Fiction

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Entries - Entry Category: Fiction

Arkansaw Bear: A Tale of Fanciful Adventure

The Arkansaw Bear: A Tale of Fanciful Adventure is a children’s story written by Albert Bigelow Paine in 1898. Paine called upon southern folktale and storytelling tradition and used lyrics of “The Arkansas Traveler” as inspiration for his story. Albert Paine (July 10, 1861–April 9, 1937) was a highly respected American author and noted biographer of Mark Twain. Besides fiction, Paine wrote humor and poetry, and he served as a member of the Pulitzer Prize committee. Paine spent the majority of his adult life living and writing in Europe, where he was awarded the title of Chevalier in the Legion d’Honneur by the French government for his biographies of Joan of Arc. Paine told the story in The Arkansaw Bear: …

Auburn, David

David Auburn is a Tony Award– and Pulitzer Prize–winning American playwright, screenwriter, and director best known for his 2000 play Proof, which he also adapted for the screen, and for the screenplay for the film The Lake House. His play The Columnist opened on Broadway in 2012. David Auburn was born on November 30, 1969, in Chicago, Illinois, to Mark Auburn and Sandy K. Auburn. He grew up in Ohio and moved with his family to Arkansas in 1982, where his mother worked first for the East Arkansas Area Agency on Aging in Jonesboro (Craighead County) and then as the assistant deputy director of the Division of Aging and Adult Services for the Arkansas Department of Human Services in Little …

Babcock, Bernie

aka: Julia Burnelle Smade Babcock
In 1903, Julia Burnelle (Bernie) Smade Babcock became the first Arkansas woman to be included in Authors and Writers Who’s Who. She published more than forty novels, as well as numerous tracts and newspaper and magazine articles. She founded the Museum of Natural History in Little Rock (Pulaski County), was a founding member of the Arkansas Historical Society, and was the first president of the Arkansas branch of the National League of American Pen Women. Bernie Smade was born in Union, Ohio, on April 28, 1868, the first of six children, to Hiram Norton Smade and Charlotte Elizabeth (Burnelle) Smade. The Smades raised their children with a freedom uncharacteristic for that time. When Smade’s lively imagination was mistaken for lying …

Big Bear of Arkansas, The

“The Big Bear of Arkansas” by Thomas Bangs Thorpe is a prime example of Southwestern humor. The story and its relations (notably Charles Noland’s “Pete Whetstone’s Bear Hunt” of 1837), along with the presence of bears in the region, helped earn Arkansas the sobriquet of the “Bear State,” as well as adding to the young state’s image as an untamed wilderness. Thorpe was born on March 1, 1815, in Westfield, Massachusetts, and raised in New York. He earned a living painting portraits, particularly during his years in Louisiana (1838–1854 and in the 1860s). Thorpe also dabbled in politics and investment, both in New York and in Louisiana. His greatest claim to lasting fame was as a writer, publishing six books …

Big Doc’s Girl

Published in 1942, Big Doc’s Girl is a novel written by Arkansas native Mary Medearis. The book is said to have stayed in print longer than any other work of fiction by an Arkansan. Mary Myrtle Medearis was born in North Little Rock (Pulaski County) on May 31, 1915. With financial help from an aunt after her father’s death during the Great Depression, Medearis studied music at the Juilliard School in New York City. She enrolled in a speech class at New York’s Columbia University in 1938, but because the class was full, Medearis enrolled in a creative writing class. When the class was assigned to compose an autobiographical short story, Medearis wrote “Death of a Country Doctor” about the …

Billingsley, ReShonda Tate

ReShonda Tate Billingsley is a journalist, public speaker, publisher, editor, ghostwriter, and producer; however, it is for her work as an award-winning national bestselling author that she is most known. Since publishing her first novel, My Brother’s Keeper (2001), through her own publishing company before Simon & Schuster/Pocket Books began publishing it, she has authored more than forty additional novels and contributed to several anthologies. Most of her novels have been published by Simon & Schuster/Pocket Books and have spanned several genres, including nonfiction and both teen and adult fiction. She was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2010. ReShonda Tate was born in Kansas City, Missouri, to Bruce Tate and Nancy Kilgore. She moved to Arkansas …

