William Gay, the Hohenwald native who late in life earned a following as one of the most acclaimed Southern writers of recent years, was reportedly found dead last night from heart failure at his Lewis County home. He was 68.
A Vietnam veteran who served in the Navy, Gay had been writing since he was 15 years old, supporting himself with carpentry and drywall-hanging jobs as well as a stint on a television-tube assembly line. It wasn't until 1998, however, that he published his first short stories, followed by his prize-winning first novel, The Long Home, in 1999.
Its celebrated follow-up, Provinces of Night, made Gay's literary name as an heir to the tradition of Faulkner and Flannery O'Connor. Of his three published novels and collected short stories — with a fourth novel, The Lost Country (excerpted here at Chapter16.org), as yet unpublished — Gay's works were twice filmed.
Gay's hard-living reputation only enhanced his literary mystique. He traveled often, however, and was scheduled to do a reading Monday at Lincoln Memorial University with fellow writer Sonny Brewer.
More details will be posted as they become available. In the meantime, read Serenity Gerbman's remembrance at Chapter16.org.