Here’s a complete list of finalists for the Southern Book Prize. It’s thrilling and humbling to see “Forsaken” among so many great works.
The Southern Independent Bookstore Alliance (SIBA) just released the news that “Forsaken” has made the long list for the 2017 Southern Book Prize in Historical Fiction. Very honored to have the novel in the company of the great books included. Also on the list in other categories are novelist friends Kristy Woodson Harvey for “Lies and Other Acts of Love” and Taylor Brown for “Fallen Land.” Wish us luck!
Hurricane Matthew flooded out my event and did damage at the Cumberland County Public Library in Fayetteville, NC, in October, but indomitable librarian Jane Casto rescheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 7.
Looking forward to appearance at the Southern Festival of Books with novelist Thomas Mullen in Nashville, Tennessee, this Saturday, Oct. 15, at 10:00am, Legislative Plaza.
Speaking this Sat., Sep. 3, at 11:00am, the AJC Decatur Book Festival, with Karen Branan, author of “The Family Tree.” Oh, and you might want to hear some of the other 600+ authors who’ll be there.
Sunday, July 17, Virginian-Pilot writer Denise M. Watson crafted a great, insightful piece about the genesis, action, and themes of Forsaken for the anniversary of Virgie’s second reprieve from the death penalty. Read the article here.
MAY and JUNE 2016 Events
May 11, 6:00pm, Chop Suey Books with Kristen Green, Richmond, VA
May 15, 2:00pm, McIntyre’s Books, Fearrington Village, Pittsboro, NC
June 3-4, 10:00am-2:00pm, Wythe County Public Library, Wytheville, VA
Very special event at Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee, on April 9, when Jennie Fields, author of The Age of Desire and an Iowa Writers’ Workshop classmate, led a discussion of Forsaken. Jennie pursued a very successful career in advertising in New York, publishing four novels and raising a daughter, who’s already published her first book, along the way. Jennie moved to Nashville six years ago, where she lives with her husband, Russ Mason.
Great to have Nashville native Rebecca Wells with us at Parnassus. Author of Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Rebecca’s just moved back to her home town from the West Coast. Jennie’s on the left, Rebecca on the right, and me, as my friend Chris Kerr remarked, “a thorn among the roses.”
There was a wonderful surprise resulting from the Parnassus Books program. Nashville poet, songwriter, and wordsmith Sunny Stephens posted a beautifully written blog, “Another Glorious Day in Nashville!”, after attending the event. Be sure to read Sunny’s post.
APRIL 2016 Events
Apr. 5, 6:00pm, Asheboro Public Library, Asheboro, NC
Apr. 9, 2:00pm, Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN
Apr. 16, 10:00am, Sundog Books, Seaside, FL
Apr. 19, 6:00pm, Page & Palette, Fairhope, AL
Apr. 20, 5:00pm, Little Professor Book Center, Birmingham, AL
Apr. 22-23, Alabama Book Festival, Montgomery, AL
Apr. 26, 7:00pm, Barnes & Noble, Friendly Center, Greensboro, NC
For March 2016 events, scroll down.
Unforgettable Forsaken event on March 9 at the Library of Virginia with Roger Christman, senior records archivist, who has created an online Forsaken Digital Bibliography. The program was introduced by Michael Paul Williams, columnist at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, who also wrote a news piece about event. An event and an article I’ll remember for a long time to come.
“The book’s lingering impression brings to mind Southern literary icon William Faulkner, who said: ‘The past is never dead. It’s not even past.’ We’ve come a long way since Christian’s time. But as the Black Lives Matter movement evinces, we still have a ways to go.”
–Michael Paul Williams, columnist, Richmond Times-Dispatch
Catherine Komp of 88.9 WCVE in Richmond, Virginia, produced a beautiful essay about Forsaken for “Virginia Currents.” Please give it a look and listen here.
“If you live for charged, exciting fiction, then Ross Howell Jr.’s new novel Forsaken is the perfect companion for these last few winter evenings. Released to rave reviews…it’s a solid entry into the Southern canon.” – Southern Living
“Forsaken is superior historical fiction detailing a cruel national past and a young man who follows his conscience.” — Foreword
Good times! Saw some of my former students at my Forsaken presentation for Black History Month celebration at Elon University. Nice crowd, and excellent Q&A after my talk. Thanks, everyone. Go, Elon Phoenix!
