Marist Fiction Writer Awarded Prize for New Novel
Associate Professor of English Tommy Zurhellen was recently awarded a
Gold Medal for his second novel Apostle Islands at the 2013 Independent
Publisher Awards (IPPYs) in New York City.
“Winning one IPPY award is an achievement all in itself, “Zurhellen said. “Being
recognized a second year in a row for continuing that story means the world to me.”
Apostle Islands is the second book in the Messiah Trilogy, the ongoing tale of a
modern-day young messiah, who grows up in the lonely prairie and Badlands of North
Dakota, starting in the 1980s. Last year, the first book in the trilogy, Nazareth, North
Dakota (Atticus Books) won the "Best Fiction: Midwest" category at the 2012 IPPY
awards. The third and final entry in the series, Armageddon, Texas, is scheduled for
release in 2014, also by Atticus Books.
Publishers Weekly gave Apostle Islands a coveted starred review, saying, “It’s fun to
read Zurhellen’s novel, a sequel to Nazareth, North Dakota, as a roman à clef, since the correspondence to figures of the gospel stories is often not obvious. The point of such a literary exercise is to get the imagination, or re-imagination, going. Zurhellen used his, and dreamed up Sam Davidson, a regular Upper Midwestern guy, who is the son of Roxy, who likes her liquor; the beloved of Daylene Hooker; friend to a group of fishermen from Lake Superior, which really does have Apostle Islands. The loosely woven story has a chronology and chapter title tipoffs: ‘Sermon on the Mount,’ ‘First Epistle of Paul to the Romans’(which opens with a memo to Poncho S. Pelotti, an IRS official). Readers who don’t know the references will miss some humor. No one can miss the premise with which the book opens, which is both universally timeless and contemporary, theological, and secular: ‘Forget everything you know about heroes.’ Those who know the story will know what happens to charismatic Sam. If Jesus needs new PR, this is one imaginative possibility.”
Zurhellen has taught creative writing at Marist since 2004, and his short fiction and essays have appeared widely in literary journals, including South Dakota Review, Carolina Quarterly, and Crab Creek Review. He received his MFA in Fiction from the University of Alabama.
The IPPYs have been held annually each June since 1996 to recognize the best fiction and nonfiction titles from academic and small presses from around the world. This year, over 5,000 entries competed in 77 categories of fiction and nonfiction.
For more information on Apostle Islands, visit the Atticus Books website.