Olympia Vernon Reads at Friends of the Library Event

Olympia VernonNew Hallie Ford Chair Olympia Vernon will read from her novels Monday, Sept. 18, at 4:30 p.m. in the Hatfield Room of the Hatfield Library at Willamette University. Light refreshments will be served at 4:15 p.m. The reading is free to the public.

Olympia Vernon's raw and formidable talents are on arresting display in earlier novels, "Eden" and "Logic." Her third novel, "A Killing in This Town," is a taut, poetic masterpiece that exhumes a horrific epoch from the annals of the American South.

There is a menace in the woods of Bullock County, Miss., and not only for the black man destined to be lynched when a white boy comes of age. The white men who work at the Pauer Plant are in danger, too, but they turn a deaf ear to the black pastor's urgent warning that the factory is slowly killing them. They are determined to carry on as they always have. Adam Pickens, a white boy on the eve of his 13th birthday, isn't sure he wants to wear the garb being readied for him by the Klan seamstress or participate in the town's ugly ritual. It is only when Gill Mender, a man haunted by past sins, returns to town that redemption seems possible.

A pivotal work of fiction, "A Killing in This Town" exposes the fragile hierarchy of a society poisoned by hatred, and shows the power of one individual to stand up to the demons of history and bring the cycle of violence to an end.

"Olympia Vernon's new novel, a fever-dream evocation of a small Mississippi town" shows "brutal echoes of Emmett Till in the central recurring image," wrote the The New York Times Book Review. "Vernon ... intimate[s] how cyclical violence in a town finds a way of seeping poisonously into its blood and stunting its growth."

Kirkus Reviews wrote, "This is a powerful, difficult work by a writer absolutely determined to see," and according to Publishers Weekly, the "fugue of folk idiom, blues, biblical diction and surreal imagery makes for lots of atmosphere."

Olympia Vernon's first novel, "Eden," was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, and she is the winner of the 2004 Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 2005 she received the Louisiana Governor's Award for Professional Artist of the Year.

For more information contact Olympia Vernon at or 503-370-6290.