Saturday, September 12, 2015

Call for Sumissions: Historical Fiction Published in 2015

The M.M. Bennetts Award for Historical Fiction Association is pleased to issue a Call for Submissions for historical fiction published in 2015. The winner will be announced at the Oxford, England Historical Novel Society's Conference in September, 2016.

We would appreciate early submissions to take time pressure off the readers/judges. Questionnaires with scoring and commenting are filled out at the end of a read and will not be changed, so time will not affect the judge's view of a book.

Please see the Submissions page of this site to determine whether your novel qualifies and what steps you should take to submit.

We look forward to the 2015/16 season!


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Interview of Greg Taylor on his Award Winning Book, Lusitania R.E.X

It has been an exciting first year for the M.M. Bennetts Award for Historical Fiction. We of the Board of Directors feel that there were many good books; judges said they found new authors to follow. Our finalists, Steve Wiegenstein, David Blixt, and Greg Taylor are all wonderful writers, and their stories are an excellent read. We were eager to learn about the winner's experience conceiving of and writing his book, Lusitania R.E.X; his interview is below.


1) Congratulation on winning the M.M. Bennetts Award for Historical Fiction for your novel, Lusitania R.E.X! Did you think of being a writer as a child? Or when and how did the thought develop?

Thank you Debra. I was thrilled to win the M.M. Bennetts Award. It was a wonderful culmination of five years work on the book to go onstage in front of 600 people attending the Historical Novel Society Conference Banquet and accept the award.

I did write short stories as a kid and even submitted one with my application to college, but just in case that wasn’t enough to differentiate me, I included a tape of my senior organ recital.

I remember the precise moment I decided to write Lusitania R.E.X, although I didn’t know the title then. I was driving from London to Dover with a friend of mine who had written and self-published a book. We were on our way to a crazy costume party. I announced that I was going to write a book about the Lusitania. Two years later I returned to that party wearing a Lusitania costume that took me days to construct, complete with a revolving propeller.

I have always loved history and was intrigued with the Edwardian era because of the vast gulf that separates it from what followed the war. I also felt it unfair that the Titanic receives all the attention while the Lusitania is part of a more complex and intriguing story.

2) How long did the book take you from starting the research to final edits?

I took me roughly four years to complete Lusitania R.E.X. I spent a year researching, reading everything I could get my hands on about the Lusitania. There was less available four years ago than there is today given the 100th anniversary earlier this year.

I compiled what I considered to be the most interesting stories, aspects and mysteries about the tragedy and then worked for several months to develop my story and outline. From that point, I tried to be disciplined about executing to that outline unless I found a factual mistake that forced a correction. It took me two years to execute the writing phase, so with a few months of revisions, including cutting the book in half, it was a total of fours years to achieve the finished product.

3) We know you interviewed people with personal links to the sinking: Can you give us some examples of how you used your interviews in refining the story line?

My first breakthrough was to connect with Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt III, the grandson of my main character, Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt. I went to visit Alfred III in Connecticut and found him so interesting that we barely looked at the eleven volumes of original newspaper clippings compiled by his grandmother, the grieving widow of Alfred I. Alfred shared a number of details that I included in the book, in most cases assigning them to his grandfather.

The second connection was with the 11th Duke of Marlborough, whose middle name is Vanderbilt. His grandmother was Consuelo Vanderbilt, a cousin of my main character. The Duke was very interested in my research about the Vanderbilts and eventually wrote the forward for the book.

4) Do you feel you had a good grasp of the personalities of the real people in the story?

Yes, after my research, I really felt like I knew them. The only real changes I made to the book after completing the outline was when I got to know one of the characters better and decided I had misrepresented them. Then I had to rewrite the book. This happened with President Taft, when I realised he would have voted differently in a crucial Skull and Bones meeting than I first expected.

5) As to the purely fictional characters, which was the easiest to fit into the actual history?

