Winner Nilsen Prize for a First Novel
Publication: October 1, 2015
Tate Cowlishaw is late for another faculty meeting when he discovers the body of Scoot Simkins, dean of Parshall College. Cowlishaw might be legally blind but sees that a man with three bullets in his head didn’t put them there himself. The police disagree. When Cowlishaw investigates, he is told his teaching contract won’t be renewed. Suspects aren’t hard to come by at the college annually ranked “Worst Value” by U.S. News & World Report. While the faculty brace for a visit from the accreditation board, Cowlishaw’s investigation leads him to another colleague on eternal sabbatical. Before long, his efforts to save his job become efforts to stay alive. A farcical tale of incompetence and corruption, Academy Gothic scathingly redefines higher education as it chronicles the last days of a dying college.
“In attempt to describe the experience of reading this novel, I am compelled for the first time in my life to use the term ‘uproarious.’ Smartly funny, wildly paced, tonally perfect, it’s also blisteringly honest—especially on the subject of our decrepit institutions. Academy Gothic combines the wit of Kingsley Amis with the absurdist vision of Nathanael West. It’s far more than a boilerplate who-done-it, though it is everywhere and always concerned with the mysteries that both define and forever fail to explain us.” —Michael Parker, author of All I Have in This World
“Academy Gothic is a fast-paced, hilarious, who-done-it noir jammed with jaw-dropping similes even Raymond Chandler would envy. Infused with impeccably timed, deadpan humor, the robust prose between these pages is crafted by a true wordsmith.” —Marie Manilla, author of The Patron Saint of Ugly
“Half murder mystery, half ghost story, and half satire of higher education in America, Academy Gothic rollicks from start to finish. It is a joy to read. James Tate Hill writes with genuine charm and a keen eye for the absurd.” —Andrew Ervin, author of Burning Down George Orwell’s House
“A murder mystery set in a dismal, crumbling college, Academy Gothic is both dark and delightfully funny. Stubborn, jaded, legally blind Tate Cowlishaw is a compelling amateur hardboiled detective, navigating the murk of office politics thickened by bloody murder.”—Steph Cha, author of Follow Her Home
James Tate Hill was born in Charleston, West Virginia. A graduate of the creative writing programs at Hollins University and the University of North Carolina Greensboro, his fiction has appeared in Story Quarterly, Sonora Review, The Texas Review, The Laurel Review, and elsewhere. He is the fiction editor for the literary magazine Monkeybicycle and lives in Greensboro with his wife, Lori. www.jamestatehill.com • @jamestatehill
Watch the book trailer for Academy Gothic here.
Read storySouth’s review here.