A First Novel, “Hawk,” by William Wallis Wins Benjamin Franklin Award; Story to Continue in 3 More Novels

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When William Wallis (poet, essayist, teacher, opera singer) thought of telling a story of an Arkansas family, he found himself thinking of four stories. The first story, “Hawk,” became his first novel. Wallis was surprised when “Hawk” won the 2006 Benjamin Franklin Award in Fiction, but the award and the plan for three more stories could signal the arrival of a new talent.

I finished Part 2 (rough draft) of Warrant's Chapel (working title) today. I developed all three drafts concurrently, which is my method at present: composing pieces of a complex scenario as they lend themselves to the mosaic.

Bill Wallis was born in Florida, grew up in Arkansas, earned his bachelor’s degree at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, did graduate work at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, was stage director and singer of opera in Europe, and now teaches at Los Angeles Valley College. Work, family, and community activities fill Wallis's schedule, but he still finds time to write poetry and essays—and now a novel.

When Wallis had a draft of an unconventional novel to begin the story of the Falke family, his publisher tried to steer him toward conventional forms. Methods were modified; approach was not, and “Hawk” took wing. The flight caught the eyes of judges, who made “Hawk” the winner of a Benjamin Franklin Award, given annually by Publishers Marketing Association, an organization of almost 4,000 independent publishers.

“Hawk” appears in the Benjamin Franklin Award section of PMA’s ad in the August 14, 2006 issue of “Publishers Weekly.”

The novel—a lyric narrative of family and survival—combines the Southern literary tradition of Faulkner and Conroy with current expression. It builds with the imagery of the poet and the focus of the essayist to narrate conflicts and joys in the seventh year of Will Falke, the central character in Wallis's four novels.

Literary analyst John Zounes, after writing of surviving childhood and of the South and its writers, turns to Will Falke:

“Wallis’s protagonist is a child of the Fifties, both cursed and blessed, both enduring and prevailing.

“He is cursed by the loss of an eye, by the stinging pain of a ferocious father’s punishing hand, by the taunts and humiliations from schoolmates, by a mother who almost abandons him—and his family—because nature almost causes her to abandon herself.

“Blessed? On his family’s farm, nature invites him to learn her ways: the same bristling father trains the boy in choring and fortitude, one neighbor—a Black—teaches him chess and friendship, another—a Jew—bestows upon him the lyricism of classical music, he is nursed—anointed—with love by women, and, finally, the bird of the title shows the boy what freedom looks—feels—like.

“Wallis shreds the politically generic phrase “family values”; instead, he renders in hard-edged gem-like scenes the value of a family.”

To read Zounes’s full and rich commentary on "Hawk," click here.

Amazon Reviewer Beth Martin Brown offers this snapshot: “The art of Southern storytelling lives in Hawk. . . . Memorable characters such as Alma, a kind and patient nurse who teaches Will to read; Ruth, Will's fragile mother who teaches him a love for classical music and singing; Tyree, his gentle neighbor who pays attention to him; and his complexly cruel father, Ray, shape this narrative as well as our protagonist's life. . . .”

And Amazon Reviewer Peggi Ridgway offers another: “This moving saga carries the reader through changing tapestry of events and emotions. . . . We are part of the experiences of Will, his parents, his sisters, and others he loves who love him. . . . In the meadow, in the milking shed with , in the library stacks with Miss Jones, the music captures us, the poetry engages us, the honesty speaks to us.”

Rod Val Moore, winner of the Iowa Short Fiction Award and author of “Igloos Among Palms” writes of “the power of lyrical language,” “a magical Arkansas,” and “a beautifully rendered rural past, steeped in pain and loss, that will stay in readers’ minds . . . for a long time.”

Novelist Wallis emailed this note Aug 25: “I finished Part 2 (rough draft) of Warrant's Chapel (working title) today. I developed all three drafts concurrently, which is my method at present: composing pieces of a complex scenario as they lend themselves to the mosaic.”

Book reviewers and feature writers, please contact us. Readers: please visit http://www.stoneandscott.com/

“Hawk” is from a Los Angeles author and a Los Angeles publisher.

“Hawk” is available from the publisher, Abebooks, Amazon, Book Wholesalers, Inc., and Baker & Taylor.

“Hawk” is a 5x8 trade paperback of 158 pages priced at $12.95. ISBN 1-891135-07-4.

Contact: Les Boston

Stone and Scott, Publishers

818-904-9088     Fax 818-787-1431

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