MARCH 2016 Events
Mar. 1, 1:00pm, Charlotte/Mecklenburg Library, Charlotte, NC
Mar. 3, 12:00noon, Main Street Books, Davidson, NC
Mar. 3, 8:00pm, WCVE 99.8, “Virginia Currents” interview with Catherine Komp
Mar. 5, 6:30pm, Avid Bookstore, Athens, GA
Mar. 7, 7:00pm, Plantation Ridge Book Club, Greensboro, NC
Mar. 9, 12:00noon, Library of Virginia, Richmond, VA
Mar. 12, 10:00am, Rowan Reading Rendezvous, Rowan Public Library, Salisbury, NC
Mar. 17, 10:00am, Panel, “Historic Fiction,” Virginia Festival of the Book, Charlottesville, VA
Mar. 18, 7:00pm, One More Page, Arlington, VA
Mar. 19, 6:00pm, Author Reception, Virginia Festival of the Book, Charlottesville, VA
Mar. 20, 11:30am, The Links, Inc., 13th Annual VFB Celebration of African American Authors and Topics, Charlottesville, VA
Mar. 22, 7:00pm, M. Judson Bookstore, Greenville, SC
Mar. 24, 5:00pm, Hub City Books, Spartanburg, SC
Mar. 30, 3:00pm, Dept. of History and Political Science, Alabama State University, Montgomery, AL
For February 2016 events, scroll down.
“Howell deftly weaves news articles, court documents, letters and personal accounts from the case into his novel, crafting a riveting fictional narrative about the events surrounding the only execution of a female juvenile in the history of Virginia.” — The Pilot
Hamming it up at Friday night event at Scuppernong Books in Greensboro, NC. Thanks to my sister Becky DeHaven for the photo. Can you tell I’ll always be her little brother?
“Howell paints a starkly realistic portrait of the racism that prevailed in Hampton Roads, Virginia, during the long, grim years that followed Reconstruction….an honest and riveting look at all the ugly aspects of racism at work in the U.S. in the beginning years of Jim Crow.”– Booklist, published by the American Library Association
“A story unearthed from old newspapers, a searching look at the facts, eloquent testimony and behind-the-scenes evidence: Forsaken is the fair trial Virginia Christian never had, in which the innocent are justly treated, the guilty finally charged. The last question we the jury are asked to consider, in light of today’s murderous headlines, is whether the old racial hatred and oppression have returned, hidden in the same shadows Mears noted over a hundred years ago.” – Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“With such characterizations, smooth prose whose strength rests in restraint rather than flourish and a gripping narrative that explores racial issues in societal and individual ways, Howell creates an immensely powerful novel that blends fact with fiction — and over which looms the malignant specter of Jim Crow.” – Richmond Times-Dispatch
FEBRUARY 2016 Events
Feb. 4, 7:00pm, Park Road Books, Charlotte, NC
Feb. 5, 12:00noon, NPR live interview, Frank Stasio, “The State of Things,” WUNC radio, Chapel Hill, NC
Feb. 5, 7:00pm, Scuppernong Books, Greensboro, NC
Feb. 9, 7:00pm, Margaret Mitchell House, Atlanta, GA
Feb. 11, 5:30pm, The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC
Feb. 13, 3:00pm, City Lights Books, Silva, NC
Feb. 14, 3:00pm, Malaprop’s Bookstore, Asheville, NC
Feb. 16, 6:00pm, Black History Month event, Elon University, NC
Feb. 18, 7:00pm, The Regulator Bookshop, Durham, NC
Feb. 21, 2:00pm, Quail Ridge Bookstore, Raleigh, NC
Feb. 23, 6:30pm, Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA
Feb. 24, 6:00pm, Booklovers event, Greensboro Public Library, NC
Feb. 25, 7:00pm, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC
Feb. 27, Sisters Connected Book Club, High Point Public Library, High Point, NC.