Of the three main characters, only one is fictional, and even she is a composite of four real people. I used her as the glue to bind the story together. She is composed of (i) a school girl friend of Princess Viktoria Luise of Prussia that attended her wedding in 1913, (ii) the fictitious younger sister of Alice Crompton, married to Paul Crompton, nephew of the chairman of Cunard Lines, (iii) the woman Alfred Vanderbilt gives his lifebelt to before he drowns, (iv) a woman sucked into one of the massive funnels of the sinking ship and then shot out naked with the escaping steam when the cold seawater hits the superheated boilers.

6) Did you have to bend history at all?

As I explained to the Duke and Alfred Vanderbilt, I followed facts wherever I could but otherwise endeavored to write things that could have happened, but probably didn’t. When faced with a factual error, I corrected it, with the exception of the timing of the assassination of the Russian prime minister. I had written that scene and liked it but reshuffled that part of the story to occur a year later when I couldn’t bear to give it up. That’s the only factual inaccuracy of which I am aware, and it is not central to the story.

7) Define the character Alfred Vanderbilt as you portray him, and what drove him to behave as he did at the sinking of the ship?

Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt was the best of his breed; a sporting Edwardian gentleman, he gave his lifebelt to a woman passenger knowing that, despite mastering nearly every other sport, he had never learned to swim. In my story, Alfred is a lost soul at the beginning of the book, tortured by the admonitions of his stronger sister, Gertrude (Gertrude Whitney, founder of the Whitney Art Museum in New York) to find some purpose in his life. With the help of his friend and Skull and Bones mate, Percy Rockefeller, he finds a mission to embrace as his own. His commitment ultimately leads to his martyrdom and redemption.

8) You had to fly from London to Denver to attend the announcement of the M.M. Bennetts Award, but something was interesting about the location of the presentation. Please explain.

By sheer coincidence, I happen to be from Denver. The weekend of the Historical Novel Society’s North American conference was also my sister’s birthday weekend, so it was a fortuitous occasion.

9) Do you have plans to write another book? If so, what topic is brewing?

I am exhausted after the effort required to produce Lusitania R.E.X, but enjoyed the process so much that I have no doubt of writing again someday. In the short term, I need to focus on the things I neglected during my four-year hibernation to write my book. I already have a few ideas, however, for the next one.

10) Where can Lusitania R.E.X be purchased?

On the website, www.lusitaniarex.com, where you can also view a faux Edwardian photo album of Alfred Vanderbilt that tracks the story. It is also available on Amazon and other retailers and a few special places including the Duke’s Blenheim Palace, Alfred’s Great Camp Sagamore, the Cunard Lines vessels and the Merseyside Maritime Museum in Liverpool.


Questions by Debra Brown and Linda Root. If you have questions for Greg, please ask them in the comment section below.



Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Winner of the M.M. Bennetts Award for Historical Fiction Is....

Greg Taylor for Lusitania R.E.X! 
Congratulations, Greg!


Mike Uretsky, Professor at the New York University Stern School of Business, was contacted specifically to vet Lusitania R.E.X. Mike is a specialist and adviser to governments on international energy policy. His area of expertise provides him with an in-depth view of the part private capital has in the past and continues to play in international affairs.

Greg had to decide whether to fly from London to Denver for the presentation. We held our breath, and he did come. Perhaps it helped that he has family near Denver!

You can read Greg's biography here.

David Blixt, Steve Wiegenstein, and Greg Taylor
signing their books at the Historical Novel Society Conference

We thank the management of the Historical Novel Society 2015 Conference in Denver, CO for allowing us to make the presentation at their banquet on June 27 and for making accommodations for our needs. It was a setting Greg and the other finalists, David Blixt and Steve Wiegenstein, will always remember.

Anna Belfrage, who presented Greg's prize and then
won one of her own, stands with Greg and his scroll.

Jim Bencivenga, a retired book critic at The Christian Science Monitor, wrote of Lusitania R.E.X:

"Were it not of American origin, 'Lusitania R.E.X', by Greg Taylor, is a candidate for a BBC Masterpiece series.

