Fiction

Subcategories:
  • No categories
Clear

Entries - Entry Category: Fiction

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 was a successful novelist who was raised in Arkansas and who used 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. Even after she left, she retained ties to the community, including her childhood friend Eda Claire Slabaugh, who became mayor. …

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 was 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 combined 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 …

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 …

Himes, Chester Bomar

Chester Bomar Himes, a renowned writer of protest novels and detective fiction, spent part of his childhood in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), where his father, Joseph Sandy Himes Sr., was a teacher in the 1920s at Branch Normal College, now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB). Chester Himes was born on July 29, 1909, in Jefferson City, Missouri, where his father taught blacksmithing and wheelwrighting at the Lincoln Institute (later Lincoln University), a land-grant college for African Americans. Joseph Himes, with wife Estelle Bomar Himes and sons, moved to Pine Bluff in the fall of 1920 to teach mechanical trades and African American history at Branch Normal. Around 1921 or 1922, Himes’s brother Joseph Jr. was blinded in …

Holmes, John Clellon

John Clellon Holmes was a novelist and poet known primarily for helping to define the “Beat Generation” of writers. He taught creative writing and literature at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) from the mid-1970s until 1987. John Clellon Holmes was born on March 12, 1926, in Holyoke, Massachusetts, to John McClellan Holmes Sr. and Elizabeth  Franklin Emmons (Betty) Holmes. He had two sisters. During the Great Depression, Holmes’s father moved through a variety of odd jobs, with the family income supplemented when Holmes took a job delivering milk during high school. He dropped out of high school in 1942 and briefly took a job in the Reader’s Digest subscription department before moving to New York City …

Hot Springs [Novel]

Hot Springs is a novel written by Stephen Hunter and published by Simon & Schuster in 2000, with a paperback edition released the following year. The tough-guy thriller centers on the violent world of gangsters and gambling in postwar Hot Springs (Garland County). It is a fictionalization of what became known as the G.I. Revolt that was waged by returning World War II veterans who intended to root out corruption in their home state, particularly in Hot Springs. The book was Hunter’s first novel in his series featuring character Earl Swagger. Stephen Hunter was born in 1946 and grew up in Illinois, where his father was a speech professor and his mother wrote children’s books. He was drafted into 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

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 …

Joan of Arkansas [Book]

Joan of Arkansas is a 2023 work mixing poetry, drama, and prose written by Milo Wippermann (working under the name Emma Wippermann when the book was released) and published by Ugly Duckling Press of Brooklyn, New York. Wippermann’s website describes the work as “a queer drama about climate catastrophe, internet fame, and political divinity.” The work received the 2023 Whiting Award in Poetry and Drama and was a finalist for a 2024 Lambda Award in LGBTQ+ drama. The book opens with a poetic rendering of the legend of Petit Jean, one that notes how the feminine form of Jean in French is Jeanne, the name of Joan of Arc (Jeanne d’Arc). Next comes the cast of characters, which includes 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 …

Keith, K. Wymand

K. Wymand Keith was the nom de plume of Leonard Claude Bowen, the author of Long Line Rider: The Story of Cummins Prison Farm. A native of Oklahoma, Keith was a repeat criminal offender who spent four years at Cummins Unit in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Despite being pardoned by Governor Francis Cherry, Keith returned to a life of crime before settling down in the 1960s. For many years, Keith was the only former Arkansas inmate to have an account of prison life published by a major trade press. Keith was born on November 16, 1924, in Henryetta, Oklahoma, to Claud Monroe Bowen, a native of Van Buren County, Arkansas, and Nellie Anna Brown Bowen. Keith grew up …

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 …

Lee, Lorelei

The fictional character of Lorelei Lee, who calls herself the “little girl from Little Rock,” was created by writer Anita Loos (1889–1981). Lorelei first appeared as a character in short stories, followed by the bestselling novel Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, several successful Broadway shows, and a hit movie. The Lorelei Lee character is closely identified with her fictitious home of Little Rock (Pulaski County) in the state of Arkansas. After emerging in a series of short sketches published in Harper’s Bazaar during the early 1920s, what became known as the “Lorelei” stories were so popular that they tripled the magazine’s circulation. After Loos was encouraged by friends in the publishing business to adapt the stories into a book, her bestselling comedic …

