Los Angeles Times Names Book Prize Winners
21st annual literary awards presented April 28 at UCLA’s Royce Hall

LOS ANGELES, April 30, 2001 – The Los Angeles Times Book Prizes presented its prestigious Robert Kirsch Award to noted poet, City Lights publisher and bookseller Lawrence Ferlinghetti, author of “A Coney Island of the Mind” and “What Is Poetry.” The Times also presented its first Book Prize in the Mystery/Thriller category to Val McDermid, author of “A Place of Execution: A Novel” (St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur).

Ferlinghetti, McDermid and eight other Book Prize winners were honored during a 7:30 p.m. awards ceremony held April 28 at UCLA’s Royce Hall. Each winner will receive a $1,000 cash award.

Prize-winning author, KCRW-FM commentator and Public Radio International contributor Sandra Tsing Loh served as emcee.

The annual Robert Kirsch Award is presented to a living author whose residence and/or focus is the American West and whose contributions to American letters merit body-of-work recognition. The award is named after the late Robert Kirsch – novelist, editor, teacher and one of the nation’s foremost book critics – who served as The Times’ book critic for more than 25 years prior to his death in 1980.

The Los Angeles Times Book Prizes, established in 1980, recognize outstanding literary achievements in nine categories: biography, current interest, fiction, first fiction, history, mystery/thriller, poetry, science and technology, and young adult fiction. The Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction commemorates the work of the late Times book editor and Book Prize program founder.

The Book Prize winner in each of the eight remaining categories is:

Biography – William J. Cooper, Jr., “Jefferson Davis, American” (Alfred A. Knopf);

Current Interest – Frances FitzGerald, “Way Out There in the Blue: Reagan, Star Wars and the End of the Cold War” (Simon & Schuster);

Fiction – David Means, “Assorted Fire Events: Stories” (Context Books);

History – Alice Kaplan, “The Collaborator: The Trial and Execution of Robert Brasillach” (University of Chicago Press);

Poetry – Gjertrud Schnackenberg, “The Throne of Labdacus” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux);

Science and Technology – James Le Fanu, M.D., “The Rise and Fall of Modern Medicine” (Carroll & Graf);

Young Adult Fiction – Jacqueline Woodson, “Miracle’s Boys” (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers); and

Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction – Pankaj Mishra, “The Romantics: A Novel” (Random House).

Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalists were selected by eight three-member committees. (Fiction category judges also choose the First Fiction finalists.) Most of the judges are published authors and serve a two-year term. None of the judges, except for the Kirsch award, are Los Angeles Times employees.

There is no nationality requirement for author nominees in any category. With the exception of significant new translations of a deceased author’s work, all authors should be living at the time of U.S. publication.

Finalists in each category were:


  • H.W. Brands, “The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin” (Doubleday)
  • Joseph J. Ellis,” Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation” (Alfred A. Knopf)
  • Ian Kershaw, “Hitler, 1936-1945: Nemesis” (W.W. Norton)
  • Philip Short, “Mao: A Life” (a John Macrae Book, Henry Holt)

Current Interest

  • Ian Buruma, “The Missionary and the Libertine: Love and War in East and West” (Random House)
  • Sherwin B. Nuland, “The Mysteries Within: A Surgeon Reflects on Medical Myths” (Simon & Schuster)
  • S.L. Price, “Pitching Around Fidel: A Journey into the Heart of Cuban Sports” (HarperCollins/Ecco)
  • Patrick Tierney, “Darkness in El Dorado: How Scientists and Journalists Devastated the Amazon” (W.W. Norton)


  • Michael Chabon, “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay: A Novel” (Random House)
  • Peter Ho Davies, “Equal Love: Stories (Houghton Mifflin)
  • Philip Roth, “The Human Stain” (Houghton Mifflin)
  • Joy Williams, “The Quick & the Dead” (Alfred A. Knopf)


  • Shareen Blair Brysac, “Resisting Hitler: Mildred Harnack and the Red Orchestra” (Oxford University Press)
  • Tim Judah, “Kosovo: War and Revenge” (Yale University Press)
  • Alexander Keyssar, “The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United States” (Basic Books)
  • Nathaniel Philbrick, “In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex” (Viking)

Mystery/Thriller (category added in 2000)

  • James Lee Burke, “Purple Cane Road: A Novel” (Doubleday)
  • Michael Dibdin, “Blood Rain: An Aurelio Zen Mystery” (Pantheon)
  • George P. Pelecanos, “Shame the Devil: A Novel” (Little, Brown)
  • Peter Robinson, “Cold Is the Grave: A Novel of Suspense” (William Morrow)


  • Anne Carson, “Men in the Off Hours” (Alfred A. Knopf)
  • Michael Collier, “The Ledge: Poems” (Houghton Mifflin)
  • Nick Flynn, “Some Ether: Poems” (Graywolf Press)
  • Carl Phillips, “Pastoral: Poems” (Graywolf Press)

Science and Technology (category added in 1989)

  • David Bodanis, “E=MC2: A Biography of the World’s Most Famous Equation” (Walker & Company)
  • Dennis Overbye, “Einstein in Love: A Scientific Romance” (Viking)
  • Matt Ridley, “Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters” (HarperCollins)
  • Karl Sabbagh, “A Rum Affair: A True Story of Botanical Fraud” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Young Adult Fiction (category added in 1998)

  • Adam Bagdasarian, “Forgotten Fire” (DK Publishing)
  • Carolyn Coman, “Many Stones” (Front Street)
  • Pam Muñoz Ryan, “Esperanza Rising” (Scholastic)
  • Lori Aurelia Williams, “When Kambia Elaine Flew in from Neptune” (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)

The Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction (category added in 1991)

  • Helen DeWitt, “The Last Samurai: A Novel” (Talk Miramax Books)
  • Matthew Klam, “Sam the Cat and Other Stories” (Random House)
  • Akhil Sharma, “An Obedient Father” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
  • Zadie Smith, “White Teeth: A Novel” (Random House)

The Los Angeles Times, a Tribune Publishing company, is the largest metropolitan newspaper in the country and the winner of 25 Pulitzer Prizes. The Times publishes four daily regional editions covering the Los Angeles metropolitan area, Orange and Ventura counties and the San Fernando Valley, as well as an Inland Valley section and a National Edition.