The author Attica Locke has been announced as the winner of the 2016 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction and will join an esteemed group of previous recipients such as John Grisham and Michael Connelly when she is honoured at the 6th Annual Harper Lee Prize ceremony which will take place in September.
First given in 2011 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird the competition is awarded to a published work of fiction that best illuminates the role of
lawyers in society and their power to effect change; it must be available through commercial sources and if in eBook format must not be a manuscript but a properly published novel. Although the final deciding vote is made by a panel of judges, the public can vote for their favourite contender and their votes are taken into consideration when the winner is selected.
Co-sponsored by the University of Alabama School of Law and the American Bar Association Journal The Harper Lee prize for 2016 was taken from a group of three finalists which included “Allegiance” by Kermit Roosevelt and “Tom & Lucky and George & Cokey Flo” by C. Joseph Greaves.
Allen Pusey, who is the editor and publisher of the ABA Journal said of the winning novel that “‘Pleasantville’ is a richly constructed narrative truly worthy of this recognition.”
Attica will receive her prize on September 22nd.
Attica Locke’s winning novel Pleasantville takes place in 1996; Bill Clinton has just been re-elected and there is a mayoral election in Houston with the focus of the campaign being Pleasantville where the African American community holds sway. The prime candidate is Axel Hathorne, former chief of police and the son of Pleasantville’s founding father Sam Hathorne, and he is a shoe in to become the city’s first black Mayor. That is until a late candidate appears; high flying and riding the wave of a successful high profile murder trial, defence attorney Sandy Wolcott looks set to push Axel right to the very end of the competition. The whole campaign is further complicated when a girl goes missing whilst canvassing for Axel, and after her body is discovered it is Axel’s nephew who is charged with her murder. The ensuing trial threatens to blow the entire community wide open, and reveal the lengths that those with power are willing to go to hold onto it.