"Most enjoyable are descriptions and details of the luxury ship itself. From boilers to horse stables to elevators to paneled suites puts me on board, freeing the imagination with the rhythm of ocean swells and throbbing engines (several decks below, certainly not from Alfred Vanderbilt's suite).

"War on land, in the air, or at sea is deadly business. World War I trench warfare and U boat war (novel and ever so 'ungentlemanly') with the potential for rocket combat as explored in this novel, does indeed set the tone for the modern age.

"Combine political intrigue among British and European aristocrats, the fabulously wealthy American elite, members of a secret Yale society and you have a superlative historical account about the best and worst in human beings.

"Archibald MacLeish tops my list of fascinating characters inhabiting the pages of 'Lusitania R.E.X'. Individuals do make a difference, historical differences. Taylor exploits the Newport crowd, the Skull and Bones crowd. He characterizes an era. Irish and German espionage (I have a German grandfather and an Irish grandmother whom I now understand much better), suffocating conditions in diesel powered U-boats, sex drives above and below the waves, inform this notorious crime at sea.

"The relevant lesson I take from 'Lusitania R.E.X' is how easy it is for people and nations to stumble into war. The US and India just signed a ten-year naval pact to balance the rise of China in the South China sea (in the annals of war the phrase 'balance of power' should bring dread).

"What misstep off a nameless atoll on or below the waters near the Philippines awaits its destiny. Torpedo tubes from a diesel sub, again, could down a ship and initiate a devastating nuclear war.
"

Final judge Edd Morris wrote:

"Exhilarating and ambitious, I found Luistania R.E.X to be a jolly ride through an impressive swathe of early twentieth century history. Although its final scenes are quite clear from the outset, the tale managed to sweep in enough imaginative intrigue to propel me to the impending disaster.

"There’s lots I loved: in particular, the bitter loss of control (and misunderstanding of the repercussions) of a life’s work. Wally was a beautiful character: rounded, warm, humane.

"The level of historical research - particularly in regard to the Luistania herself - was unparalleled, and the inclusion of real photographs is a beautiful touch.

"With an eye for exquisite detail, Luistania R.E.X marries some feverish flights of imagination with historical accuracy. It’s a pacy, readable novel, designed to impress all who choose to sail with it."



Monday, June 22, 2015

Meet our Final Round Judges

The Board of Directors wishes to thank those (listed below) who spent hours and days of reading time in the initial stages of judging the seventy-five 2014 novels. Many made comments such as that they had found new authors they liked and would be searching out their books. We hope all enjoyed the work.

The scoring and comments of each of these judges was carefully reviewed by the Board of Directors. The difficult job of selecting a small number of semifinalists took longer than we expected; there were many good books, and we wanted to adhere to M.M. Bennetts' views of literature in making our choices. We eventually reached the last stage. With additional reading by certain members and vetting by experts to whom we turned, the group at last heartily endorsed the selection of our three finalists.

The decision was turned over to a panel of three judges.

Jim Bencivenga was a book editor and worked with M.M. Bennetts for seven years as a book critic for The Christian Science Monitor. We thank the staff at the Monitor for helping us find a colleague of hers that could help us.

A writer and editor for 23 years at the Christian Science Monitor, Jim is interested in freelance writing and sharing his knowledge and expertise in the areas of education, astronomy, religion, technology and the environment.  From authoring one-off articles, to shepherding an author through a lengthy article, or even a book, he leads a life of the mind through written expression.

Jim has worked as a visiting adjunct professor of Journalism at Ithaca College, a Writer/Consultant at Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, Wash., DC, an Education Writer and Editor, Book Editor, Ideas Editor of Science & Technology, Religion, Ethics, and Books, and a Community Producer of the website for The Christian Science Monitor.