Black, Daniel

Daniel Black is a nationally renowned, award-winning novelist. His works are inspired by African-American life, history, and heritage in the South—encompassing themes of race, religion, and sexuality. Daniel Black was born on November 28, 1965, in Kansas City, Kansas, but grew up in Arkansas in Blackwell (Conway County). His great-grandmother, Stella Swinton, was his childhood caregiver. He graduated from Morrilton High School in Morrilton (Conway County). Upon graduation from Clark College (now Clark Atlanta University) in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1988, he was awarded a full fellowship to Temple University, where he earned a master’s in 1990 and a doctorate in 1992, both in African-American studies. Black also earned the prestigious Oxford Modern British Studies fellowship, leading him to study at …

Blackmon, Anita

aka: Anita Blackmon Smith
Anita Blackmon Smith was a prolific mystery author who wrote more than 1,000 short stories and several novels. She is most known for her contributions to the mystery genre’s “Had I But Known” school, a foreshadowing technique in which a character expresses regret over failing to recognize a sign portending larger, often deadly, consequences. Anita Blackmon was born in Augusta (Woodruff County) on December 1, 1892, to Edwin E. Blackmon, who was postmaster and later town mayor, and Eva Hutchinson Blackmon, principal of Augusta Public School. Blackmon graduated from high school when she was fourteen years old. She attended Ouachita College (now Ouachita Baptist University) and then the University of Chicago. Afterward, she taught Latin, German, and French in a …

Bradford, Roark

Roark Whitney Wickliffe Bradford was a popular journalist, novelist, and short story writer of the twentieth century. The subject matter of much of his fiction focused on African-American life, though in a humorous and stereotypical manner. Much of his inspiration is said to have been drawn from his childhood memories of growing up in Tennessee and Arkansas. His first book, Ol’ Man Adam an’ His Chillun (1928), was the basis for the 1930 Pulitzer Prize–winning drama Green Pastures. Roark Bradford, born in Lauderdale County, Tennessee, on August 21, 1896, was the eighth of eleven children born to the farming family of Richard Clarence Bradford and Patricia Adelaide (Tillman) Bradford. In 1911, when he was approximately fourteen years old, his family …

Branscum, Robbie Tilley

Robbie Tilley Branscum gained fame as the award-winning author of books for older children. Her hardscrabble childhood in Arkansas provided the vivid, rustic backdrop for each of her many books. Robbie Branscum was born Robbie Nell Tilley in Big Flat (Baxter County) on June 17, 1934, the third of five children born into a poor family. When she was five, the family moved to Colorado in search of a better life. Her father, Donnie Tilley, worked briefly in timber before dying of appendicitis shortly after the move. Her mother, Blanche, took the children to live with their paternal grandparents near Big Flat and returned to Colorado alone. Tilley’s grandparents were poor sharecroppers who had previously raised ten children of their …

Brockmeier, Kevin John

Little Rock (Pulaski County) author Kevin John Brockmeier is an award-winning novelist and short story writer who has been called one of “America’s best practitioners of fabulist fiction.” Brockmeier has received Arkansas’s top literary prizes (the Porter Fund Award for Literary Excellence and the Worthen Prize) and has been recognized nationally with numerous awards, including three O. Henry prizes, for his masterful use of figurative language in stories that combine reality and fantasy. Kevin Brockmeier was born on December 6, 1972, in Hialeah, Florida. His father, Jack Brockmeier, was an insurance agent, and his mother, Sally Brockmeier, was a legal secretary. His father was transferred to Little Rock, and so the family, including his younger brother Jeff, moved to Arkansas …

Brown, Dee

aka: Dorris Alexander Brown
Dorris Alexander (Dee) Brown is the only contributor to Arkansas literature included in The New York Public Library’s Books of the Century (1996), a selection of the “most significant works of the past 100 years.” He lived more than half his life in Arkansas and, beginning as a teenager, wrote continuously for publication, often long into the night, as he did for his best-known work, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (1970), which changed the way the world thinks about America’s westward expansion. His daytime profession as a librarian was the key to his international success as a writer: he knew how to find primary sources, such as Indian Treaties written in their own Native American words. His most famous …