Lenski, Lois

Lois Lenski wrote and illustrated children’s books throughout her career of more than fifty years. She visited parts of Mississippi County while researching her three books about Arkansas children: Cotton in My Sack, Houseboat Girl, and We Live by the River. Lois Lenski was born the fourth of five children in Springfield, Ohio, on October 14, 1893. Her father, Richard, was a Prussian immigrant and a Lutheran clergyman; her mother, Marietta, was a schoolteacher. Lenski attended grade school in Anna, Ohio, and rode a train each day to Sidney, Ohio, to attend high school. After graduating from Ohio State University in 1915 with a BS in education and a teaching certificate, Lenski studied at the Arts Students League in New …

Lightning Bug

Lightning Bug (1970) is the first of Donald Harington’s novels set in Stay More, the fictional Ozark town that provides a setting for all twelve of the subsequent novels that he would publish before his death in 2009. The novel introduces the reader to Latha Bourne, the “demigoddess” of Stay More, the undying muse who reappears throughout his work as an embodiment of beauty and spiritual freedom. Lightning Bug also represents Harington’s first effort to overcome a confounding lack of success in the American fiction market, following up on his first published novel, The Cherry Pit (1965), which was shortlisted for a prestigious first-novel award that eventually went to Cormac McCarthy. His second effort to make a splash on the …

Lighton, Will

aka: William Rheem Lighton
In 1908, writer William Rheem (Will) Lighton bought land in Fayetteville (Washington County), named it Happy Hollow Farm, and used “scientific agriculture” ideas to turn it into a successful farm. Even more successful was an article, “The Story of an Arkansas Farm,” which was published in the Saturday Evening Post on January 22, 1910. The article resulted in a stream of curious visitors. By the time it was expanded into a book, Happy Hollow Farm (1914), it had attracted more than 200 back-to-the-land settlers to Fayetteville. Will Lighton was born on July 13, 1866, in Lycoming County, Pennsylvania, the son of William and Lydia Rheem Lighton. He married Laura McMaken on April 8, 1890, in Atchison, Kansas, set up their …

Living in Little Rock with Miss Little Rock

Living in Little Rock With Miss Little Rock is a contemporary novel written by Mississippi native and former Arkansas resident Jack Butler. First published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1993, the novel is set in Little Rock (Pulaski County) of the early 1980s. Loosely based on the Mary Lee Orsini murder cases in central Arkansas in 1981–1983 and written in a conversational style using multiple points of view, the novel depicts local culture and parodies well-known political figures and issues of the era, including the highly publicized legal contest between the teaching of creationism and evolutionary theory which rocked the state in the early 1980s. Within this context, the author creates a psychological saga of wealth, aspirations to power, and …

Long Line Rider [Book]

Long Line Rider: The Story of Cummins Prison Farm is a 1971 novel by former prison inmate K. Wymand Keith, the pen name of Leonard Claude Bowen. Based on the author’s experiences at Cummins, the novel appeared at the height of prison reform efforts in Arkansas in the early 1970s. As is true of other writings by former Arkansas inmates, the book, while fiction, corroborates the reported abuses of the pre-Rockefeller period. Long Line Rider takes its name from the riders who supervised lines of other inmates working in the cotton and soybean fields. The riders were trusties (so called because they were trusted by authorities) who lived at the top of the prison hierarchy. At the time, Arkansas prison …

Love Finds You in Snowball, Arkansas

Love Finds You in Snowball, Arkansas is a 2008 romance novel by Sandra D. Bricker, an inaugural book in the “Love Finds You” series published by Summerside Press, a Christian fiction line acquired by Guideposts in 2010 but shuttered in 2013. The goal of the series was “to give readers a taste of local life across America.” The book centers upon Lucy Binoche, who lives in Little Rock (Pulaski County), where she works in the guest services department of the luxury Conroy Hotel (likely a stand-in for the Capital Hotel). Addressing her thoughts to God, Lucy writes regularly in a prayer journal, the latest entry of which concludes most chapters (some end with recipes). At the beginning of the novel, …