He is a Trustee of the Asher Student Foundation actively engaged in a variety of ways in supporting Christian Science students of all ages who are enrolled in accredited colleges, universities and certificate programs across the country. Jim was the Director of Information Services at the National Institute of Education in the US Department of Education for two years and was in the Ford Foundation Education Fellowship regarding Special Education in Prisons, visiting twelve prisons in eight states.

Jim was twice the recipient of the NY Times feature writing award presented by the National Association of Secondary School Principals and the Director of Publications at the National Institute of Education within the US Dept. of Education. He worked as the President of a community based Group Home for adjudicated teenagers in Bozeman, MT.

Jim can be reached at Jimmyb3 at comcast.net.

Edd Morris is a medical doctor and the author of the full color Exploring English Castles: Evocative, Romantic, and Mysterious True Tales of the Kings and Queens of the British Isles. Edd has a passion for history, travel, and for visiting castles in the UK and in Europe.

His website, www.exploring-castles.com, attracts more than a third of a million visitors every year, and is one of the web's most visited resources on castles. Edd graduated with a BA from the University of Warwick, and a MA and MBBS from the University of London. He presently works as a doctor within the UK National Health Service.

Many thanks to Reader/Judges Andrew Latham, Anna Belfrage, Anne-Marie Caluwaert, Annie 'EditingPen', Arthur Russell, Audra Friend, Averil Bennetts, Charles Bazelgette, Christoph Fischer, Cryssa Bazos, Darius Stransky, Darlene Williams, Deborah Swift, EM Powell, Fiona Powell, Geri Dunlop Clouston, Glen Craney, Helen Hollick, Irene Conroy, Jacqui Reiter, Jeanne Greene, Jonathan Hopkins, Jude Knight, Katherine Pym, Kathy Carroll, Laurel Ann Natress, Lauren Gilbert, Linda Collison, Linda Root, Lisl Zlitni, Margaret Porter Evans, Margaret Skea, Mike Rendell, Mike Uretsky, Nancy Bilyeau, Pippa Elliott, Richard Abbott, Robyn Leatherman, Rose Spears, Sarah Johnson, Shannon Gallagher, Sr. Sheila, Sophia Rose, Sue Millard, Tru Denton, and Williamaye Jones. We couldn't have done it without you!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Award Finalist (and Winner!) Greg Taylor

Lusitania R.E.X, an historical novel about the sinking of the RMS Lusitania in the early days of World War I, is Greg Taylor’s first novel and a very remarkable debut. Taylor says he was drawn to accounts of the Lusitania, fascinated by the collapse of Edwardian society, the epitome of elegance, in the brutal warfare their own industrial success had made possible. Taylor's passion for history and research earned him access to private family archives never before opened to a writer, and has taken him to numerous sites that appear in the book, from the palaces of the Tsar, the Kaiser and the Vanderbilts to the battlefields of Ypres.

Lusitania R.E.X explores the events and influences leading up to the sinking, with a well argued theory as to the cause of a second, unexplained blast that doomed the ship after it had been struck by a single German torpedo on May 7th, 1915. The Lusitania sank eighteen minutes after that second, internal blast. Taylor’s book is brimming with convincingly drawn spies and secret societies, superweapons, obscure Russian physicists and playboy millionaires, including Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt I, the main character of the novel.

Since the time of her sinking, the Lusitania has been wrapped in mystery and intrigue. Experts continue to debate the cause of that second explosion. Imperial Germany immediately claimed the ship was loaded with explosives destined for the front.

Lusitania R.E.X weaves fiction around the known facts to create a plausible explanation of unresolved questions surrounding her sinking and explores how modern, mechanized war, with its zeppelin raids and poison gas, brought to an end the gilded age of Newport, Edwardian England and Imperial Germany and Russia.

The Nautilus Telegraph wrote: “Through its fictionalised treatment of historical events, Lusitania R.E.X tries to get inside the head of Vanderbilt, exploring the reasons why this rather indolent heir to a fortune could have developed into someone capable of heroism. In the best blockbuster tradition, the book features plenty of romance and glamour, as well as a Dan Brown-style conspiracy posited by the author as the real reason why the German navy attacked the ship in the First World War.”