Butler, Jack

aka: Jack Armand Butler Jr.
Jack Armand Butler Jr. is a poet and novelist known for structurally experimental writing, usually dealing with the development of a religious self-awareness transcending orthodox views. His work is often sexually charged and humorous. Jack Butler was born May 8, 1944, in Alligator, Mississippi, to Jack Butler, a Baptist preacher, and Dorothy Butler, a homemaker. He attended high school in Clinton, Mississippi. He was ordained a Baptist minister in Sedalia, Missouri, in 1965, and pastored the Bethlehem Baptist Church briefly in 1966. He received a BS in math and a BA in English from Central Missouri State College (now Central Missouri State University) in 1966. That year, he married Lynnice McDonald, with whom he had two children, Lynnika and Sarah; …

Call, Cora Elizabeth Pinkley

Cora Elizabeth Pinkley Call was a popular Ozark writer, naturalist, herbalist, folklorist, and Eureka Springs (Carroll County) historian and booster. A lifetime resident of Carroll County, Call achieved statewide and national prominence as the founder and longtime president of the Ozark Writers-Artists Guild (OWAG), which held annual meetings in Eureka Springs. Born on April 28, 1892, to George Washington Pinkley and Mary Jane Harp Pinkley in Winona Township, Cora Pinkley was diagnosed with scleroderma (then called “Stone Disease”) at the age of twelve. Her prognosis was eventual paralysis and a short life expectancy. Unable to enjoy a normal childhood or sit still for more than a few minutes, she left school and educated herself through reading and walking in the …

Collins, Andrew Jefferson “Ace”

aka: Ace Collins
Author Ace Collins has more than ninety published books, including children’s books, biographies, and books on history, culture, and faith. Together, his books have sold more than 2.5 million copies. In 2015, Collins’s book Color of Justice won the Christy Award for Suspense Book of the Year. Andrew Jefferson Collins, an only child, was born on August 17, 1953, in Rantoul, Illinois, to Doyle E. Collins and T. Charlene Shell Collins. His father taught math and was also a basketball coach, while his mother taught first grade for most of her career. In his early childhood, Collins spent most of his time in Royal, Illinois, but he also spent time in Arkansas, where his father was a student at what …

Cotton in My Sack

Cotton in My Sack is a juvenile novel published in 1949, written and illustrated by popular children’s author Lois Lenski. It tells the story of a sharecropping family in eastern Arkansas that grows cotton. Though no years are mentioned, the book seems to be set in the late 1940s. Each chapter represents a narrative episode involving the family as related from the viewpoint of Joanda, the oldest child. Other family members include Joanda’s father and mother, along with Joanda’s siblings: brother Ricky and baby sister Lolly. Chapter titles indicate the key element in the chapter, such as “School,” “Saturday in Town,” “A Merry Christmas,” “The Library Book,” “The Bridge,” and “A New Year.” Lenski’s depiction of the family and its …

Coulter, Hope Norman

Little Rock (Pulaski County) author Hope Coulter is a novelist, short-story writer, poet, children’s book author, and professor. Coulter has received several of Arkansas’s top literary prizes, including the Porter Prize for fiction and the Laman Library Writers Fellowship. Poems and stories by Coulter have also received awards or recognition in contests from such national literary journals as the North American Review, Terrain.org, the Southwest Review, and Louisiana Life. Hope Elizabeth Norman was born on January 25, 1961, in New Orleans, Louisiana, but spent her early years in Little Rock. Her father, Tom David Norman, was then a pathologist at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). Her mother, Hope Johns Norman, as a member of the Women’s Emergency …

Crawford, Phyllis

aka: Josie Turner
Phyllis Crawford was the author of children’s books and adult fiction, including Hello, the Boat!, which won the Ford Foundation award for the best book manuscript for children in 1938. Over several decades, Crawford also contributed to the New Yorker and other magazines under the pseudonym of Josie Turner. She often drew upon her experiences growing up in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to frame the plots of her stories. Phyllis Crawford was born on February 8, 1899, in Little Rock to T. Dwight Crawford and Bessie Williams Crawford. Her father was an attorney and worked for the Arkansas Supreme Court for many years. She had one brother, John, also an author. The Crawford family resided at 416 Fairfax, in one …