Publisher NewSouth Books just announced a giveaway of copies of Forsaken beginning January 16. Go to the Goodreads website and register to win!
Nice start to the New Year. Just learned that Forsaken has been selected as an Okra Pick by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA). Nothing could replace the encouragement of so many writing pals, teaching buddies, editors, students, friends, and kin, but to receive this honor from folks who love books and sell them for a living, well, it’s very special. And humbling.
Psyched to be selected as a participating author for the Virginia Festival of the Book, Charlottesville, Virginia, March 16-20, 2016!
NewSouth Books notes review of Forsaken in Greensboro News & Record “Ideas” Section 12/6/15
In a review titled “Tales Not to be Forsaken,” the Greensboro News & Record praises a forthcoming work of historical fiction from NewSouth Books, saying “There’s nothing like a good read to bring calm to a long day.#Forsaken by Ross Howell, Jr. is such a book.” Forsaken recounts the factual tale of Virginia Christian, a teenage #AfricanAmerican girl executed by the state of #Virginia in 1912 — a powerful story. But the reviewer observes that Forsaken delivers another good story in then tracking the horrific fate of the real-life white reporter whose sympathies for Virginia Christian also make him a victim of Jim Crow. Forsaken is more than one book — it’s a book and a half. Watch for its release on February 1, 2016.
Honored to share space on the page with legendary writer Alice Walker, 11/22/15 Triangle Tribune.
Just received encouraging words from well-known author Clyde Edgerton. Thanks, Clyde!
“The fiction of good storytellers can get at some of the barren heartache and injustice behind those old Jim Crow stories as well as the brand new Jim Crow stories of massacres and ‘legal homicides’ showing up in our newspapers at the beginning of another century, the twenty-first. Travel back a hundred years or so in Ross Howell Jr.’s literary page-turner, Forsaken, and see as if we are there—through a young reporter’s eyes—how we struggle as human beings to wean ourselves from bigotry.”
—Clyde Edgerton, author of The Night Train
Very excited about the first book trade publication review of Forsaken. Thanks, Kirkus Reviews!
“…Howell knows how to hold readers’ attention, and Christian’s story is an important reminder of the horrors of Jim Crow: she was the only female juvenile ever executed in Virginia, dying in the electric chair a day after her 17th birthday.”
Had a great time reading at the Author-of-the-Month event at the AAASE program, Elon University, on October 21. Excellent questions and a lively discussion followed. Click here to see the video.
Wearing the cap of Forsaken’s narrator, Charlie Mears, at AAASE.
Events for October 2015
Oct. 2-4 Signing advance reading copies (ARCs) at the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association (NAIBA) meeting, Somerset, NJ.
Oct. 6-8 Signing ARCs at the New England Independent Booksellers (NEIBA) meeting, Providence, RI.
Oct. 21 Speaking at the African and African-American Studies at Elon (AAASE) program, Elon University, NC.
SIBA highlights, Raleigh, NC, September 19, 2015.
Ross Howell Jr. will be signing advance reading copies of Forsaken: A Novel for booksellers at the Southern Independent Booksellers Association (SIBA) show in Raleigh, North Carolina, on Saturday, September 19, 2015.
The Winston-Salem Journal reported that Mary Leigh Howell and Ross Howell Jr. attended Bookmark’s “Preface Party” at the Milton Rhodes Center for the Arts in downtown Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The party was a preview of the Festival of Books and Authors in Winston-Salem, September 10-12, 2015. The Journal noted that “Julia Burazer, Beverley Danziger and Penelope Kilpatrick attended the event, along with Mike Stewart, Hernando Ramirez-Santos, Mary Leigh Howell and Ross Howell Jr., who has a novel coming out in 2016. ‘The title is Forsaken, and it comes out in February,’ Howell said. ‘I hope to be here next year as one of the presenting authors.’”
More advance praise for the novel Forsaken:
“Forsaken is a powerful and moving novel that has the heart and wisdom of To Kill a Mockingbird, and displays a reverential embrace of history reminiscent of Faulkner’s best.”
