The scrumptious Crook’s Corner in Chapel Hill (best collards in the state) is the only restaurant in the land that awards a prize for a first novel. This year’s august judge is novelist Lee Smith, who’s whittled 18 contenders to four. Midst food and frolics, she’ll name the winner at the restaurant on Jan. 4. The lucky author’s prize: $1,000 and one free glass of wine every day of 2016, compliments of Crook’s Corner.
▪ LaShonda Katrice Barnett’s “Jam! On the Vine,” about a black female journalist who overcomes the barriers of the Jim Crow South.
▪ Tom Cooper’s “The Marauders,” a tale of outlandish characters driven by dreams in the post-BP oil spill that devastated the Gulf Coast.
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▪ Jamie Kornegay’s “Soil,” which shows an idealistic environmental scientist’s descent into madness, set in the Mississippi hill country.
▪ Ben Metcalf’s “Against the Country,” challenging the myth of rural goodness (Goochland County, Va.) vs. urban evil.
Wiley Cash’s “A Land More Kind Than Home” and Kim Church’s “Byrd” are previous winners.
Submissions for next year’s contest open Jan. 1, 2016. The entry must be the author’s first novel (published in 2015 or the first six months of 2016), set predominantly in the South. Send two copies by June 1 to The Crook’s Corner Book Prize, 313 Country Club Road, Chapel Hill, NC 27514.