By OLINE H. COGDILL
Like many people, I count Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird among my favorite novels.
Let’s not even mention Go Set a Watchman.
So it was with great pleasure to learn that Attica Locke, author of Pleasantville, will receive the 2016 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction.
The announcement was made by the University of Alabama School of Law and the ABA Journal.
Locke is the sixth winner of the prize.
The prize, authorized by Lee, is given annually to a book-length work of fiction that best illuminates the role of lawyers in society and their power to effect change, according to its description.
In the announcement, the selection committee for the prize stated “Pleasantville has beautiful prose and strong characters, much like “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
Added Helen Ellis, a member of the committee and the author of American Housewife, “In Pleasantville, Attica Locke takes us out of a courtroom and into a lawyer’s home and heart.”
I couldn’t agree more.
Pleasantville was one of my favorite books of 2015 and I put it on my best of the year list.
In my best of 2015 list, I said: “Attica Locke’s insightful look at African American life in Houston shows how politics, race and classism converge. Pleasantville, a Houston neighborhood built after WWII specifically for black families “of means and class,” also has become a bargaining chip among politicians and a haven for family secrets.”
Locke will receive a signed special edition of To Kill a Mockingbird, a $3,000 cash award and a feature article in the ABA Journal.
Locke’s novel will be honored during a ceremony at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 22 at the Library of Congress’s Thomas Jefferson Building in Washington, D.C., in conjunction with the National Book Festival. Following the award presentation, the Selection Committee will convene a panel discussion of Pleasantville in relationship to Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.
Locke’s first novel, Black Water Rising, was nominated for a 2010 Edgar Award, an NAACP Image Award and a Los Angeles Times Book Prize. It was short-listed for the Orange Prize in the United Kingdom (now the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction). Her second book, The Cutting Season, published by Dennis Lehane Books, is a national bestseller and is a winner of the Ernest Gaines Award for Literary Excellence. Locke has written scripts for Paramount, Warner Bros, Disney, Twentieth Century Fox, Jerry Bruckheimer Films and HBO and is a writer and producer of the Fox drama Empire.