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Wittliff Collections curator honored with PEN Award for nonfiction

Posted by Jayme Blaschke
University News Service
September 8, 2014

Steven L. Davis

Steven L. Davis

Steven L. Davis, a curator of the Wittliff Collections and an alumnus of Texas State University, and his co-author Bill Minutaglio have been awarded the PEN Research Nonfiction Award for their book, Dallas 1963.

The award will be presented by PEN Center USA, a literary nonprofit based in Beverly Hills, Calif., during the 24th Annual Literary Awards Festival to be held Nov. 11 in California. The winning works were judged by distinguished panels of writers, editors, critics and journalists in a range of categories honoring the best writing in the western United States.

"It is a very nice honor to receive," Davis said. "Texas State has become an emerging research university, so receiving this award for nonfiction research really fits in with that designation."  

Davis grew up in Dallas and says he was inspired to work on Dallas 1963 after reading the works of Texas authors and Wittliff archive donors such as Bud Shrake and Gary Cartwright. Since its publication, Dallas 1963 has garnered widespread praise. It was named a top nonfiction book of 2013 by Kirkus Reviews, while Parade Magazine listed it as one of the top three books on John F. Kennedy.

"There is such an enduring fascination with the Kennedy assassination. What we did was examine an overlooked part of the story. And it was a critical part of that story--what the environment was," Davis said. "Dallas was the most hostile, anti-Kennedy city in the country, but nobody had gone in and done the research.

"We knew we had a riveting subject. It was just a matter of doing good research and doing the story well. We were confident there would be interest," he said. "We heard from people who said, 'So many people go over and over Kennedy, but you guys really did find the one fresh angle on this history.' We were really pleased with that response, because that's what we were going for."

Davis is considered one of Texas’ leading scholars of its indigenous culture. His previous books include Texas Literary Outlaws and J. Frank Dobie: A Liberated Mind, and he has edited Land of the Permanent Wave: An Edwin "Bud" Shrake Reader and co-edited Lone Star Sleuths: Mystery/Detective Fiction from Texas for the Southwestern Writers Collection Book Series.

For more information on the 24th Annual Literary Awards Festival, contact PEN Center USA at awards@penusa.org.