Originally from Colorado, Greg Taylor has made London his home since 2000; he divides his investment banking and asset management career between New York and London. Lusitania R.E.X was written while the author was founding and developing his own investment management firm, Sequoia Investment Management.

Undergraduate studies in history at Williams College in Massachusetts and the University of Durham in England influenced Taylor's writing of Lusitania R.E.X., as did his work at the School of Management at Yale University, where he lived just one block from The Tomb, the headquarters of the Skull and Bones Club, which figures prominently in the book.

During his research, Taylor came to know descendants of some of the principal characters in Lusitania R.E.X. He spent some time with Alfred Vanderbilt III, including accompanying Alfred and his wife on a visit to his grandfather’s Great Camp Sagamore in the Adirondacks, described with first-hand vividness in the book. Alfred Vanderbilt I, who inherited one of the largest fortunes of America’s Gilded Age, perished on the Lusitania after giving his lifebelt to a woman passenger.

The Duke of Marlborough also took an interest in Lusitania R.E.X. His father and grandfather are significant in the story through the 9th Duke’s marriage to Consuelo Vanderbilt. The 11th Duke, whose middle name is Vanderbilt, wrote the forward to Lusitania R.E.X.

Taylor also was able to sail on the Cunard Line’s “Lusitania Remembered” Voyage in May of 2015 and participated in marking the 100th anniversary over the site of the Lusitania wreck which lies beneath 260 feet of water eleven miles off the coast of Ireland. Taylor had the pleasure of meeting a number of descendants of Lusitania victims and survivors and is hosting an upcoming event with Lady Helen Gaskell, the descendant of a survivor.

Lusitania R.E.X is published by Filament (hard bound and paperback) and Autharium (electronic formats) and is available on the book website, Amazon, and from other retailers and your local bookshop.

The book website is www.lusitaniarex.com
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/LUSITANIAREX/303457686474329
Taylor’s Twitter is @GregTaylor_LUSI

Monday, April 20, 2015

Award Finalist David Blixt

David Blixt is the author of seven novels, most recently The Prince’s Doom, the fourth volume in the Star-Cross’d series, which began with The Master Of Verona and continued through Voice Of The Falconer. The third volume, Fortune’s Fool, was Editor’s Choice for the Historical Novel Society in 2013. The Prince’s Doom is a Finalist for the M.M. Bennetts Award for Historical Fiction.

Born in Ann Arbor and now living in Chicago, David’s career began in theatre. Drawn to classical works, he’s traveled far and wide, performing Aristophanes in ancient amphitheatres, Shakespeare in re-creations of the Globe, acting and designing theatrical combat for national productions. In 2014 David won a Wilde Award for Best Actor In A Comedy for his portrayal of Algernon in The Importance Of Being Earnest.

To his surprise, Shakespeare became his life, to date appearing in over 75 productions in such roles as Macbeth, Mercutio, Benedick, Brutus, Orsino, Leontes, Iacomo, Berowne, and Oberon. He even met his wife on stage, cast as Petruchio opposite her Kate in The Taming Of The Shrew. After facing off against her again in Much Ado, Midsummer, and Macbeth, they finally gave in and wed in 2002.

It was while directing Romeo & Juliet that he was struck by the idea that started him down the writing path fifteen years ago – the origin to the famous feud. Originally meant to be a novella, David started researching Verona while simultaneously reading Dorothy Dunnett’s amazing Lymond Chronicles. Dunnett’s works not only inspired him, they gave him permission to think on a grander scale. Thus the Star-Cross’d series turned into an eight-book epic, combining all of Shakespeare’s Italian characters with the real people of Dante’s time to create a picaresque tale of romance, murder, politics, war, religion, and friendship.

