2015 Coil Book Award: Above All Men

Announcement originally published on 1/29/15

We are pleased to announce the winner for The 2015 Coil Book Award, honoring the independent press’ best published book of 2014, Above All Men, by Eric Shonkwiler. The winner is selected by an external panel that reads and judges all the entrants from independent presses in all our annual book contests, as well as all books reviewed on and submitted to The Volt over the previous year, and chooses one book or collection that shows outstanding merit, language, uniqueness, promise, and voice. Alternating Current does not determine the final outcome for the judging; the external judges’ decisions are final.

Our aim is to bring attention to an annual book that has incredible literary merit and appeals to a wider audience than it may have been able to reach, due to an ever-expanding, competitive market for indie presses. We want to help fantastic books reach the new and bigger audience they deserve, and reward indie presses with added promotion and support for releasing superior work. Presses, authors, publicists, and otherwise are welcome to submit their books for next year’s award HERE. Self-published books, short story collections, nonfiction, poetry, and books published in previous years are also accepted.

The winning book gains entrance into our Coil Select Books collection, if it is not already a Coil Selection, and receives book promotion through Alternating Current Promotions, including publicity, book tours, reviews, book club giveaways and discussions, blog tours, and author spotlights. The 2015 winner received a printed certificate, an honorarium, sponsored gifts, a listing on the Coil Book Award page and as a Coil Select Book on Alternating Current’s website, published author and book features on The Coil and through our partners, an engraved acrylic standing desk trophy, and our virtual wax seal, for personal and professional use on the author’s websites, blogs, and book covers. We proudly present the 2015 winner:

Above All Men
MG Press • March 2014

STAFF NOTES ON THE SELECTION: We here at Alternating Current have been singing this book’s praises since an early ARC first fell in our laps to review in October of 2013. We scratched our heads, said, “Who is this guy?” and then became immediate presidents of the Shonkwiler Fan Club before we made it off the first page. After our Editor-in-Chief reviewed it for Los Angeles Review of Books, we stood in line to get an autographed copy at the launch party at AWP 2014 in Seattle, set up an enormous book tour in promotion of it, made these kickass book teasers for it, named it the Best Book of 2014 by both our Editor-in-Chief and our Chief Staff Interviewer, and were not the least bit shocked when the external reading panel (selected by our sponsors and unassociated with Alternating Current) voted it a unanimous first-place winner over the many, many other great titles to choose from. Elated, yes. But not surprised. The novel is truly stunning, with an inexplicable magic that just begs you to keep reading.

The book, published by MG Press and chosen as a 2014 Midwest Connections Pick by the Midwest Independent Booksellers Association, is Shonkwiler’s first novel and centers around a farmer with PTSD struggling to keep his family and farm together in the wake of a near-future economic collapse and in the face of Steinbeckian dust storms, oil shortages, murder, and lawlessness unseen since the Wild West. Critics have called Above All Men “sparse and poetic” (Frank Bill), “stark and plainspokenly honest” (Sundog Lit), and “revelatory” (Chicago Book Review), and have said it “weaves a compelling narrative together with tightly written prose that makes the realities of the post-collapse society profoundly acute” (CCLaP). Our own Editor-in-Chief has said, “Shonkwiler lands somewhere between a soberer Hemingway, a more linear Faulkner, a heavy rotation of Nick Cave’s Murder Ballads, a couple’a shots of Bulleit, an infected snakebite, and Cormac McCarthy,” and plenty of others have sung its praises, as well as incorporating it as a Best Book of 2014 selection on multiple lists, including The Next Best Book Club’s, Bent Country’s, and Chicago Book Review’s. This is definitely not a book to be missed.

Eric Shonkwiler has had writing appear in Los Angeles Review of Books, The Millions, Fiddleblack, [PANK] Magazine, Midwestern Gothic, and elsewhere. He was born and raised in Ohio, received his MFA from University of California-Riverside as a Chancellor’s Distinguished Fellow, was recently selected as a New River Gorge Winter Writer-in-Residence at Lafayette Flats in West Virginia, and has lived and worked in every contiguous U.S. time zone. He is the winner of The 2015 Luminaire Award for Best Prose for his short story, “Chindi,” (determined by a separate external reading panel) and has formerly served as Regional Editor for Los Angeles Review of Books, a reader for [PANK], and Editor-in-Chief and Fiction Editor for Crate Magazine: The University of California-Riverside Review.

Above All Men is book one in a loose trilogy, the second of which is completed and has been picked up for publication in 2016. The debut is available in paperback as a personally signed edition from Shonkwiler’s website, in all other print and digital formats through MG Press’ website, and through major distributors, such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Ingram for booksellers (ISBN: 978–0988201323). Please, support a great author and a great independent press, and treat yourself to a copy. It’s better than cake and as good as bourbon.