–Rashad Harrison, author of Our Man in the Dark
“In 1912, a 16-year-old African American girl, Virginia Christian, was convicted by a jury of her ‘peers,’ 12 white men, of murdering her employer, a white woman. The jury took only 30 minutes to decide her fate—death in the electric chair. Ross Howell Jr.’s historical novel, Forsaken, shows the reader the breadth and depth of racial hatred that we continue to live with today.”
–Joyce Hansen, author of I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly
The novel Forsaken has been receiving praise in advance of its release. Here’s what a few outstanding writers have to say:
“In Forsaken, Ross Howell Jr. has vividly recreated a sensational crime firmly rooted in history. His depiction of both time and place—and the racial tensions of a torn society—are drawn with great expertise and insight.”
–Jill McCorkle, author of Life After Life
“Terse, forceful, stirring, Forsaken took me in its grip and shook me like a rag doll in the maw of a mastiff. In time I will recover, but I will not forget this powerful experience. Some of the themes are injustice, corruption, and racial conflict, but in its purest terms Ross Howell Jr.’s debut novel is about good and evil. Open Forsaken—and hold on tight.”
–Fred Chappell, author of I Am One of You Forever
“A haunting, riveting work of historical fiction. Charlie Mears’ voice, quiet and direct and utterly sincere, draws us into a sordid past and keeps us on the edge of our seats until the last sentence, even after his story has exacted a terrible price for him and his loved ones. His story is chilling: a 16-year-old black girl convicted in 30 minutes by a jury of 12 white men and sentenced to a brutal execution in the summer of 1912. Southern history—as palpable as the oak-handled electric chair that had to be modified to fit the small frame of Virginia Christian–casts a long shadow in Ross Howell Jr.’s fast-paced novel, raising very contemporary questions about the racial politics of justice.”
–Minrose Gwin, author of The Queen of Palmyra
“Not since Atticus Finch have we met a character spun from the threads of integrity as beautifully as Charlie Mears in Ross Howell Jr.’s exquisite novel, Forsaken. Set in the early 1900s in Virginia, it’s the tale of an honorable young newspaper reporter who befriends an African American girl facing the electric chair for murder. A deep and powerful discourse on racism and redemption, Forsaken and the characters who live and breathe within its pages will not be soon forgotten.”
–Jennie Fields, author of The Age of Desire
“In Ross Howell Jr.’s Forsaken, the ‘bacon-and-biscuits-thank-you-kindly’ charm of 1912 Virginia gives way to the vertigo of a madhouse inmate trying to escape a poisonous reality—the racial and sexual fever known as Jim Crow. Howell spins scenes with brisk mastery and riffs like a bordello piano player inspired by all he’s seen, or in Howell’s case, researched very thoroughly. Forsaken’s main character, young white reporter Charlie Mears, is less worldly. In fact, Mears’ simple but deep Christian beliefs and unconventional romantic history put him in harm’s way when a murder leads to a rushed and predetermined trial of a childlike black servant girl. Roused to try to save ‘Virgie’ from the electric chair, Mears finds himself on the run for his life, gruesomely mutilated, even trapped for a time inside a horrifying, officially sanctioned medical eugenics experiment—based on the real such programs in existence right up to the 1960s. Filled with the voices and lives of what Flannery O’Connor called ‘good country people,’ both black and white, and all the shades in-between, Forsaken is swift and unexpected medicine, just the kind required to break the spell of an entire society built on crimes against humanity.”
–Don Wallace, author of The French House: An American Family, a Ruined Maison, and the Village That Restored Them All
“Forsaken is set in 1912 in Hampton Roads, Virginia, and tells the story of Charlie Mears, a white reporter, who covers the story of a young black woman tried, convicted, and executed for the murder of a white woman. Ross Howell Jr. has assembled excellent historical materials and writes with a precise knowledge of the facts and a sympathy for the characters in their time and place. In the aftermath of the black woman’s conviction, Mears deals with the antipathies, injustices, and dangers that emerge from extremism and seeks to understand and engage the society from which he comes in order to encourage change, reconciliation, and hope. Howell has constructed an intricate, ambitious novel readers will admire for its subtlety and grace.”
–Kent Nelson, author of The Spirit Bird: Stories