Der Squire: Ein Bild aus den Hinterwalden Nordamerikas

Der Squire: Ein Bild aus den Hinterwalden Nordamerikas (The Squire: A Picture from the Backwoods of North America) by Albert von Halfern was published in 1857 by Hoffman and Campe of Hamburg, Germany. The novel presents the story of Squire Russel, a squatter (or pioneer) in western Arkansas near the Indian Territory. Von Halfern’s novel was never translated into English and therefore did not achieve the popularity in the United States that fellow German author Friedrich Gerstäcker’s novels did. Nevertheless, his description of western Arkansas in the early 1840s, like Gerstäcker’s work, offers insight into the daily experiences and the social life of Arkansas’s early settlers. Von Halfern, born about 1816, came to America in 1838, landing in New York …

Dragonwagon, Crescent

aka: Ellen Zolotow
Crescent Dragonwagon, born Ellen Zolotow, is the author of approximately fifty books and was one of the founders of Dairy Hollow House, one of the first bed-and-breakfast establishments in the Arkansas Ozarks. Her children’s books and her writings on food and cooking have won many awards. Ellen Zolotow was born on November 25, 1952, in New York City. Her mother, Charlotte Zolotow, was a writer and editor of children’s books. Her father, Maurice Zolotow, wrote biographies of celebrities, including Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne, and Billy Wilder. Zolotow attended school in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, but did not finish high school. She left home when she was sixteen years old, married Mark Parsons on March 20, 1970, and lived in a commune …

Dumas, Henry

Henry Dumas is a critically acclaimed author of poetry and fiction who captured, in some of his finest work, many of his childhood experiences as an African-American living in southern Arkansas. Henry Dumas was born on July 20, 1934, in Sweet Home (Pulaski County), sometimes called Sweetwater, and he continued to live there until he moved with his family to Harlem when he was ten years old. Almost no information about Dumas’s childhood is available, yet his life in the deep South and the desolate conditions confronting black Southerners in that era are insightfully depicted in several of his writings, including his widely admired short story, “Goodbye, Sweetwater.” Dumas graduated from Harlem’s Commerce High School in 1953 and then attended …

Elgin, Suzette Haden

aka: Patricia Ann Wilkins
Patricia Ann Wilkins was a linguist, feminist, and science fiction writer from the Missouri Ozarks who adopted northwestern Arkansas as her home after retiring from teaching in the 1980s. While living in Huntsville (Madison County), she wrote her cult classic Native Tongue novels and her widely acclaimed Ozark Trilogy under the name Suzette Haden Elgin. Patricia Ann Wilkins was born on November 18, 1936, in northeastern Missouri. Her father, Gaylord Lloyd, was a lawyer, and her mother, Hazel Wilkins, was a teacher. Wilkins had spinal polio as a child, as she related in her personal blog in the early 2000s, and refused to go through with a major surgery to treat it using bones from her hips. Instead, she opted …

Epperson, Tom

Tom Epperson is a producer, screenwriter, and novelist from Malvern (Hot Spring County). He is known for his collaborations with fellow Arkansan Billy Bob Thornton: One False Move (1992), A Family Thing (1996), The Gift (2000), Don’t Look Back (1996), Camouflage (2001), and Jayne Mansfield’s Car (2012). In addition to his credits as a writer of Hollywood films, Epperson authored the popular crime novels The Kind One (2008) and Sailor (2012). Tom Epperson was born on May 22, 1951, in Nashville (Howard County). A year later, the Eppersons moved to Malvern. His father, Wendell Epperson, was a lawyer and municipal judge, while his mother, Mabel, stayed home with their four children. In 1963, Epperson met Billy Bob Thornton when he …

Exact and Very Strange Truth, The

The Exact and Very Strange Truth is a novel by Little Rock (Pulaski County) native Ben Piazza. It is a fictionalized account of his growing up in Little Rock during the 1930s and 1940s. Although he earned more acclaim as an actor and director, Piazza had been a writer since his days at Little Rock Central High School, where he edited the literary magazine. While a student at Princeton University, his short story “The Death of Two Kittens” was published in the Nassau Literary Magazine. He started working on the novel while starring on Broadway in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? in 1963. During the run of that show, he wrote during the day and performed at night. He finished …

Finer Points of Sausage Dogs, The

The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs is a 2003 novel by international bestseller Alexander McCall Smith, who was born in Zimbabwe and has taught law both there and in Edinburgh, Scotland. A follow-up to Portuguese Irregular Verbs (originally self-published in 1996), the novel takes place partially in and around the campus of the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County). The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs follows the comic misadventures of Professor Dr. Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld of the Institute of Romance Philology in Regensburg, Germany, who is the pompous author of the linguistic monograph Portuguese Irregular Verbs. Von Igelfeld, who had regularly spurned invitations to lecture in the United States, finds himself seeking an opportunity to do exactly that …

