Wiley Cash’s new novel ‘When Ghosts Come Home’ set along Southeastern North Carolina coast

Published: Sep. 22, 2021 at 4:54 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - New York Times bestselling author Wiley Cash’s fourth novel is his first set along the North Carolina coast.

“When Ghosts Come Home” follows a sheriff as he investigates a mysterious crash landing of an aircraft abandoned at the jetport in Oak Island and the death of a local man whose body is found near the runway.

“I heard that back in the 70s a large aircraft did land at the jetport on a turf runway and it was too large for the runway and that just kind of fascinated me and my imagination ran with it,” Cash said.

The book is also a family drama that explores racism in the South.

“The sheriff is facing a tough reelection battle,” Cash said. “He’s in his mid-60s and his opponent is a local guy, a land developer and when this aircraft appears nowhere - abandoned - they can’t even find any fingerprints, there are all of these rumors of drug smuggling, and the sheriff’s challenger ties these rumors of drug smuggling to race and the election becomes about race and about suspicion, about the role that race and memory play in our community. These are the things the sheriff is trying to make sense of while also solving the mystery of the man’s body left on the runway, the arrival of this mysterious aircraft and he is also facing a lot of pressure inside of his family and his community to do the right thing.”

Cash’s story also delves into loss, grief and the conversations families have and the ones they avoid.

“One thing that I would like people to take away from this book is all of the many conversations that people in the novel have, very difficult conversations about racism in our community, conversations about the role of law enforcement in our communities,” Cash said. “There are so many things in our culture that we just gloss over and we build a little blister and when we never heal, they just come back. They just come back like ghosts and that’s where the ghosts In the title comes from.”

The book gave the Wilmington-based author an opportunity to learn more about Southeastern North Carolina.

“My wife, Mallory, and I moved down to Wilmington in 2013,” said Cash, who is originally from Gastonia. “She grew up in that area and both of our daughters were born here and I thought if I’m ever going to get to know this place to some degree or even even close to the same degree that my wife knows the place, this is the best way is to immerse myself and this novel is the result of me trying to do that.”

Cash’s mother lives in Oak Island, which also helped while he conducting research.

“I’m very lucky that my mom, Sandy Cash, lives on Oak Island,” he said. “My parents moved down there in 1998. My dad, Roger, who worked at the CVS on Beach Road for many, many years as a pharmacist passed away in 2016 but my mom is still down there and so it’s nice to be able to go research a novel and visit your mom and go down to the Provision Company.”

Cash will discuss his book at a fundraiser Sunday for Friends School of Wilmington at the Brooklyn Arts Center. Tickets for Books, BBQ and Blues are available here or at wileycash.com.

The event will feature music by Clyde Edgerton and barbecue and homestyle food provided by Southern Smoke.

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