The story begins with Dante’s son Pietro arriving in Verona and falling under the awesome sway of the city’s ruler, Cangrande della Scala. Young, brilliant, and ambitious, Cangrande means to have his due and more. But his plans are spoiled by the birth of his bastard heir, Cesco, who is prophesized to be even greater. Honest and loyal, Pietro is given charge of this wild, willful youth, and attempts to raise Cesco to be the perfect chivalric knight. Mercurial at heart, the boy has other plans. Everyone is waiting to see what kind of man will Cesco become.

The Prince’s Doom begins with Cesco having nearly reached perfect happiness, only to have the cup dashed from his lips. Bitter, he puts on a show of apathy, indulging all his baser impulses. Forced to marry, he gathers around him all the young knights of Verona’s court and begins besieging the city with riotous living, threatening to tear down all that Cangrande has built. For once, Pietro is grateful for the plots and schemes that seem to emanate from Verona’s very stones, hoping to draw his foster-son out of himself, restore him to sanity. But when the first body falls, it is only the initial bolt from a quiver of deceit, desire, and deviltry that threatens them all. After races, duels, sieges, confrontations, poisonings, horrors, epic swordplay and exotic locations, the question of Cesco’s character is finally answered.

David’s other series, Colossus, is set in the first century AD, covering the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem through the building of the Colosseum in Rome. His stand-alone novel, Her Majesty’s Will, is a light-hearted romp through Shakespeare’s lost years, casting him as an accidental spy alongside Kit Marlowe in service of Elizabeth I and her cunning servant Walsingham.

David’s play Eve Of Ides gives us Caesar and Brutus on the night before the assassination, in a dire conversation that leads Brutus to conclude that “it must be by his death.”

David continues to write, act, and travel. He has ridden camels around the pyramids at Giza, been thrown out of the Vatican Museum and been blessed by John-Paul II, scaled the Roman ramp at Masada, crashed a hot-air balloon, leapt from cliffs on small Greek islands, dined with counts and criminals, climbed to the top of Mount Sinai, and sat in Cangrande’s chair in Verona’s palace. But he is happiest at home with his wife and two children, weaving tales of brilliant people in dire and dramatic straits.

A review of The Prince's Doom by Jim Bencivenega, retired book critic for The Christian Science Monitor:

"'The Prince’s Doom', by David Blixt, is a colossal work. It gives focus to the world of 14th century Italy through the vantage and particularity of the kingdom of Verona. It represents an accomplishment of great historical labor and a feat of psychological imagination worthy of its finalist status in the MM Bennetts award.

"The intrigue generated by the complex genealogy of noble families and their decidedly frayed relationships raveling and unraveling makes for a great read.

"Bastardy is common amid a code of family and military honor that is both exemplary, cynical and hypocritical. The many plots and subplots are bound together by the force of political dominance and power in an ever relevant Machiavellian vein.

"Engaging this book was for me the literary equivalent of standing before one of the great cathedrals of Europe. From what vantage do I look up? Which door do I enter? And once inside how long do I pause and meditate at the many side chapels.

"At times, the tapestries of the over arching plot will tax the imagination. Youthful brawls, duels, battles, spying, even jumping from roof to roof by Cesco can come across at times as a bit much, until presented with the challenge of a 'goose pull.' Immediately, ones historical eyes widen. Throughout, and ultimately, the interests of families, not individuals, mercilessly drives human action."

Final judge Edd Morris writes:

"The Prince’s Doom merits ‘epic’: in terms of its ambition, inspiration, and also its world count. A less bold author may have clipped its wings: instead, the pacy tale stretches to many hundreds of pages, and I’m sure that loyal fans of the series are
clamouring for more.

"The sinuous plot speeds along thanks to spectacular dialogue, with witty repartee sparkling upon every page.