Finger, Charles Joseph

Charles Joseph Finger was a prolific writer who settled in Fayetteville (Washington County) after an early life of travel and adventure; one of his many adventure books won the Newbery Prize for children’s literature. In addition to writing and publishing a magazine from his Fayetteville farm, Finger was employed from 1936 through 1938 as an editor of the Federal Writers’ Project (FWP) guidebook, Arkansas: A Guide to the State. Charles Joseph Frederick Finger was born on December 25, 1867, in Willesden, England. His father, also named Charles, was a German tailor recently come to England from Germany. His mother was Julia Connoly Finger, a young Irish woman. He attended several small private pre-collegiate institutions, ending with Mr. Harvey’s Grammar School. …

Forbush, Nellie

Nellie Forbush is a fictional character created by bestselling author James A. Michener (1907–1997). A native of Arkansas, the character of Nellie first appears in Michener’s book Tales of the South Pacific, which was published in 1947. Tales of the South Pacific, a series of nineteen interrelated stories based on Michener’s experiences in the U.S. Navy while stationed on the New Hebrides Islands in the Pacific during World War II, won the 1948 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Michener explained that he had wanted to write observations of what he called the “valiant people” he met there: “the French planters, the Australian coast watchers, the Navy nurses, the Tonkinese laborers, the ordinary sailors and soldiers who were doing the work, and …

Ford, Richard Carrel

Richard Carrel Ford is a Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist whose formative years in Little Rock (Pulaski County) helped shape his career as a writer. He has written seven novels and five collections of short works and was the first person to be awarded both the Pulitzer and the PEN/Faulkner Award for the same book. Ford was born on February 16, 1944, in Jackson, Mississippi, to Parker Carrel and Edna Ford. His mother was a native of Arkansas, and his grandfather, Ben Shelley, managed the Marion Hotel in downtown Little Rock. As a child, Ford often spent his summers at the hotel and, during his teen years, worked as a lifeguard at the Little Rock Country Club. Ford recalls that his residence in …

Garner, Claud Wilton

Claud Wilton Garner was a man of many interests and talents. He began as a musician, became a merchant and an advocate for farmers, and, when he was fifty years old, began writing fiction. In addition to his interest in writing, he also composed a number of pieces of music. The sheet music for these compositions, along with the recordings, are located in the Southwest Arkansas Regional Archives in Washington (Hempstead County). Garner is remembered both as an Arkansas author and as a worker for farmers in Southwest Arkansas and in the Rio Grande Valley. Claud Garner was born in Hope (Hempstead County) on August 29, 1891, to Thomas Jefferson Garner and Ida Hope Haynes Garner. He had three sisters …

Gilchrist, Ellen

Winner of the 1984 National Book Award for Fiction for her collection of short stories, Victory Over Japan, Ellen Gilchrist has been declared “a national treasure” by the Washington Post for her various works, which at present constitute a collection of twenty-three books. She has received numerous other awards for her work, as well as a National Endowment for the Arts Grant in Fiction. A Mississippi native, she currently lives in Fayetteville (Washington County) and is a faculty member at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville. Gilchrist was born on February 20, 1935, near Vicksburg, Mississippi, the second child and only daughter of Aurora (Alford) and William Garth Gilchrist. Much of her young life was spent moving across the …

Giles, Janice Holt

Janice Holt Giles was a popular and prolific autobiographer and author of historical fiction, much of which addresses themes relating to the rural Appalachian foothills of south-central Kentucky, her adopted home state. Although never quite achieving the stature of literary contemporaries such as Marjorie Rawlings, Jesse Stuart, or Eudora Welty, she was, nevertheless, an accomplished and critically acclaimed writer whose books were frequent bestsellers. Janice Meredith Holt was born in Altus (Franklin County) on March 28, 1905. She was the second child of John Albert Holt and Lucy Elizabeth McGraw Holt, both of whom were educators. The Holts’ first child died at birth. Two other children, a daughter and son, were born in 1907 and 1910. Janice Meredith was to …

