Renowned author Michelle Richmond, a Mobile, Ala. native whose recent novel The Wonder Test has been hailed as a “gripping thriller” and witty satire of “high-stakes education,” will receive Troy University’s Hall-Waters Prize on April 14.
Richmond will discuss the evolution of her career from her debut short-story collection, The Girl in the Fall-Away Dress (2001) through such bestsellers as The Year of Fog (2007) and The Marriage Pact (2017), at 9:30 a.m. in the Lamar P. Higgins Ballroom in the Trojan Center on the Troy Campus. The event is free and open to the public.
The Hall-Waters Prize is endowed by TROY alumnus Dr. Wade Hall, an author, former member of the faculty at the University of Florida and professor emeritus of English at Bellarmine University in Louisville, KY. Dr. Hall, a native of Bullock County, endowed the prize as a memorial to his parents, Wade Hall Sr. and Sarah Elizabeth Waters Hall. The award is presented regularly to a person who has made significant contributions to Southern heritage and culture in history, literature or the arts.
“Michelle Richmond is a brilliant writer who walks a great line between satirizing social obsessions like marriage, education, and crime without sacrificing the empathy readers want to feel for characters,” said Dr. Kirk Curnutt, Chair of English at Troy University. “Her novels are at once rich in setting, encompassing both her native Alabama and more recently California, where she lives now, and yet intricate in plots that are both complex and heart-pounding.”
Richmond’s most recent novel, The Wonder Test, introduces a new protagonist, FBI Agent Lina Connerly.
“FBI agent Lina Connerly promises to become the star of a fictional franchise every bit as interesting as Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta series or Karin Slaughter’s Dr. Sara Linton novels,” Curnutt said. “It’s not easy to create a sleuth or crime solver whose interior life is as compelling as the thrillers she’s inveigled in, but with Lina, Michelle has accomplished that wonderfully. I can’t wait for the next Lina novel.”
Richmond was raised in Mobile and graduated from the University of Alabama with degrees in English and journalism. While pursuing an Master of Fine Arts in creative writing at the University of Arkansas, she met her future husband, Kevin, and relocated to the University of Miami. After stints in sales and advertising in New York City, she relocated to Beijing, China, an experience that inspired her first novel, The Dream of the Blue Room (2003). Eventually, she and her family relocated to the suburbs of her husband’s native Northern California, where the clashing political cultures of hi-tech, wellness and fitness, and gentrification have inspired her recent work. In addition to a new novel, she is currently writing a memoir about expatriate life during the pandemic in Paris, where she spent most of 2019-2021.
This year’s ceremony is particularly notable for the lead taken by English majors in Dr. Curnutt’s English 4495, senior seminar, organizing the event.
“We’re trying to give our majors practical, hands-on experience in publishing, literary tourism, and arts management,” Curnutt said. “The Hall-Waters Prize is a great opportunity for our students to step up and discover what it takes to host a public event, from curating an award to publicizing and promoting an author’s appearance. After April 14, they’ll be able to walk into any organization and host an event with aplomb.”
Past winners of the Hall-Waters Prize include Rep. John Lewis, Bobbie Ann Mason, Pat Conroy, Natasha Trethewey, Cassandra King, Ace Atkins, and the songwriting team of Dan Pan and Spooner Oldham, among others. A complete history of the award is available at https://www.troy.edu/academics/colleges-schools/college-communication-fine-arts/departments/english/hall-waters-prize.html.