Novelist, essayist and screenwriter Christine Wiltz has been named recipient of the prestigious Louisiana Writer Award for 2013. The Louisiana Writer Award is chosen annually by a State Library-appointed committee to recognize extraordinary contributions to Louisiana’s literary and intellectual life.
Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne and State Librarian Rebecca Hamilton presented Wiltz the Louisiana Writer Award Nov. 2, 2013 in a ceremony kicking off the Louisiana Book Festival. Wiltz also discussed her work, including her latest book Shoot the Money, in a festival program with Susan Larson, host of WWNO’s The Reading Life.
The Louisiana Writer Award is given annually to recognize outstanding contributions to the literary and intellectual life of Louisiana. Past recipients include novelists James Lee Burke, Ernest J. Gaines, Shirley Ann Grau, Elmore Leonard, Tim Gautreaux, Valerie Martin, James Wilcox and John Biguenet; children’s author William Joyce; poets Yusef Komunyakaa and William Jay Smith; historian Carl A. Brasseaux; and scholar Lewis P. Simpson.
Christine Wiltz is the author of five novels, all set in New Orleans, as well as numerous articles and essays that have appeared in such publications as the New Yorker, the Los Angeles Times and Louisiana Life. Home to a vibrant and diverse literary scene, Wiltz’s native New Orleans has inspired much of her work, providing settings in which her characters must question everything, then act on their answers whether right or wrong.
“To be born in New Orleans is simply a terrific piece of luck, especially if you’re a raconteur, but then, every person you meet anywhere has a story they’d like to tell you,” Wiltz said. “In New Orleans they don’t hesitate. This is a city where creativity flourishes, from the downtown art scene to the dialogues you overhear in the aisles at the grocery store.”
After reading Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye, Wiltz was inspired to write about New Orleans the way Chandler wrote about Los Angeles. The result was The Killing Circle (1981) — her first book-writing endeavor — which grew into a mystery trilogy that also includes A Diamond Before You Die (1987) and The Emerald Lizard (1991).
The trilogy centers on Irish Channel detective Neal Rafferty who, like many New Orleanians, has a large dysfunctional family. Wiltz explained that Rafferty “was shaped to his own peculiarities by the city where he’d been born.”
Wiltz later wrote Rafferty, a screenplay adaption from The Killing Circle. She also co-wrote, co-directed and was associate producer of Backlash: Race and the American Dream, a 1992 documentary about David Duke and his followers that aired on PBS.
Wiltz’s novel Glass House (1994) is based on the true story of a police officer who was murdered near one of the most violent housing projects in New Orleans. The Last Madam: A Life in the New Orleans Underworld (2000) is based on interviews with Norma Wallace, operator of New Orleans’ last French Quarter parlor house, and more than 100 people.
Wiltz described her latest novel, Shoot the Money, as “social commentary disguised as a dark-humor crime novel” that investigates women’s ambition for money and a better life alongside themes of friendship, rivalry and violence. The novel is a product of Wiltz’s curiosity about the ways people — especially women — deal with money and secrets.
“Like my other books with New Orleans settings, its themes are both those that are peculiar to New Orleans, especially in the aftermath of Katrina, and many that are more universal,” Wiltz said.
Wiltz conducts creative writing seminars and has been a writer-in-residence and adjunct professor at Tulane University and Loyola University. She has delivered numerous speeches and readings and served on panels at literary events.
Wiltz is a board member of the New Orleans chapter of the Women’s National Book Association and the Walker Percy Center for Writing and Publishing at Loyola University. She has also served in a variety of leadership and planning capacities for the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival.
Join us at the 2013 Louisiana Book Festival as we recognize Louisiana Writer Award recipient Christine Wiltz and celebrate Louisiana’s culture and literary traditions.