Novel, Into the Hidden Valley authored by Stuart Blackburn on 4 September 2016 won the 2016 MM Bennetts Award for Historical Fiction in the UK. The author was presented the award at the HNS Conference in Oxford.
The book published by Speaking Tiger narrates the story of the Apatani tribe of Arunachal Pradesh during British India. It also looks into a little-known episode in the colonial history of British India.
Into the Hidden Valley explores and portrays the impacts of the forces of colonialism on both sides when this settled civilisation forcibly collides with British Empire.
Into the Hidden Valley was chosen for the award ahead of Helena Page Schrader's Defender of Jerusalem and Allegiance by Kermit Roosevelt.
• Stuart Blackburn was born in Providence, Rhode Island.
• He completed his doctorate in Tamil language and international folklore from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1980.
• He had served the Peace Corps (one of the few remaining alternatives to serving in the military in Vietnam).
• He is the author or editor of 16 books on Indian culture and folklore, mainly in south India (where his first novel, Murder in Melur, is set) and northeast India.
• One book, a study of shadow puppet theatre in Kerala, won the runner-up prize for the UK Folklore Book of the Year, while a translation of an early Tamil novel won the AK Ramanujan Prize in the United States.
• He was also the director of a five-year, multi-disciplinary grant to study Tibeto-Burman tribal cultures in northeast India, which provided him with the inspiration for Into the Hidden Valley.
MM Bennetts Award for Historical Fiction
The award is named in memory of writer-historian MM Bennetts who was a specialist in early 19th century British history and the Napoleonic wars as well as a keen cross country and dressage rider.
Before turning to writing novels full-time, Bennetts was a French translator and a longstanding book critic for the Pulitzer-prize winning newspaper, 'The Christian Science Monitor'.
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Where: HNS Conference in Oxford
When: 4 September 2016