Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Prizes and Property

Missouri author Daniel Woorell has won this year’s Prix Mystère de la Critique for his decidedly hard-boiled 2007 novel, Winter’s Bone. That commendation is give out annually to the best French detective-fiction work and best foreign crime novel in French translation. This year’s French recipient, by the way, is Pascal Dessaint, who picked up his prize for Cruelles natures.

In related news, Katie Estill, who happens to be Woodrell’s wife (though I didn’t know that until this morning), is interviewed at rewarding length by fellow novelist Laura Benedict in the blog Notes from the Handbasket. Estill, who’s latest book, Dahlia’s Gone, is on the shortlist for the 2008 Hammett Prize, talks at one point about the significance of her writing environment:
We’ve got a funky old house that’s just so riddled with personality and odd touches that we can’t seem to leave, even if sometimes it seems inadequate. Daniel’s office was built by a previous owner, the Reverend Mock, and he carved crosses atop all the bookcases in the office, a strange touch we enjoyed immediately. The basement was full of several hundred bottles of water, all of them dated, supplies set aside for Armageddon. We’ve heard that our house was built over a cave and was a station on the underground railway during the Civil War. A neighbor told me that as a child he used to play in the cave (before it was closed by the city) and he found arrowheads. So we know the Osage spent a lot of time on these grounds, around the springs and caves, and that human beings have used and loved this ground for a long, long time.

That feeling is somehow infused into the place. I look out our large, wavy glass windows to the most beautiful century oak. We’ve written five books in this little house, and that also makes us fond of it. Our cats don’t ever want to leave. I think “home” is where you can overlook any number of little eyesores. We’re still walking through a couple of doors that we’ve somehow never gotten around to putting doorknobs on.
No wonder Woodrell’s fiction bears such a strange, mystical component. I’ll have to read Dahlia’s Gone to see whether their house has had a similar effect on her prose.

(Hat tip to Sarah Weinman.)


pattinase (abbott) said...

Winter's Bone is just the best.

Anonymous said...

I’ll have to read Dahlia’s Gone to see whether their house has had a similar effect on her prose.

I would say not a "similar effect", but it is detectable. A very fine book (in a very competitive field for the Hammett Award).

Sophie Littlefield said...

..actually, everything DW does is just the best, as patti says. so pleased to see him getting a nod or two - he merits dozens.