Southern book critics tap Mason, Nordan, Berendt

Novelists Bobbie Ann Mason and Lewis Nordan and New York City writer John Berendt have won the 1994 Southern Book Awards, given by the Southern Book Critics Circle.

The SBCC also announced that it will give its Distinguished Service Award for lifetime achievement to award-winning Southern historian C. Vann Woodward, Sterling professor emeritus of history at Yale University.


The awards will be presented Oct. 9 at the Tennessee hTC Humanities Council brunch on the concluding day of the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville, Tenn.

Ms. Mason and Mr. Nordan tied for the fiction award, the first time a tie has occurred since the awards began in 1991.


Ms. Mason, who lives outside Lawrenceburg, Ky., won for "Feather Crowns" (HarperCollins), the story of a woman who gives birth to quintuplets in turn-of-the-century western


Mr. Nordan, an Itta Bena, Miss., native who is professor of creative writing at the University of Pittsburgh, won for his novel "Wolf Whistle" (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill). This story of a fourth-grade teacher is a meditation on the meaning of evil and is based on the murder of Emmett Till, a black youth, in Mississippi in 1955.

Mr. Berendt won the nonfiction award for "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" (Random House), an account of a murder in Savannah, Ga., in 1981. He writes a monthly column for Esquire magazine and is a former editor of New York magazine.

Mr. Woodward, an 85-year-old Arkansas native, has produced interpretations of the post-Reconstruction South that have made him one of the most influential American historians of his time. He taught at the Johns Hopkins University from 1946 to 1960 before moving to Yale.

His numerous books include: "Tom Watson: Agrarian Rebel" (1938); the Bancroft Prize-winning "Origins of the New South, 1877-1913" (1951); "The Strange Career of Jim Crow" (1955); "The Burden of Southern History" (1960); and the Pulitzer Prize-winning "Mary Chesnut's Civil War" (1981).

The Southern Book Critics Circle was created in 1990. Books that qualify for its awards must be about the South or set in the South, though the authors need not be from the South. This year's awards went to books published between May 1, 1993, and April 30, 1994.