Thursday, January 23, 2014

Winner of the 2013 Langum Prize for American Historical Fiction

Gary Schanbacher's Crossing Purgatory (Pegasus, 2013) has been announced as the winner of the 2013 Langum Prize for American Historical Fiction.

From the press release:

"The title carries a double meaning, referring to the crossing of a river in western Kansas where the protagonist settled and made his home, and also the crossing of his own, personal purgatory. A spiritual dimension enlightens this book, not pushed upon the reader and so subtle that an uninterested reader could ignore it but then miss much of the book’s value.

"Irrespective of the protagonist’s inner struggles, the story itself is well-told and exciting. Once again, we have an excellent novel that paints the west with more depth than is usual, that portrays the evil and the hardship as well as the rewards."

The two Honorable Mentions are Christine Wade's Seven Locks (Atria, 2013), set in the rural Hudson River Valley during the American Revolution, and Pamela Schoenewaldt's Swimming in the Moon (Morrow, 2013), a novel of immigrant life in turn-of-the-century Cleveland.

The prize shortlist for 2013 included the following historical novels:

The Blood of Heaven, by Kent Wascom (Grove Press) [my review]
Crossing Purgatory, by Gary Schanbacher (Pegasus) [author's guest post on this site]
Seven Locks, by Christine Wade (Atria) [my review]
The Son, by Philipp Meyer (Ecco)
Swimming in the Moon, by Pamela Schoenewaldt (Morrow)
The Tilted World, by Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly (Morrow) [my review]
Nostalgia, by Dennis McFarland (Pantheon)
My Notorious Life, by Kate Manning (Scribner)
Love and Lament, by John Milliken Thompson (Other Press)

For more on the prize, see the Langum Charitable Trust. To submit a novel for consideration, view the directions available at the site; the Trust has also issued guidelines used by their readers and selection committee, which authors should find useful as well. The prize is awarded annually to the "best book in American historical fiction that is both excellent fiction and excellent history."

Past years' winners include Ron Rash's The Cove, Julie Otsuka's The Buddha in the Attic, Ann Weisgarber's The Personal History of Rachel DuPree, Edward Rutherfurd's New York, and Kathleen Kent's The Heretic's Daughter


  1. I have Seven Locks at home, but haven't heard of the two others. Will need to get them!

    1. Seven Locks was a bigger hit with the prize committee than it was with me; I enjoyed it overall but found it uneven in several respects. I like that it depicted a time, place, and people (the Dutch community in the Hudson Valley) you don't read much about, though. Swimming in the Moon is one I've been meaning to read for a while!

  2. Anonymous5:27 PM

    The Blood of Heaven and Crossing Purgatory are two that have been on my want to read list. It's lovely to see American HIstoricals becoming more than they seem to have been in the past - if you get my meaning! (I realize that's an odd sentence.)

    1. Yes, I know what you mean! And I agree - it's very nice to see.

  3. Thanks, Sarah, for mentioning this award. I was very surprised (and humbled) about the announcement because I've read most of the finalists and was so impressed with their craft. Such a fine collection of work. g

    1. Many congratulations on the award, Gary!