Greene, Bette Evensky

Bette Evensky Greene is a successful novelist who was raised in Arkansas and who uses Arkansas as the setting for many of her novels. Her most noted novel, Summer of My German Soldier, is read widely and was made into a television movie. Bette Greene was born on June 28, 1934, in Memphis, Tennessee, to Arthur Evensky and Sadie Steinberg Evensky, who lived in Parkin (Cross County), thirty-five miles from Memphis. The Evenskys were the only Jewish family in Parkin; they attended synagogue in Memphis. Their store was called Evensky’s Dry Goods. Greene lived in Parkin until she was thirteen. She still has ties to the community, including her childhood friend Eda Claire Slabaugh, who became mayor. She graduated from …

Grisham, John

John Grisham is an internationally known bestselling author of legal thrillers and of one fictionalized account of his childhood in Arkansas, A Painted House. Many of his books have been made into popular Hollywood movies. John Grisham was born in Jonesboro (Craighead County) on February 8, 1955, to John Grisham and Wanda Skidmore Grisham. At the time, his parents were helping the extended family on the cotton farm near Black Oak (Craighead County). When Grisham was four years old, the family began following his father’s construction jobs, including spending three years in Parkin (Cross County), before eventually settling in Southaven, Mississippi, though he and his four siblings came to the Black Oak farm to spend the summers with their grandparents. …

Gwaltney, Francis Irby

Francis Irby Gwaltney prospered as an author in the 1950s, writing some of the most significant novels dealing with the South. He was a scholar, a professor, and a longtime friend of Norman Mailer, with whom he conducted an extensive correspondence after meeting him in the army during the Luzon Campaign in the Philippine Islands sometime after 1944. Gwaltney’s most famous work, The Day the Century Ended, is regarded as a courageous account of the social conditions in the South and one that captures the spirit of Arkansas in particular. Francis Gwaltney was born on September 9, 1921, in Traskwood (Saline County), thirteen miles south of Benton (Saline County). His father, a physician, died in February 1923. His mother, Mary …

Hall, B. C.

Baxter Clarence (B. C.) Hall Jr. was an author and teacher whose novels and books on Southern myth and culture attracted wide readership in the last half of the twentieth century. Hall usually wrote under the name B. C. Hall. His best-known books were the novels The Burning Season, Nashville Lady, and Keepers of the Feast, and three nonfiction works on which he collaborated with writer friends C. T. Wood and Bob Lancaster. He also wrote numerous pulp-fiction novels, sometimes cynically referred to as “bodice rippers,” under pseudonyms like Julia French. B. C. Hall was born at St. James (Stone County) on June 9, 1936, the youngest of nine children of Baxter Clarence “Bunk” Hall and Hattie Camellia Younger “Dutch” …

Hamilton, Laurell K.

A pioneer for strong female protagonists crossing multiple genres, New York Times bestselling author Laurell K. Hamilton has written more than thirty novels, including over twenty in her “Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter” series and nine in her “Merry Gentry” series. Hamilton’s “Anita Blake” series has had more than six million copies printed in sixteen languages and has also been converted into a Marvel graphic novel series. Hamilton has also written numerous short stories, a Star Trek novel titled Nightshade, and a tie-in novel for the Ravenloft setting of the Dungeons and Dragons role-playing series. Hamilton’s work contains elements of gothic horror, detective fiction, and erotica. Laurell K. Hamilton was born Laurell Kaye Klein on February 19, 1963, in Heber Springs …

Harington, Donald

Donald Douglas Harington has been described by Entertainment Weekly as “America’s greatest unknown writer.” He published more than fifteen books that brought him critical recognition but little in the way of commercial success. His novels, usually set in the fictional Ozark town of Stay More, make up an interconnected body of fiction not unlike William Faulkner’s works about Yoknapatawpha County. Critics have seen in his work the influences of other major world writers such as Gabriel García Márquez and Vladimir Nabokov. In his works, Harington combines the folklore and folk life of the Ozark region with modernist and postmodernist techniques to create works that mix sex, comedy, and violence. Donald Harington was born on December 22, 1935, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) …

Harris, Charlaine

aka: Jean Charlaine Harris Schultz
Jean Charlaine Harris Schulz is a horror and mystery writer whose novels have a distinctive Southern setting and are often full of dark humor. Several of her “Southern Vampire” books have served as the basis for the HBO television series True Blood, which debuted in 2008. Charlaine Harris was born on November 25, 1951, in Tunica, Mississippi, to Robert Ashley, a school principal, and Jean Harris, a librarian. Harris received a BA in English from Southwestern in Memphis (now Rhodes College) in 1973. She married her first husband, an army veteran, immediately after college. The couple later divorced, and Harris married Hal Schulz, a chemical engineer, on August 5, 1978; they have three children. Harris worked many jobs before becoming …

Harris, E. Lynn

aka: Everette Lynn Harris
Everette Lynn Harris was a bestselling author of novels about African-American men in gay and bisexual relationships. In his nine novels, which have sold more than three million copies, the gay characters are “on the down low,” or have not publicized their sexuality. Harris, a black man, endured years of abuse at the hands of his stepfather and for years denied his own homosexuality. E. Lynn Harris was born on June 20, 1955, in Flint, Michigan, to Etta Mae Williams and James Jeter, who were unmarried. When Harris was three, he moved with his mother to Little Rock (Pulaski County), where she worked as a housekeeper. She soon married Ben Odis Harris, who helped raise Harris until he was thirteen, …

Harrison, William Neal

aka: William Neal Harrison
Novelist William Neal Harrison established the Creative Writing Program in the Department of English at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) in 1966. As advisor to the university literary magazine, he actively opposed censorship and defended academic freedom. However, he is probably best known for writing the screenplay to the 1975 movie Rollerball, based upon his short story. William Harrison was born on October 29, 1933, in Dallas, Texas, the son of Samuel Scott Harrison and Mary Etta (Cook) Harrison. He received a BA in 1955 from Texas Christian University and an MA in 1959 from Vanderbilt University. Harrison attended Iowa State University’s Creative Writing Program. He married Merlee Portland on February 2, 1957; the couple have …

Hays, Skip

aka: Donald Slaven Hays
Arkansas author Donald Slaven “Skip” Hays has published novels and short stories as well as edited an anthology of Southern short stories. He served as director of the Programs in Creative Writing at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) from 1998 to 2013. Hays is most noted for his novel The Dixie Association, written in 1984 and reprinted as part of the Louisiana State University Press’s series Voices of the South (1997). Skip Hays was born in Jacksonville, Florida, on June 14, 1947. His father, Donald E. Hays, a chief petty officer in the U.S. Navy during World War II, returned to Arkansas with his family to farm and work in a furniture factory. His mother, Mary Slaven …

Hess, Joan Edmiston

aka: Joan Hadley
A prolific writer from northwestern Arkansas, Joan Edmiston Hess was the author of dozens of mystery novels for adults and young adults. Known for her humor and use of regional flair, she wrote novels that feature a recognizable southern landscape of characters. The books are often narrated by wry, no-nonsense characters who are worldly in their knowledge and experience but also down to earth. Joan Edmiston was born on January 6, 1949, in Fayetteville (Washington County) to Jack D. Edmiston, a wholesale grocer, and Helen Edmiston, a building contractor. She attended high school in Fayetteville. She received a BA in art from the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville in 1971 and an MA in education from Long Island University …

Hill, Mars Andrew, III

At the age of seventy-five, retired engineer Mars Andrew Hill III published a well-received coming-of-age novel, The Moaner’s Bench (1998). The novel draws heavily on Hill’s own childhood as an African American growing up during the 1920s and 1930s in rural Arkansas. Mars Hill was born into a prosperous merchant-class family in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). His father owned a grocery store and forest land. When his father died of complications from diabetes, the eleven-year-old Hill was placed in the care of his wealthy uncle. At the age of fourteen, Hill moved to Chicago, Illinois, to live with his maternal aunt. After serving in the U.S. Army during World War II, he completed a degree in architectural engineering at the …

Hubbell, Webster Lee (Webb)

Webster Lee (Webb) Hubbell was a college football star and then a lawyer who became mayor of Little Rock (Pulaski County) and chief justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court. Hubbell was associate attorney general of the United States, the number-three job in the Department of Justice under his friend President Bill Clinton, but he resigned in 1994 and was convicted of defrauding his former partners at the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock. Further investigations and indictments followed him until 1999. During eighteen months in prison and afterward, Hubbell turned to writing—first a memoir and then legal thrillers. Webb Hubbell was born on January 18, 1948, in Little Rock to Webster Edward Hubbell, who was a construction engineer, and Virginia …

