The Western North Carolina Historical Association has named Back of Beyond: A Horace Kephart Biography the winner of the 2019 Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award. Written by George Ellison and Janet McCue, edited by Frances Figart and published by Great Smoky Mountains Association, the book is the 64th winner of this annual recognition of distinction for qualifying works of fiction, nonfiction, drama or poetry.
“The committee was especially struck by the depth of research and the objective and nuanced perspective that Ellison and McCue show in their work,” said Brandon Johnson, chair of the award committee and instructor at Mars Hill University.
Kephart came to North Carolina after having endured a breakdown of his health and his marriage. It was in the Smokies that he pieced together a life as an author and an advocate. Kephart believed that the mountain wilderness saved his life—a conviction that led him to champion the establishment of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
“Although there was interest from a commercial publisher, we selected GSMA to publish the biography,” said McCue. “Given Kephart’s dedication to the Smokies, we felt that the park should be the beneficiary of proceeds from the book.”
"Without the patience and professionalism displayed by the GSMA staff on all levels during the past decade there would be no Back of Beyond biography to celebrate," observed George Ellison. "Just as Thomas Wolfe had a special relationship with his editor, Maxwell Perkins at Scribner's, GSMA’s editor Frances Figart worked closely with Janet and myself, always stressing the importance of keeping the narrative moving so as to create a text that is not only substantive but also pleasurable to read."
A prize of $2,500 and trophy will be presented to the authors at an awards ceremony Saturday, November 16, from 4–6 p.m. at the Renaissance Hotel, 31 Woodfin Street, Asheville, directly across the street from the Thomas Wolfe Memorial State Historic Site. Admission is $15 for the general public and $10 for WNCHA members, and the ceremony will be followed by a reception.
The other 2019 finalists, chosen from 21 nominations, are: