Literature and Authors

Entry Category: Literature and Authors - Starting with P

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, …

Palmer, Bob

aka: Robert Franklin Palmer Jr.
Robert Franklin (Bob) Palmer Jr. was an author, music critic, musician, ethnomusicologist, lecturer, record producer, and documentary filmmaker, not to be confused with the British rock singer of the same name. Critic Greil Marcus called Palmer “one of the few distinguished pop music critics to come out of the South.” Bob Palmer was born on June 19, 1945, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to teacher/pianist Robert F. Palmer Sr. and award-winning poet and freelance writer Marguerite Bowers Palmer. He grew up in the lower Pulaski Heights area of Little Rock. He had one sister, a half brother, and a half sister. From an early age, Palmer had his ear to the radio. Unbeknownst to his parents, the teenaged Palmer sometimes …

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 …

Peter, Lily

Lily Peter, state poet laureate, was a distinguished author, successful farmer, teacher, musician, conservationist, and philanthropist. Her biographer, Annie Laura Jaggers, called her “an anachronistic symbol of the pioneering spirit of all Americans and particularly of Arkansas, a state that is a haven for contrasts and extremes.” Lily Peter was born on June 2, 1891, to William Oliver Peter and Florence Mobrey Peter in Big Cypress Bayou near Marvell (Phillips County). She was the first of ten children, of whom five did not survive childhood. Peter received much of her early education at home before going to public school. Her father, after experiencing varying degrees of success as a farmer, died in an accident in 1907, leaving Peter to take …

Pettigrew, Helen Lyle

Helen Lyle Pettigrew was an author of word puzzles (including crossword puzzles). Her puzzles appeared in newspapers, magazines, and books, including several books for which she was the sole author. She was probably the first Arkansas native to author a syndicated crossword puzzle. Helen Pettigrew was born on October 31, 1894, in Charleston (Franklin County) to Thomas Aldridge Pettigrew, who was a prominent lawyer and educator, and Lucy Lee Ervin Pettigrew. Her father was the son of Charleston Academy founder John M. Pettigrew. She had three sisters and one brother, and was a member of the local Presbyterian Church. Helen Pettigrew was a teacher in the Charleston School District around 1920. Pettigrew’s first known puzzle was a crossword published in …

Pharr, Suzanne

Suzanne Pharr is a longtime activist for social justice. As an author, organizer, and strategist, she has led numerous campaigns aimed at ensuring equality and opportunity for often-marginalized people. Suzanne Pharr was born in 1939 in Lawrenceville, Georgia, to Cecil Pharr and Willie Mae “Peggy” Moore Pharr. Her father was a farmer, and Pharr, the youngest of eight children, grew up on a farm in Hog Mountain, Georgia, about six miles outside of Lawrenceville. After attending the local schools and earning a reputation as an outstanding high school basketball player, Pharr attended Women’s College of Georgia in Milledgeville, where she earned a BA in English. In 1964, she was awarded an MA in English by the State University of New …

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 …

Pickens, William

William Pickens, who was born in South Carolina, spent his formative years in Woodruff County and Argenta, now North Little Rock (Pulaski County). He went on to become a nationally known orator, scholar, journalist, and essayist. William Pickens was born near Pendleton in Anderson County, South Carolina, on January 15, 1881. He was the sixth of ten children born to former slaves Jacob and Fannie Pickens. His father was a tenant farmer, and his mother worked as a cook and washerwoman. In 1888, they were lured to Woodruff County, Arkansas, by an immigration agent who promised them better employment and educational opportunities. At this time, such agents were scouring South Carolina for dissatisfied African Americans willing to work on Arkansas …

Plum Thicket, The

The Plum Thicket was Janice Holt Giles’s seventh book (her sixth novel) and the first to be set in her home state of Arkansas. It was first published in 1954 by Houghton Mifflin. The Plum Thicket was a deviation from the anticipated continuation of a series of historical novels about the settlement of Kentucky, which had begun with the publication of The Kentuckians in 1953 and would resume with publication of Hannah Fowler (1956) and The Believers (1957). Giles felt compelled to write the book following a pilgrimage to her paternal grandparents’ home place in Arkansas near Charleston (Franklin County), a place she had visited often as a child. The story told in the book is fictional but has some …

Poesia

Poesia was a literary quarterly of poetry, commentary, and poetry reviews with an emphasis on previously unpublished poets—principally from northwest Arkansas, though submissions were accepted statewide and nationally as well. The commentary frequently focused on current issues concerning literary arts in Arkansas and the nation, such as the developing commercial trends in publishing and the politics of poetry and art. The journal also featured foreign poets, with their poetry published in English as well in the poet’s native language. Poets from Russia, Romania, Brazil, Italy, Canada, Slovenia, Jordan, and Israel were published in Poesia. Poesia was established in 2003 by Delta House Publishing Company, Indian Bay Press of Fayetteville (Washington County), founded by William R. Mayo, its publisher and editor. …

