Tomahawk Book Review

August 5 2014

Fish Springs, Beneath the Surface, is a strange but true story of lives before the lake
By Lacy Hilliard
Tomahawk Writer

Just as Old Butler, the original Fish Springs was a community that now lay deep beneath Watauga Lake. When the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) constructed the Watauga Dam and flooded the area of Old Butler, which had been victim to many devastating floods in the past, the raging waters took with it over 125 homes and more than 50 businesses. Also drowned were the memories of many lives past. Some memories were innocent, while others, hidden beneath the depths, are cloaked in mystery and deception.

Larry C. Timbs, Jr. is the son of the late Larry Crawford Timbs who was born in the tiny community Fish Springs in 1921. Timbs, Sr. shared with his son and with whoever had the pleasure of reading his little known book, “Tragedy at Old Fish Springs,” a tale so unbelievable that it could easily pass for mountain folklore. But Timbs, Sr. believed the story that was shared with him by his grandfather in 1938 to be true and so he self-published “Tragedy at Old Fish Springs,” and introduced readers to the trials and tribulations of Alfred White, Mary Clemmons and John Williams.

Michael Manuel, who moved to Watauga Lake in 2003 heard about the story through a neighbor and became interested in it to such a point that he adapted “Tragedy at Old Fish Springs” into a screenplay. The screenplay caught the attention of Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead Executive Producer, Belle Avery who suggested that Manuel first develop the story into a novel of his own. Timbs, Jr., a retired journalism professor, was asked by Manuel to co-author the novel and so, “Fish Springs, Beneath the Surface” was born.

The co-authoring of a novel is never an easy feat. Often, the collaboration of two authors breeds a disjointed tale that can leave the reader lost in a sea of wonder. Not so in the collaboration of Manuel and Timbs. Fish Springs, Beneath the Surface flows as steadily as the Watauga River where much of the story is centered. Though native dialect is present in the novel, the story is developed with such ease the reader can easily get a true sense of living through each moment right along with the characters. The characters are complex and the lives they lead are certain to keep readers glued to the pages wondering what will happen next.

The story begins in the years leading up to the Civil War. Alfred White and John Williams had little in common besides their love for the beautiful Mary Clemmons but they were friends despite their differences. And so the boy from the wrong side of the tracks (John) and the golden child (Alfred) lived lives intertwined by both joy and tragedy, whether they liked it or not. Local readers will appreciate both the historical accuracy of the novel and will no doubt feel a connection with both the locations and the characters that hold familiar surnames like Hamby, Miller and Nave.

Fish Springs, Beneath the Surface was published by Ingalls Publishing Group and is available for purchase through For additional information about the novel or its authors visit

With its page-turning storyline the novel is sure to be a success both locally and beyond. Just as soon as readers open the cover of Fish Springs, Beneath the Surface the deception drowned by the blue-green of a local natural wonder will quickly resurface.

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