Willie Morris Award for Fiction nominees plus acoustic roots music from the pre-war era!

The Mississippi Delta and West Mills, North Carolina are the locales for our two riveting novels, plus Appalachian music by way of Seattle!

October 24, 2020 at 7 pm (CT) Mississippi Public Broadcasting; 9 pm (CT) Alabama Public Radio; 3 (ET) University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Thursdays 6 pm (CT) University of Mississippi; Time/date WYXR Memphis Public Radio TBA

Saturday, October 24, The Thacker Mountain Radio Hour welcomes two debut novelists who are nominated for the Willie Morris Award For Fiction plus unique tunes from a by-gone era!

(Note: The third nominee for the Willie Morris Fiction award is Margaret Wilkerson Sexton for “The Revisioners.” She appeared on our show on 11-7-19. You can hear that show here. The winner of the Willie Morris Awards for Southern Writing, given in poetry and fiction (and soon, non-fiction) are set to be announced on March 12, 2021).

Guests: Novelists Chanelle Benz and De’ Shawn Charles Winslow and acoustic roots duo, Ben Hunter and Joe Seamons

Hosts: Jim Dees and our house band, the Yalobushwhackers

Air times:

Saturday. October 24 – 7pm (CT) Mississippi Public Broadcasting

9pm (CT) Alabama Public Radio

3 pm (ET) University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Thursdays 6 pm (CT) WUMS – University of Mississippi

Time/date WYXR Memphis Public Radio TBA



Chanelle Benz

Chanelle Benz’s debut novel is The Gone Dead (Ecco) an inventive, gritty and astonishing story about race, justice, and memory that lays bare the long-concealed wounds of a family and a country.

A small inheritance leads to a great mystery. Billie James, a cosmopolitan urbanite from Philadelphia, inherits a shack in the Mississippi Delta from her father, an acclaimed black poet who died one mysterious night when she was 4. She returns 30 years later with her dog and a gun for protection in the rural South. The house is obscured, her father’s death is more mysterious than previously thought and stories surface that she herself went missing the night of his death.

As she moves among the locals, the mysteries intensify and suddenly these forgotten parts of her past put her in danger.

The Gone Dead was a New York Times Book Review Editors Choice and has been nominated for the Willie Morris Award For Fiction. Benz’s previous book was the story collection, The Man Who Shot My Eye Out Is Dead, which was long-listed for the 2018 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction.

Benz lives in Memphis where she teaches at Rhodes College.

De' Shawn Charles Winslow

De’Shawn Charles Winslow’s debut novel In West Mills (Bloomsbury Publishing) is a big-hearted, small-town story about family, friendship, storytelling, and the redemptive power of love.

The people of West Mills, North Carolina love to gossip about Azalea “Knot” Centre, but their wagging tongues won’t keep Knot from what she loves: cheap moonshine, nineteenth-century literature, and the company of men. And yet, when motherhood looms, Knot begins to learn that her freedom has come at a high price. Low on money, ostracized from her parents and cut off from her hometown, Knot turns to her neighbor, Otis Lee Loving, in search of some semblance of family and home. Turns out, Otis Lee has his share of troubling secrets.

“Winslow’s quietly glorious novel is dedicated “To the reader,” and it engages on a level that’s appropriately intimate.” — Boston Globe

In West Hills is a winner of the Center for Fiction 2019 First Novel Prize, and a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice. The book is nominated for the Willie Morris Award For Fiction.

De’Shawn Charles Winslow was born and raised in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. He is a 2017 graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and holds a BFA in creative writing and an MA in English literature from Brooklyn College. He lives in the New York City area.


Ben Hunter and Joe Seamons

Seattle songsters Ben Hunter and Joe Seamons celebrate old-timey music by bouncing from fiddle and banjo breakdowns to a cappella field hollers. Their repertoire takes in early jazz and gospel songs, dance tunes and prison ballads, They also celebrate Piedmont style blues and gospel shouts with kazoos and rattlin’ bones. Such versatility has garnered the duo much acclaim including winning the International Blues Challenge in 2016.

Their performances are highlighted by story-telling that ties history with current events.

Their albums include Do You Call That A Buddy? with harmonicaist Phil Wiggins; The North Wind and Stars and Take Yo Time.

“Ben Hunter and Joe Seamons aren’t so much a throw-back to the music of the pre-war era songster tradition as they are alchemist-shamans, seemingly sent from those times to the 21st century to wake us up to the music that is embedded deep within us. It is our national heritage.” — No Depression