"Cesco - our protagonist - is a beautifully constructed character, and I enjoyed his flashes of tenderness to Maddellena against the backdrop of his violent self-rebellion. But he was by no means the only memorable individual. Buthanya was undoubtedly my favourite within the supporting cast: trapped like Cesco, but with her own methods of coping.

"Slick and sophisticated, it’s easy to devour The Prince’s Doom. Its success, of course, was written in the stars."


David’s Website is www.davidblixt.com
His Blog is http://themasterofverona.typepad.com/the_master_of_verona/
His Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/pages/David-Blixt-Author/22822113504
And his Twitter address is http://twitter.com/@David_Blixt
His books are available from Sordelet Ink. Visit www.sordeletink.com. Or visit Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or order through your local bookstore.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Award Finalist Steve Wiegenstein

Steve Wiegenstein is the author of Slant of Light and This Old World, the first two novels in an anticipated multi-book series. Slant of Light, published in 2012, was the runner-up for the David H. Langum Prize in American Historical Fiction, and This Old World, published in September 2014, is currently a finalist for the M.M. Bennetts Award for Historical Fiction. Both books were published by Blank Slate Press, a literary small press in St. Louis, Missouri.

Steve grew up in the Missouri Ozarks, the setting for his novel series, and worked there as a newspaper reporter before entering the field of higher education. He is an avid hiker and canoeist who hits the trails and float streams of the Ozarks every chance he gets.

Steve's historical fiction grows out of his academic fascination with utopian societies of the Nineteenth Century. He first became interested in the Icarians, a French-origin emigrant group that settled in the American Midwest from 1848 to the 1890s, and his interest spiraled out from there. The conflict of ideals and reality, passion and reason, and individual desires versus community welfare inspired him in creating his series; the Southern Literary Review called the first novel "an exciting and original take on the history of America becoming America, full of complex characters and rich, realistic dialogue." In their award announcement, the Langum Prize judges said, "At a deeper level it is also a meditation on the decline of order – social order, sexual order, and political order."

This Old World takes place in the years immediately following the American Civil War, when many of the soldiers returning home still harbored resentments or felt the aftereffects of battle, while others simply wanted to forget the past and return to their former lives. But the war has unbalanced everything and everyone. The characters must remake themselves in the postwar reality and try to reconstruct their old lives, loves, and ideals.

Steve lives in Columbia, Missouri, where he works as the associate dean for academic affairs at Columbia College. He loves to speak at libraries, civic organizations, and other groups as part of the Missouri Humanities Council's "Show-Me Speakers Bureau." His short fiction has appeared in the Southern Humanities Review, Nebraska Review, Louisiana Literature, Beloit Fiction
Journal, and elsewhere. His next novel will continue the same themes in the same setting, but will take place in the late 1880s, with future novels planned for later years as well.

Jim Bencivenga, a retired book critic from The Christian Science Monitor, writes:

"Since I did not read its predecessor, I came to This Old World, by Steve Wiegenstein, only on the terms inside its covers.

"It is a heart rendering tale in a time of personal and national trauma. Such lasting wounds. Such healed wounds. For Wiegenstein, the war that divided a nation is but background. The hopes and anguish of common people, and more pointedly aspiring women, dominate this book. Utopian hopes, racial hopes, and especially gender hopes play out. The cadenced voice, the agricultural pace of the characters colloquial, regional dialog, is the blood flowing through the veins of the narrative.

"The civil war and the Ozark mountains hold near mythic status in the American experience. Wiegenstein populates these myths with flesh and blood characters literally or psychological bathed in the blood of battle. Home, family, children – identity – are overwhelmed. He is true to the hymnal inspiration used in the title and which echoes on every page: 'This old world is full of sorrow, full of sickness, weak and sore —If you love your neighbor truly, love will come to you the more.'

"I couldn't help but connect the psychological and emotional moods of this narrative work with poems by William Butler Yeats. Both Yeats and Wiegentein embed the worn and known facets of their nation's pivotal rebellion/war as spiritual heft for the human hearts animating their writing.