Madden, Ed

Ed Madden is a poet, activist, and educator who has written, co-written, and edited numerous books and anthologies. His poem “Sacrifice” was selected for the Best New Poets 2007 anthology. In 2015, he was named the first poet laureate of Columbia, South Carolina. Ed Madden was born on September 13, 1963. Originally from Newport (Jackson County), Madden grew up on a rice farm. His family was devoutly Christian. Madden studied English and French at Harding University in Searcy (White County) and graduated with a BA in 1985. He received a BS in biblical studies from the Institute for Christian Studies in Austin, Texas, in 1992; an MA from the University of Texas (UT) at Austin in 1989, and a PhD …

Mailer, Norris Church

aka: Barbara Jean Davis
Norris Church Mailer, born Barbara Jean Davis, became an artist, actress, and author after moving to New York City to be with renowned writer Norman Mailer following their brief chance meeting in Arkansas at an event in Russellville (Pope County). She published two semi-autobiographical novels, Windchill Summer and Cheap Diamonds, as well as a memoir, A Ticket to the Circus, which centers on her three-decade marriage to Mailer. Born on January 31, 1949, in Moses Lake, Washington, Norris Church Mailer began life as Barbara Jean Davis, being named for a little girl who lived next door. Her parents were homemaker Gaynell Phillips Davis and construction worker James Davis. They had briefly relocated from Arkansas to Washington state for her father’s …

Maudelle: A Novel Founded on Facts Gathered From Living Witnesses

Maudelle: A Novel Founded on Facts Gathered from Living Witnesses, written by James Henery Smith and published by Mayhew Publishing Company of Boston in 1906, is reputed to be the first novel written by an African American residing in Arkansas. Smith was a prominent Little Rock (Pulaski County) dentist, a leader in the black community who spoke in opposition of the proposed Separate Coach Act of 1891, and the father of Arkansas composer Florence Smith Price. Maudelle is a novel about miscegenation, focusing on the “illicit commingling” between a U.S. Senator from Kentucky, George Morroe, and his slave Mary. Their child, Maudelle, becomes orphaned after a series of melodramatic events: the stabbing of Morroe; his deathbed request to be married …

Mayer, Mercer

Mercer Mayer is the author and illustrator of more than 300 children’s books, as well as a contributor to a variety of other media, including video, audio, and workbooks. Mercer Mayer was born in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on December 30, 1943. He attended elementary school in Camden (Ouachita County). A military family, the Mayers moved frequently until settling in Honolulu, Hawaii, when he was a teenager. The young Mayer enjoyed reading and drawing. After high school, he attended the Honolulu Academy of Arts and the Art Students League in New York City. In 1966, he began a career as a book illustrator in New York City. In 1967, Mayer’s first book, A Boy, a Dog, and a Frog, was …

McGehee, Peter Gregory

Gay Arkansas-born novelist Peter Gregory McGehee was praised by reviewers for his outrageous comedies of Southern manners, in particular the sly humor with which he explores what he saw as a hypocritical society that easily rationalizes its own moral lapses even as it enforces a narrow, judgmental morality upon others. Peter McGehee was born in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) on October 6, 1955, to Frank T. and Julia Ann May McGehee. The middle of three children, he was six years old when the family moved to Little Rock (Pulaski County), where he attended Forest Park Elementary School and, in 1973, graduated from Parkview High School. Shortly before he would have completed a BFA degree at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, …

McLarey, Myra Dell

Howard County native Myra Dell McLarey is a teacher and an author of a wide variety of works, many influenced by her childhood in southwest Arkansas. She is best known for her 1995 debut novel Water from the Well, a semi-autobiographical work of fiction set in the fictional town of Sugar Springs, Arkansas. Myra Dell McLarey, the youngest of five children, was born on September 5, 1942, in Okay (Howard County), the company town of the Okay Cement Plant, to Charles Drowns McLarey Jr. and Josie Earline Fincher McLarey. Her father was a supervisor at the cement plant as well as a deputy sheriff and the elected constable of the Saratoga-Okay township; her mother was a homemaker and later a …

