The Delta State University Graduate and Continuing Studies Department is hosting a lecture series with three Mississippi authors who highlight the South and Mississippi Delta in their writing. Dean James, Charlaine Harris and Carolyn Haines have all found literary success with their mystery and horror tales.
The trio will be on campus Feb. 28 and provide lectures to students at 9 and 10 a.m. in Jobe Hall. From 1-2:30 p.m., they will participate in a panel discussion with three local scholars — Dorothy Shawhan, Susan Allen Ford and Karen Bell.
Later that afternoon, a book signing and reception will be held at the Delta Arts Alliance in downtown Cleveland from 3-5 p.m. In addition, students, faculty and staff will be able to donate blood at the “True Blood” Drive at the H.L. Nowell Union from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.
The following day, March 1, Harris will be the guest reader at 3 p.m. on the Thacker Mountain Radio Show at the Delta Music Institute.
The lecture and panel discussion will focus on the use of place in the writers’ fiction, the importance of contemporary fiction as a literary genre, and the joys and challenges of creative writing. These events will explore genre fiction such as mystery, supernatural and horror as intellectual inquiry and as an increasingly valued form of the literary humanities.
Beverly Moon, Delta State University Dean of Graduate and Continuing Studies, said she is thrilled to host these established authors.
“We will have lots of fun with the various events — the student sessions, panel discussions, the readings, reception, book signing, and of course, the “True Blood” Drive,” said Moon.
Harris, a New York Times bestselling author who has been writing for 30 years, was born and raised in the Mississippi River Delta area. She is known for writing mystery and fantasy novels, with her most popular series being “The Sookie Stackhouse Series.” The urban fantasy series is about a telepathic waitress named Sookie who works in a bar in the fictional northern Louisiana town of Bon Temps.
The first book in the series, “Dead Until Dark,” won the Anthony Award for Best Paperback Mystery in 2001. Each book follows Sookie through her adventures involving vampires, werewolves and other supernatural creatures. The series, which now numbers 11 titles, has been released worldwide.
Sookie Stackhouse has proven to be so popular that Alan Ball, creator of the HBO television series “Six Feet Under,” produced the HBO series based on the books. He wrote and directed the pilot episode for the series “True Blood,” which premiered in September of 2008 and successfully continues in its seventh season.
Professionally, Harris is a member of the Mystery Writers of America, the American Crime Writers League, Sisters in Crime and the International Crime Writers Association. She is a past member of the boards of Sisters in Crime and MWA. She is also a member of Science Fiction Writers of America, Horror Writers Association and Romance Writers of America.
Haines, born in Lucedale, Miss., is a prolific mystery author and former journalist specializing in mysteries set in the Mississippi Delta. Her current mysteries, the “Sarah Booth Delaney Mississippi Delta Series,” is set in the fictional town of Zinnia. The series has won numerous awards, including Best Amateur Sleuth. Her work, “Hallowed Bones,” the fifth in the series, was named in the top five mysteries of 2004 by Library Journal.
Haines teaches graduate and undergraduate fiction writing classes at the University of South Alabama, where she is an assistant professor and fiction coordinator. She was the recipient of the 2010 Harper Lee Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Writer of the Year, and in 2009 she received the Richard Wright Award for Literary Excellence.
James is the author of over 20 books, both mystery fiction and non-fiction. He is a seventh generation Mississippian having grown up in Grenada County. He is a proud double alumnus of Delta State ’80 and ’81. He also holds a Ph.D. in history from Rice University.
James has published articles on library science, the history of science and medicine and mystery fiction. His first book, which he co-wrote with fellow librarian Jean Swanson, was “By a Woman’s Hand.” In all, he has co-authored or co-edited six works of mystery reference and one short story anthology.
He has won the Agatha and Macavity Awards for his non-fiction and has twice been nominated for the Edgar Award for Best Critical/Biographical work. Formerly the general manager of Murder by the Book in Houston, he is currently a librarian in the Texas Medical Center. Writing as Miranda James, he is the New York Times bestselling author of the “Cat in the Stacks” mysteries, as well as mysteries under his own name and the pseudonyms Jimmie Ruth Evans and Honor Hartman.
In James’s series “The Cat in The Stacks,” the main character is a southern gentleman by the name of Charlie Harris. Charlie is a librarian in the town of Athena, based loosely on Oxford, Miss. In an interview with Deborah Crombie, he said of the fictional town of Athena, “I’ve tried to imbue it with the kind of feeling that I remember from my youth in Mississippi, a small — but not too small — town where longtime residents know one another, where there’s a strong sense of community and a sense of history.”
The upcoming author events in Cleveland are free and open to the public and are supported in part by a grant from the Mississippi Humanities Council. For more information, contact the Department of Continuing Education at 662-846-4833.