David Gordon has won the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award, which honors an outstanding debut novel published during a calendar year. His winning book is The Serialist, a darkly humorous noir parody that chronicles the adventures of a pulp writer embroiled in a real-life unsavory plot.
Gordon will receive the award at the First Novelist Festival at Virginia Commonwealth University in November. He was one of three finalists for the prize, which celebrates its tenth anniversary this year. The other finalists were Heidi W. Durrow, for The Girl Who Fell from the Sky, and Richard Harvell, for The Bells.
The novel, published in March 2010 by Simon & Schuster, is narrated by Harry Bloch, who, after agreeing to write the memoirs of an infamous serial killer, finds himself an unlikely murder detective. As the plot twists, Harry’s insights as a writer simultaneously lend comedy and build suspense.
The Serialist has received critical acclaim. Owen Hill declared in The Los Angeles Times, “The book is funny, with a satirical edge, and unlike some literary authors who play with genre, Gordon knows how to write a potboiler.” Michele Leber, in a starred Booklist review, wrote, “Seldom has a serial-killer story been as richly textured and laugh-out-loud funny as this one.”
The VCU Cabell First Novelist Award celebrates the VCU MFA in Creative Writing Program’s year-long novel workshop – the first in the nation and still one of the few in existence. The winning author receives a $5,000 cash prize. Travel expenses and lodging also are provided for the author and his or her agent and editor to attend the First Novelist Festival, a series of events that focus on the creation, publication, and promotion of a debut novel. Co-sponsors of the award are the VCU Department of English, the James Branch Cabell Library Associates, the VCU Friends of the Library, the VCU Libraries, the VCU Honors College, and the VCU College of Humanities and Sciences.
More than 100 novels were submitted for consideration for this year’s prize. A group of over 100 readers reduced the list to finalists and semifinalists. The finalists were then considered by a panel of judges consisting of Victor Lodato, winner of the 2010 VCU Cabell First Novelist Award for Mathilda Savitch; Timothy Hulsey, dean of the VCU Honors College; and Marcela Valdes, books editor of The Washington Examiner and a
contributing editor for Publishers Weekly.
In addition to Lodato, previous winners of the award have included Deb Olin Unferth, for Vacation; Travis Holland, for The Archivist’s Story; Peter Orner, for The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo; Karen Fisher, for A Sudden Country; Lorraine Adams, for Harbor; and Michael Byers, for Long for this World.
The deadline for the 2012 VCU Cabell First Novelist Award is September 15 for books published January through June 2011. For books published July through December 2010, the deadline is January 17, 2012.