McMath, Phillip Hal

Phillip Hal McMath is a Little Rock (Pulaski County) trial attorney, an award-winning writer, a Marine Corps Vietnam War veteran, and an ardent advocate for preserving and promoting Arkansas literature and history. McMath has published four novels and numerous short stories and articles, along with producing two plays. His book Lost Kingdoms was the winner of the Arkansiana Fiction Award in 2009, while The Broken Vase received the Booker Worthen Prize in 2011 . McMath established the Porter Prize in 1984, which has made a significant contribution to literature in Arkansas. Phillip McMath was born in Memphis, Tennessee, to Sidney Sanders McMath and Anne Phillips McMath on December 25, 1945; he has two brothers and two sisters. In 1948, McMath’s father was elected …

Medearis, Mary Myrtle

Though she always considered herself a musician, Mary Myrtle Medearis was best known as the author of Big Doc’s Girl (1942), a novel that grew out of an assigned autobiographical short story in a creative writing class. It has the distinction of having stayed in print longer than any other work of fiction by an Arkansan. Ever tenacious, Medearis had great success as a writer and historian in spite of her humble beginnings—and partly because of them. Mary Medearis was born in North Little Rock (Pulaski County) on May 31, 1915. Her mother, Myrtle Hendricks, taught piano. Her father, Dr. Robert Medearis, practiced medicine. Mary, whose maternal grandparents had been vaudeville performers, inherited her family’s love for music. By the …

Morgan, Speer

The author of novels and short-story collections, Speer Morgan is a professor and the editor of The Missouri Review. Many of Morgan’s novels are set in Arkansas, including The Freshour Cylinders (1998), which won Foreword Magazine’s Silver Award for the best book of the year and an American Book Award in 1999. Speer Morgan was born in Fort Smith (Sebastian County) on January 25, 1946, to Charles Donald and Betty (Speer) Morgan. Morgan attended the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, from 1964 to 1966, as well as the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), where he received a BA in 1968. He married that same year. He received a PhD in 1972 from Stanford University. Morgan was …

Morris, Gilbert Leslie

A Christy award–winning Christian author, Gilbert Leslie Morris wrote more than 200 books for young adults spanning several genres, including historical novels, westerns, science fiction, and fantasy. His most well-known series of novels, the “House of Winslow” series, has collectively sold more than a million copies. Gilbert Morris was born on May 24, 1929, in Forrest City (St. Francis County) to Osceola M. and Jewell Irene (Gilbert) Morris. Morris attended Arkansas State College (now Arkansas State University) and received a BA in English in 1948 and an MSE in 1962. He received a PhD from the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) in 1968 and also attended the University of Washington–Seattle. Morris married Johnnie Yvonne Fegert on May …

My Own, My Native Land

My Own, My Native Land, published in 1935, is an anthology of short stories by Thyra Samter Winslow, a native of Fort Smith (Sebastian County). In writing these stories, Winslow contributed significantly to the new wave of popular American magazines in the early twentieth century. These stories and sketches depict the mores of a small Southwestern town, likely modeled on Fort Smith, showing people preoccupied with social status and family pride. The anthology contains forty pieces. Some appeared in The New Yorker under a heading that became the title of the collection. Others were first published in other magazines, especially Smart Set, a widely read publication subtitled, “A Magazine of Cleverness,” edited by H. L. Mencken and George-Jean Nathan. Winslow …

Noland, Fent

aka: Charles Fenton Mercer (Fent) Noland
One of Arkansas’s most famous citizens during the antebellum period was Charles Fenton Mercer (Fent) Noland, a Batesville (Independence County) lawyer. He became a national figure as one of the leading “Southwestern humorists” with the regular publication of his letters in the New York Spirit of the Times, the leading national sports and humor newspaper. Noland was Arkansas’s representative in the literary movement named for the “old Southwest” (Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas), which delighted the nation with an array of bucolic frontier/agrarian writings. Fent Noland was named for Charles Fenton Mercer, the family friend who founded Aldie, Virginia, where he was born on August 23, 1810, the fourth of the five children of William and Catherine (Callender) Noland. His father …

