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West Virginia Fiction

Arguably the novel by a West Virginian, set in West Virginia, which has most dramatically stood the test of time is Hawk’s Nest (1941) by Hubert Skidmore (1909-46). It remains one of Appalachia’s rarest first editions, but the University of Tennessee Press reprinted it in 2004. The next decade saw the publication of Night of the Hunter (1953) by Davis Grubb (1919-80). It was made into a Hollywood movie in 1956 with the screenplay by James Agee that remains a cult classic. Chuck Kinder’s long and distinguished literary career commenced in 1973 with the publication of Snakehunter. In 1979 Meredith Sue Willis published her first, of many, novels, A Space Apart. Jayne Anne Phillips had already attracted attention with her stories when her first novel, Machine Dreams, was released in 1984. She has recently retired as the founding director of the diverse and exciting MFA program at Rutgers-Newark. 1987 saw the publication of the first West Virginia novel by Denise Giardina - Storming Heaven. The next year Lee Maynard (1936-2017) published Crum which was temporarily banned from Tamarack. Dogs of God (1993) was Pinckney Benedict’s first novel after much success with short story collections. In 2007, Ann Pancake published Strange As the Weather Has Been, and the next year Glenn Taylor’s debut novel, The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. After achieving success with memoirs, Patricia Harman published her first of several novels, The Midwife of Hope River in 2012. Dr Julia Keller’s – PhD in literature from Ohio State – had a career as a journalist that was punctuated with a Pulitzer. She began her second career as a mystery writer that same year with A Killing in the Hills.

-- George Brosi