"Yeats's sentiment about humanity's connection with God in 'The Circus Animal's Desertion': 'Now that my ladder's gone, 
I must lie down where all the ladders start.
In the foul rag and bone shop of the heart,' is where 'This Old World', begins. Things indeed fall apart in the widening gyre of the Civil War. And, much more than in Yeats, the women of 'This Old World' (one advantage of a novel over a poem or hymn) are given full voice to speak.

"I am convinced Charloette Turner would more than hold her own should she sit down with Crazy Jane to lecture the Bishop. By voice, example, and especially sincere doubt, Charloette lectures us throughout. Want to know how common folk from a proto-typical American locale not only 'survive, but prevail,' as Faulkner would have it? Read 'This Old World'."F

Final judge Edd Morris writes:

"This Old World Undoubtedly a novel I’ll return to, This Old World grabbed me from its opening chapter. For me, there’s a humanity - and an understanding of people and communities - at the very heart of this novel, which makes it simply irresistible.

"I adored the interwoven, intensely personal tales set against a backdrop of political upheaval: exploring the difficulties of rebuilding in a world wracked by poverty and distrust.

"I loved the device of each chapter being told through the perspective of a different individual: and the characters sparkled. For me, every figure was brilliantly realised:

"Marie, who 'had thrown her life away; she had done it her own damn self.' Tyler; and the masterfully-drawn Flynn. In terms of language and literary skill, This Old World left me breathless. The prose was remarkably deft: Angus’ body 'bobbing to the surface, eyeless and accusing.'

"In terms of language and literary skill, This Old World left me breathless. The prose was remarkably deft: Angus’ body “bobbing to the surface, eyeless and accusing,” the quick-fire dialogue; the way that the words which made Tyler begin to slowly escape him.

"A beautiful and brilliant book."

Steve's Website

Blog

Publisher's website

Facebook

Twitter: @swiegenstein

Book availability: Available at all independent and chain bookstores. Electronic versions available at Barnes & Noble.com, Amazon, and the Apple Store. Also available directly from Blank Slate Press or from Steve's Facebook page.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Short List

In order of submission, the finalists for the M.M. Bennetts Award for Historical Fiction are:

This Old World by Steve Wiegenstein
The Prince's Doom by David Blixt
Lusitania REX by Greg Taylor

Congratulations to the authors on these three outstanding novels! The winner of the $500 prize will be announced at the HNS Conference Saturday Banquet, June 27, 2015.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Announcement of the 2014-Novels Long List

The M.M. Bennetts Award for Historical Fiction Association is pleased to announce the placing titles from the first round of judging. The books are listed in the order in which they were received by the committee.

Congratulations to the authors!

The Winged Horse by C.P. Lesley
Hand of Fire by Judith Starkston
This Old World by Steve Wiegenstein
The Red Hill by David Penny
Cup of Blood by Jeri Westerson
Liverpool Connection by Elisabeth Marrion
The Tiger Queens by Stephanie Thornton
Omphalos by Mark Patton
Tizzie by PDR Lindsay
The Queen’s Dwarf by Ella March Chase
The Prince's Doom by David Blixt
Lusitania R.E.X. by Greg Taylor

A second round of judging has begun, and we hope to have a short list to announce by mid-April. The winner will be announced at the luncheon of the Historical Novel Society Conference in Denver, CO, USA on Saturday, June 27, 2015.

We hope our winning author will be present to accept the prize or will have a representative, but attendance is at the author’s expense. Unfortunately we cannot assume responsibility for the costs. The deadline to set up a signing table is April 1 and to register is May 31. Registration

The M.M. Bennetts Award Association is a separate entity not affiliated with the Historical Novel Society.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Submissions Closed for 2014 Novels


Submissions closed for 2014 published novels on January 31, 2015. Judges are reading and scoring the 75 accepted books which work we hope will conclude by the end of February. Please watch this page for an announcement in early March as to the resulting long list. Authors will be notified by email.