On a Slow Train Through Arkansaw

A ninety-six-page joke book, On a Slow Train Through Arkansaw gained wide popularity upon its publication in 1903 and eventually became the bestselling joke book in American history. Subtitled “funny railroad stories—stories of the Southern darkies—all the best minstrel jokes of the day,” the book includes puns, some tall tales, and the prevalent racial and gender stereotypes of its day. The author, Thomas W. Jackson (1867–1934), was a train brakeman for the Oregon Railroad and Navigation Company who collected stories and jokes he heard on his travels; as he had injured his hand in an accident and was not able to write, his wife wrote his stories down for the book. Published in Chicago, the book was sold by “train butchers,” …

Ozark Trilogy, The

The Ozark Trilogy (1981) is a science fiction trilogy by Suzette Haden Elgin set on the fictional planet Ozark. In Elgin’s story, Ozark has been colonized by twelve families from the Ozark region of Earth who name the continents Arkansaw, Mizzurah, Marktwain, Oklahomah, Tinaseeh, and Kintucky. The families fled Earth in 2012 to escape the poverty, disease, and violence of a failing civilization and its corrupt central government. The Trilogy begins 1,000 years later, as the old questions of power and the role of government resurface, and the Ozarkers must decide what kind of civilization they will be. Elgin, who grew up in the Missouri Ozarks and retired to the Arkansas Ozarks in the 1980s, draws heavily upon Ozark culture …

Painted House, A

A Painted House is a book which takes place in Arkansas and was written by bestselling author John Grisham. It was based on his childhood in Arkansas, and when the book was made into a television movie, it was filmed in Arkansas. Born in Jonesboro (Craighead County) on February 8, 1955, and raised in northeast Arkansas near Black Oak (Craighead County), Grisham created an evocative portrait of the time and place of his childhood in A Painted House. Set in 1952 Arkansas, it is a departure from his usual legal thriller style, with Grisham writing, “There is not a single lawyer, dead or alive, in this story. Nor are there judges, trials, courtrooms, conspiracies or nagging social issues.” In 2000, …

Pendleton, Donald Eugene (Don)

Donald Eugene Pendleton was a pulp fiction, action, science fiction, and mystery writer best known for the Executioner series books, which centered on the character Mack Bolan, who waged a one-man war against the Mafia. Pendleton is generally credited with creating the action-adventure genre in the 1970s. Don Pendleton was born in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on December 12, 1927, to Louis Thomas Pendleton, a machinist, and Drucy Valentine. On December 7, 1942, Pendleton lied about his age and enlisted in the U.S. Navy, days before his fifteenth birthday. He served as a radioman first class until November 1947. He served in all the war theaters and received several medals, including the Naval Commendation Medal, Iwo Jima, in 1945. He …

Philip Hall Likes Me, I Reckon Maybe

Philip Hall Likes Me. I Reckon Maybe. is a juvenile novel published in 1974, written by Bette Evensky Greene and illustrated by Charles Lilly. It won a Newbery Honor Award in 1975, and, in 1977, it was the runner-up for the Charlie May Simon Children’s Book Award. Greene was born in Memphis, Tennessee, on June 28, 1934, and spent much of her childhood in Parkin (Cross County), where her parents owned a dry-goods store; she clerked there as she grew older. Her family moved to Memphis when she was thirteen, but she returned to Arkansas for summer camp at Hardy (Sharp County), passing through Pocahontas (Randolph County) on the way. While her first book, Summer of My German Soldier (1973), …

Piazza, Ben Daniel

Ben Daniel Piazza was an actor, director, author, and playwright who was compared to the young Marlon Brando in his youth but achieved acclaim for character roles in his later years, often portraying an edgy, tightly controlled suburbanite or a repressive parent in films such as The Blues Brothers. He began acting in 1952 during his college days at Princeton University and worked steadily in theater, film, and television until his death in 1991. Ben Piazza was born on July 30, 1933, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Charles Piazza, a shoe repairman, and Elfreida Piazza, a homemaker. He was one of nine children, having two sisters and six brothers. He graduated from Little Rock High School (later Central High …