Poets Laureate of Arkansas

The position of Poet Laureate of Arkansas was established on October 10, 1923, by concurrent resolutions of both houses of the General Assembly. In Arkansas, as elsewhere, the title of poet laureate has sometimes been awarded on grounds not restricted to fame or literary eminence. The term “laureate” refers to the ancient custom of crowning a person with a wreath made from leaves of the laurel tree. In antiquity, military heroes, athletic champions, and winners in singing, music, and poetry contests typically received this honor. In modern times, monarchs, governing bodies, or other organizations have named poets laureate, often in recognition of a significant talent but sometimes for political or other reasons. John Dryden was the first poet laureate of …

Poets’ Roundtable of Arkansas (PRA)

Poets’ Roundtable of Arkansas (PRA), the state’s poetry society, was founded on February 5, 1931, by seven women “determined to learn the fundamental, technical rules of regular good, readable poetry.” Josie Frazee Cappleman, Laura Lewellyn, Bertha Meredith, Mae Lorraine Bass, Stella Payne Crow, Marguerite Lanier Kaufman, and Ruth Arnold Leveck met in members’ homes around a dining table, calling themselves Round Table Poets. The society’s current name was adopted on July 25, 1939. PRA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the study of poetry and the encouragement of poets. The purpose of the organization is to foster and encourage poets in the art, to promote an appreciation of poetry in the community, and to secure a fuller recognition of the works …

Porter Prize

aka: Porter Fund Literary Prize
The Porter Fund, established in 1984, is a not-for-profit unincorporated association founded in honor of Dr. Ben Kimpel, who was chairman of the English department at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County). It supports the written arts in the state of Arkansas, specifically by awarding an annual prize, which has been designated as the “Porter Prize,” to an Arkansas writer. (At Kimpel’s request, the prize was named in memory of his mother, Gladys Crane Kimpel Porter.) The prize is funded strictly with private donations and is presented annually at an awards ceremony to an Arkansas writer who has accomplished a substantial and impressive body of work that merits enhanced recognition. Its prize, $2,000, makes it one of the …

Portis, Charles McColl

One of the finest of Arkansas’s fiction writers, Charles McColl Portis was best known for the western novel True Grit. Portis’s other novels—Norwood, The Dog of the South, Masters of Atlantis, and Gringos—are set in the twentieth century and are more purely comical. Whereas True Grit has sold copies into the millions and was made into films in 1969 and 2010 (with an Oscar-winning performance by John Wayne in the first adaptation), Portis’s other novels, though of high quality, have gone in and out of print over the years and have sold much more modestly. Portis’s protagonists are staid and ill at ease in modern society. The possibility of “true grit”—unyielding courage in the face of danger—is absent from the worlds of …

Powell, Nathan Lee (Nate)

Nathan Lee (Nate) Powell, winner of a National Book Award and an Eisner Award, is a New York Times bestselling graphic novelist. He is best known for his graphic novels Swallow Me Whole and Any Empire, which he wrote and illustrated, as well as the March series of graphic novels, co-written by Congressman John Lewis, for which he provided the art. Nate Powell was born in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on July 31, 1978. He grew up as an ardent comics fan in North Little Rock (Pulaski County), reading such titles as The ’Nam, Transformers, X-Men, Daredevil, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Appleseed, and G.I. Joe. In the 1990s, Powell became involved in the DIY (do-it-yourself) punk subculture, self-publishing a zine …

Primary Colors

Loosely based on Governor Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential bid, Joe Klein’s controversial novel Primary Colors was published anonymously in 1996. A film based on the novel was released in 1998. The controversy stemmed from the resemblance of many characters to real-life counterparts, leading many to believe that the novel must have been written by a political insider. The novel follows the presidential campaign of Governor Jack Stanton, an overweight womanizer with a gift for politics, and is narrated by Henry Burton, an idealistic young black man who quickly rises within the ranks of Stanton’s staff. Themes of the book include adultery, sexual promiscuity, idealism, politics, and the role of the media in the political process and celebrity, culminating with Burton …

Pulitzer Prize (Arkansas Recipients and Nominees)

The Pulitzer Prize is awarded annually in American journalism, literature, and music composition. It was named for newspaperman Joseph Pulitzer and has been awarded since 1917. Prizes are given from twenty-one possible categories, but not all categories are awarded every year. Winning comes with considerable prestige as well as a $10,000 prize for twenty of the categories and a gold medal for the Public Service category in journalism. There is a $50 entry fee, and works may be entered in up to two categories for consideration. The nominees are selected by 102 judges serving on twenty juries who select three nominees per category. The judges and the final winners are chosen by the Pulitzer Prize Board. Aside from prize winners …

Pullers

Tom Graves’s 1998 novel Pullers features rare subject matter: the sport of arm wrestling (participants refer to themselves as “pullers”). The Southern Gothic–style novel opens with an arm-wrestling contest at Bad Bill’s Hawg Trawf in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). The novel then shifts to Memphis, Tennessee, where most of the story takes place. But characters spend time on both sides of the Mississippi River, enough that Pullers should be regarded both for its Arkansas and Tennessee pedigrees. The winner of the Pine Bluff contest, Scud Matthews, makes his grand entrance at the event with a much smaller man on a leash, both wearing T-shirts that read: “We’re Queer Dear.” With his use of juxtaposition and stereotypes, Graves is primarily going …