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2016 Pat Conroy Southern Book Prize Finalists

Barefoot to Avalon: A Brother's StorySeveral North Carolina Writers’ Network members are finalists in the 2016 Pat Conroy Southern Book Prize (formerly known as the SIBA Book Award). The Pat Conroy Southern Book Prize features an expanded list of categories – adding Mystery, Thriller, Literary, and History and Life Stories to the traditional categories of Fiction, Nonfiction, Cooking, Children’s, and Young Adult.

Finalists were chosen by southern independent booksellers from the long list ballot. The finalist titles will be sent to juried panels of booksellers, who will then decide on the winners in each category. Winners will be announced on July 4, “Independents Day.”

As follows:

Miss Julia Lays Down the LawMiss Julia Lays Down the Law by Ann B. Ross (Beach Music Mystery Prize)
It’s up to Miss Julia to sort out the murder of a hoity-toity newcomer in the latest addition to the New York Times bestselling series. Miss Julia fans both new and old will be especially keen to get their hands on the sixteenth in the series, Miss Julia Lays Down the Law, guaranteed to be the steel magnolia’s most exciting adventure yet. It’s November and Miss Julia is looking forward to some quiet time before the holidays. That is until snobby Connie Clayborn and her rich husband move to town. At first, Miss Julia and the other ladies are pleased to be invited over for coffee, but the afternoon turns into a slap in the face when their hostess spouts nonstop criticism about Abbotsville. Why, how dare she? Days later, Miss Julia decides to confront Connie woman to woman, but when she arrives, Connie is lying on the kitchen floor lifeless in a pool of blood. Who could have done this? Miss Julia will need to find out fast particularly because her fingerprints are now all over the crime scene.

Above the WaterfallAbove the Waterfall by Ron Rash (The Prince of Tides Literary Prize)
In this poetic and haunting tale set in contemporary Appalachia, New York Times bestselling author Ron Rash illuminates lives shaped by violence and a powerful connection to the land. Les, a long-time sheriff just three-weeks from retirement, contends with the ravages of crystal meth and his own duplicity in his small Appalachian town. Becky, a park ranger with a harrowing past, finds solace amid the lyrical beauty of this patch of North Carolina. Enduring the mistakes and tragedies that have indelibly marked them, they are drawn together by a reverence for the natural world. When an irascible elderly local is accused of poisoning a trout stream, Les and Becky are plunged into deep and dangerous waters, forced to navigate currents of disillusionment and betrayal that will force them to question themselves and test their tentative bond – and threaten to carry them over the edge.

Barefoot to Avalon: A Brother’s Story by David Payne (The Water Is Wide: Histories and Life Stories Prize)
In 2000, while moving his household from Vermont to North Carolina, David Payne watched from his rearview mirror as his younger brother, George A., driving behind him in a two-man convoy of rental trucks, lost control of his vehicle, fishtailed, flipped over in the road, and died instantly. Soon thereafter, David’s life hit a downward spiral. His career came to a standstill, his marriage disintegrated, and his drinking went from a cocktail-hour indulgence to a full-blown addiction. He found himself haunted not only by George A.’s death, but also by his brother’s manic depression, a hereditary illness that overlaid a dark family history whose roots now gripped David. Barefoot to Avalon is Payne’s earnest and unflinching account of George A. and their boyhood footrace that lasted long into their adulthood, defining their relationship and their lives. As universal as it is intimate, this is an exceptional memoir of brotherhood, of sibling rivalries and sibling love, and of the torments a family can hold silent and carry across generations.

Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty (Poppy’s Pants Jr.: Youngsters Prize)
An exciting new mystery-thriller about an unusual girl who lives secretly in the basement of the grand Biltmore Estate and must solve a dark and dangerous mystery. This Disney-Hyperion novel became a New York Times Bestseller in the first week of its release, and has been a smash hit ever since. Serafina has never had a reason to disobey her pa and venture beyond the grounds of Biltmore Estate. There’s plenty to explore in Mr. and Mrs. Vanderbilt’s vast and opulent home, but she must take care to never be seen. None of the rich folk upstairs know that Serafina exists; she and her pa, the estate’s maintenance man, have lived in the basement for as long as Serafina can remember. She has learned to prowl through the darkened corridors at night, to sneak and hide, using the mansion’s hidden doors and secret passageways. But when children at the estate start disappearing, only Serafina knows the clues to follow. A terrifying man in a black cloak stalks Biltmore’s corridors at night. Following her own harrowing escape, Serafina risks everything by joining forces with Braeden Vanderbilt, the young nephew of Biltmore’s owners. Braeden and Serafina must uncover the Man in the Black Cloak’s true identity before all of the children vanish one by one.

The Odds of Getting EvenThe Odds of Getting Even by Sheila Turnage (Poppy’s Pants: Young Adult Prize)
Humor and action abound in this second follow-up to the Newberry honor winner and New York Times bestseller, Three Times Lucky. The trial of the century has come to Tupelo Landing, NC. Mo and Dale, aka Desperado Detectives, head to court as star witnesses against Dale’s daddy – confessed kidnapper Macon Johnson. Dale’s nerves are jangled, but Mo, who doesn’t mind getting even with Mr. Macon for hurting her loved ones, looks forward to a slam dunk conviction – if everything goes as expected. Of course nothing goes as expected. Macon Johnson sees to that. In no time flat, Macon’s on the run, Tupelo Landing’s in lock-down, and Dale’s brother’s life hangs in the balance. With Harm Crenshaw, newly appointed intern, Desperado Detectives are on the case. But it means they have to take on a tough client – one they’d never want in a million years.

Short-list finalists were chosen from a long list of 140 titles. The Pat Conroy Book Prize honors author Pat Conroy, one of the South’s most beloved writers.