woodbury, a fundamentalist minister, and Dwight Harris, a damaged WWI veteran and journalist. Their lives intersect amidst the nation’s raging xenophobia and the breakdown of Victorian standards. The Ku Klux Klan has ballooned in membership, especially in the North where its anti-immigrant agenda and support for Prohibition have won thousands of adherents.

     Dwight is an emotionally wounded veteran who embraces the jazz age while struggling to find meaning in his life. Ida Woodbury’s faith offers a catechism on how to live until the God she believes in abandons her one fateful night. Together they journey through the dark side of the American dream: a white Protestant America that will do anything to deny Jews, Catholics and different races the most basic human rights. In the silk mills of Paterson and Passaic they will witness the exploitation of men, women and children by owners who regard workers as little more than replaceable cogs in their factories.

     Written as a historical novel, Pillar of Fire introduces many of the pre-eminent figures of the time: Al Smith, presidential candidate, Hiram Evans, Grand Cyclops of the Ku Klux Klan, and Bishop Alma White, prominent nativist and founder of the Pillar of Fire Church. The novel chronicles the bitter struggle in the twenties to separate church and state and to become a nation of immigrants, a goal that remains elusive even in the present day.


Bill Foley is a retired educator. Pillar of Fire is his second novel – the product of years of writing and rewriting. Along the way he received helpful criticism at the New York State Summer Workshop at Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs and the Writers in Paradise conference at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida. He and his wife, Barbara, split their time between the Tampa Bay area in Florida and the Adirondacks of New York State  

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