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings [Book and Movie]

Detailing her childhood in Stamps (Lafayette County), as well as in St. Louis, and San Francisco, Maya Angelou’s autobiographical novel I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was first published in 1970 by Random House and nominated for a National Book Award. It was the first of a series of eight autobiographical novels that cemented her place as one of the great voices of African-American literature. The title of the book comes from the poem “Sympathy” by Paul Laurence Dunbar, which describes perseverance in the face of oppression. The book chronicles the racism Maya, a young incarnation of Angelou, encountered in the segregated town of Stamps and other places she lived, along with the sexual abuse she faced at the …

Jacobs, John Hornor

John Hornor Jacobs is a novelist whose fiction spans different elements of the horror, science fiction, supernatural, and fantasy genres. Jacobs’s home state of Arkansas features prominently in many of his works, though he has lamented the difficulty of gaining popularity in the state. Jacobs, who also works in advertising, is a strong proponent for supporting local art and artists. John Hornor Jacobs was born on January 5, 1971, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to lawyer John Jacobs and his wife, Mary Sue Hornor. He has one sister. As a kid, Jacobs loved to frequent bookstores and libraries. He attended Central High School and received a BA in English from Lyon College in Batesville (Independence County). He also attended the …

Jones, Douglas Clyde

“Slowly, but with infinite grace,” The Washington Post once enthused of Fayetteville (Washington County) author Douglas Clyde Jones, “[he] is creating a masterful fictional history of America.” Over the course of three decades, Jones, a career military officer turned award-winning novelist, wrote more than a dozen books—including his bestselling The Court-Martial of George Armstrong Custer (1976)—that dealt with everything from the American Revolution and the opening of the Western frontier to the Spanish-American War, assorted Native American conflicts, and the Great Depression. His tales, most of which were either set in Arkansas or featured Arkansan protagonists, were spirited and sprawling, his historical backdrops vividly portrayed, and his characters brutal or benevolent in measures consistent with their times and circumstances. Born …

Knoop, Faith Yingling

Faith Yingling Knoop was a prolific author who wrote children’s books, short stories, a popular Arkansas history textbook, and more than 250 articles for seventy-five different publications. Among other accolades, she won first prize in the 1948 National League of American Pen Women’s Contest. Faith Yingling was born on December 6, 1896, in Elgin, Illinois, the daughter of Irvin Dean Yingling, a watchmaker and optometrist, and Maud (Waddles) Yingling. She had an older brother. Childhood for Yingling was filled with summer trips to visit her grandparents in Illinois and Washington DC. They were avid sightseers and acquainted her with parks, museums, and other landmarks of New York, Chicago, and Washington. Her mother took her to New York to her first …

Lake, Paul

Paul Lake is a poet, novelist, and professor residing in Russellville (Pope County). He received the Porter Prize, one of the most prestigious literary awards offered in Arkansas, in recognition of his poetry. Paul Lake was born on August 1, 1951, in Baltimore, Maryland. His mother, Barbara Hull Lake, was a fifth-grade teacher, and his father, Paul Saunders Lake, was a manager and salesman for Metropolitan Life. He had three siblings: James, Stephen, and Melody. Lake lived in a row house on Giddings Avenue as a child in Baltimore. When he was in the second grade, Lake and his family moved to rural Harford County, where he attended elementary school and junior high school. After graduating from Edgewood High School, …

Lavers, Norman

aka: Cecil Norman Lavers
Throughout his career, Norman Lavers has been an award-winning author of several books and short stories, an English and creative writing professor at Arkansas State University (ASU) in Jonesboro (Craighead County), an avid nature instructor/photographer/blogger, and winner of Arkansas’s annual Porter Prize. Cecil Norman Lavers was born in Berkeley, California, on April 21, 1935, to attorney Cecil Lavers and homemaker Mary Parker Lavers. He has two sisters. When Lavers was nine years old, he won first prize from the Young Author’s Club for a story published in the Berkeley Daily Gazette. His major influence for writing came from his grandfather, who was a successful short-story writer. Later in life, Lavers would write Growing Up in Berkeley with the Bomb (Summer …