As you might have heard, my first novel has just been published, and this makes me so happy that I want to make you happy too. No, Rory, no more piggyback rides; I’m talking about a raffle with prizes from some of my well-placed friends!
Since the book is set in Southern Illinois, the raffle is themed to that region, in which there’s so much that’s beautiful, colorful, and good. Why, just this week I learned that the grandson of the madam of what was once the most infamous bagnio between Chicago and New Orleans is an MD—specializing in urology. Isn’t that marvelous? Isn’t that wonderful? Onward and upward.
Though some awful things happen in the book—as they did in life, and still do all over—the communal narrator steps in at the last to declare, “We’ve never lost faith. We have everything. We have water, and we have land to hold the water. And we have fuel and crops and family and hope.” To my mind, this could be the voice of today’s America.
Mrs. Churm had first suggested I hold a contest when my book came out. The winner would get an all-expenses paid guided tour of the places in the novel and of some of my other favorite things about Southern Illinois: Giant City State Park’s wonderful Civilian Conservation Corps lodge, where I practically grew up; the Shawnee wine trail; the gorgeous orchards brimming with fruit; and rock climbing, hiking, camping, and fishing in the 300-million year old hills.
Yeah, we’re not gonna do any of that.
Instead, just send drop me an e-mail (at Oronte.Churm@InsideHigherEd.com) with the title “Southern Illinois Rocks,” and you’ll be entered into a raffle with winners chosen by random-number generator. (I won’t use your e-mail for anything other than letting you know when my next book comes out. If you’d rather not know, Rory, just say so in the e-mail.)
The very cool prizes, to be drawn in this order, and their remarkable sponsors:
Inside Higher Ed, your best source for news in higher education—daily, online, free—and my bloggerly home, will give away one $25 gift certificate to Amazon, which can, handily enough, be used to buy my book if you like.
The University of Illinois Press will give away two copies (awarded separately) of Bloody Williamson: A Chapter in American Lawlessness, by Paul M. Angle. This is the definitive nonfiction history of the vendetta, mine war, and bootlegging violence in my home county, where my novel is set. The New Yorker calls it “a shocking story, well told,” and any history or true-crime buff will love it.
UI Press will also give away one 3-volume boxed set of Folksongs of Illinois, a project of the Illinois Humanities Council, which covers the entire state and includes songs about notorious bootlegger Charlie Birger and the Shawneetown Flood. Artists include Carl Sandburg and the Staples Singers, the 1930s WLS National Barn Dance artists, the Girls of the Golden West, and 1920s countrybluesman Henry Spaulding from Cairo. There are also tracks from well known alt-country stars like Jon Langford from the Mekons, Janet Bean from Eleventh Dream Day, and Kelly Hogan. Added to that are songs from folk legend Art Thieme, Decatur’s Deacon James Biggs and the St. John Missionary Choir, labor songster Bucky Halker, and Tejano balladeers Silvano Ramos and Daniel Ramirez.
Southern Illinois University Press, which has a hot new website, is giving away three books from its Shawnee Classics and Shawnee Books Series, which I grew up with:
A Southern Illinois Album: Farm Security Administration Photographs, 1936-1943. Part of FDR’s depression-era program to help “explain America to Americans,” the photos here are beautiful, stark, and dramatic, in the vein of Dorothea Lange, who also worked for the FSA.
Tales and Songs of Southern Illinois, collected by Charles Neely. Where else will you read stories called “The Flight of the Naked Teamsters” and “The Dug Hill Booger”? This book gives a real feel for early settlers’ lives though their folklore.
A Knight of Another Sort, by Gary DeNeal, is the true story of Charlie Birger, a charismatic and popular bootlegger who would “support twelve or fifteen families, buy coal, groceries. . . . [But] he had cold eyes, a killer's eyes [and he’d] kill you for something somebody else would punch you in the nose for.” Born in Lithuania, Shachna Itzik Birger became a soldier, cowboy, saloon-keeper, and fighter of the Ku Klux Klan, and ended his life on the gallows.
Speaking of Gary DeNeal, who was so helpful during the writing of my novel and who’s become such a good online friend: Gary has published Springhouse (“An Adventure Shaped Like a Magazine”) for 26 years on the history and culture of Southern Illinois. As the local-history movement builds, it will be on the shoulders of regional giants like this one. Past issues have included articles on the Native American Piasa Bird, the Alton Mummy, early mistletoe traditions, the Civil War, Ohio River floods, fiddlers of the Ozarks, and hundreds more topics. One lucky winner will get a one-year subscription (six issues) to Springhouse if selected.
Finally, you might win a Southern Illinois Miners’ baseball hat, or a Miners’ mascot baseball. The Miners are in the Frontier League; their stadium is located at the intersection of I-57 and Route 13 in Marion, Illinois.
Raffle entry will close at noon, CST, July 10. If you’ve won I’ll e-mail you for your name and address. (If winners don’t respond within a week, I’ll pass the prizes on to the next randomly-generated winner.) Please allow 4-6 weeks, as they say, for delivery of your prize.
Again: Oronte.Churm@InsideHigherEd.com. Good luck!