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  • “It's got great sweep and authority, a compelling story, and characters that I'm really interested and invested in--particularly Mary Kay, whose letters to Donnie are so pitch perfect for a 15-year-old girl in 1943 that it's almost uncanny. It's rare to find a novel in which the characters are so sympathetic and helplessly feral at the same time.” ~

    -Steve Harrigan

  • “C.W. Smith’s novel, Purple Hearts, is driven by one of the most complex and heart-wrenching heroes in literature when the deeply flawed Georgie Karacek is confronted with challenges that would overwhelm the most valiant heart. After only eleven weeks of training Georgie is invalided out of the World War II army to return home to a town on the edge of violence, a domineering mother driven by prejudice and a self-delusional wife, Sylvia, the only woman he has ever loved. When the town spins into violence, Georgie suddenly emerges as the only man standing in the way of that violence. Purple Hearts is a testimony to the mythic courage of the individual driven by love, and, in this, his finest work, C.W. Smith is writing at the height of his power.” ~

    -Jane Wood

  • “Smith's novel Purple Hearts is a compelling story set during WWII that vividly depicts the lives and dramas of the home front. Set in the Deep South, the characters are both engaging and authentic. Smith's ability to convey the truth through the eyes of both men and women, black and white, young and old is a testament to his storytelling. Sexy, sad, yet ultimately hopeful, it's a novel about war that reminds us how little we have changed. This was terrific.” ~

    -Molly Moynahan

  • "C.W. Smith's sensitive, finely-crafted tale unfolds in a Gulf Coast Texas town that seethes with the reflected violence of WWII. Most of the wounds in 'Purple Hearts' don't come from bullets. Smith gives us the stateside theatre: rations books and strained marriages, the dashed pride of 4-F men, white shipyard workers set against black, and one sweet washout of a soldier, Georgie Karacek, to whom fate delivers a desperate choice--hold on to his beautiful wife or pay a debt to a childhood friend." ~

    -Lisa Sandlin

  • “C.W. Smith remains one of our most intelligent and gifted novelists. Purple Hearts is a precise sortie through contested human territory. From wars of intimacy, with their many surprise attacks, to the battles that define our communities, this splendid new novel maps the strategies behind ordinary people's fights to meet the extraordinary demands of American life.” ~

    -Tracy Daugherty

  • “Against the backdrop of worldwide war, the suppressed hatred and violence of racism explode in a small Texas city, and unlikely heroes risk the kind of moral action that changes destinies. In this time of patriotism, paranoia, sacrifice, and selfishness, Smith's wholly convincing characters reveal the extraordinary secrets and dreams of ordinary people and dramatically remind us that cowardice and courage may be inextricably tangled in anyone's life. Uncompromising yet compassionate, Smith's remarkable rendering of the time and the place give us history as only fiction can, not as facts or imitations, but as deeply felt human experience, as volatile and poignant as life itself.” ~

    -Allen Wier

  • “the best novel I’ve read about the home front during World War II and [it] illumines the dark fact that there was more to that home scene than Rosie the Riveter and War Bond drives.”” ~

    -Brian Wooley



Purple Hearts


Set during the turmoil of World War II, Purple Hearts is the story of the epileptic scion of an East Texas timber and oil fortune and his marriage to a stunning stranger desperate for sanctuary. Though naïve and virginal, thirty-year-old Georgie Karacek wins Sylvia through his charm and kindness. Longing to prove himself, he then hides his illness to join the Army. Sylvia's relationship with Georgie's overprotective mother proves difficult, so to make ends meet she takes on a boarder, Robert, in his absence. Soon he and Sylvia grow close, and he presses her to run away with him. When Georgie's epilepsy comes to light, he is discharged, but on returning home he suspects that his bride and the boarder are lovers. But wartime conditions explode into rioting, and that uproar puts them at odds with the town when Georgie helps a black friend flee. Purple Hearts is based loosely on events in Beaumont, Texas, in June of 1943, when shipyard workers rampaged following a rumor that a black man had raped a sailor’s wife. Several people died and scores were injured, and that riot echoed those in Detroit, Chicago, and Los Angeles.


Smith's book, Purple Hearts (TCU Press, 2008) took seven years to write and went through thirteen drafts to reach its final form. The novel was a 2009 finalist for Best Novel award given by the Writers' League of Texas in 2009.

CW Smith is a member of the following organizations:

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