2020 Oklahoma Book Awards


Shadow of the Taj
Lara Bernhardt
Black Opal Books

Leslie Matthews travels to Indian with her husband and risks everything to save Raveena, a twelve-year-old girl she first sees at the New Delhi Zoo, where her handlers force her to dance seductively for money. Wanting to help and haunted by her own dark past, Leslie follows the girl and finds herself drawn into the sex trafficking industry. When she learns Raveena will soon be forced into prostitution, Leslie resolves to save her. Yet, she faces obstacles everywhere. The police and embassy cannot help, and her husband refuses any assistance. Although Leslie is inexperienced in dealing with the shady underground associated with sexual slavery, she is determined to rescue the young girl, whatever the cost. Bernhard is a Pushcart-nominated writer, editor, and audiobook narrator. Her book The Wantland Files, was a finalist for the 2017 Oklahoma Book Award for fiction. Bernhard, and her husband William, live in Choctaw, Oklahoma.


The Last Chance Lawyer
William Bernhardt
Babylon Books

In this gripping legal thriller, Daniel Pike, the most notorious criminal lawyer in St. Petersburg, would rather fight for justice than follow the rules. After his courtroom career goes up in smoke, he receives a mysterious job offer from a secretive boss. He is to protect a young orphan from a terrifying fate. In order to do this, Pike must defend the girl’s guardian from a first-degree murder charge. Using every trick he knows, he uncovers a trail of deceit from Florida to El Salvador. When blood-soaked threats arrive, Pike realizes that winning the case might be a death sentence for him, and everyone he hoped to protect. Bernhardt is the nationally-bestselling author of more than forty books. He won the 1995 Oklahoma Book Award in fiction for Perfect Justice, and again in 2000 for Dark Justice. In 2019 Bernhardt received the Oklahoma Center for the Book’s Arrell Gibson Award for Lifetime Achievement. He and his wife, Lara, reside in Choctaw, Oklahoma.


The Wrong Girl
Donis Casey
Poisoned Pen Press

In Casey’s latest novel, the reader is transported to the 1920s, where a daring young girl chases her dream. Blanche Tucker longs to escape life in Boynton, Oklahoma. When Graham Peyton comes to town, posing as a film producer, he convinces the naïve teenager to run away with him, promising her a glamorous new life. When Graham’s cruelty is revealed, she begins to take charge of her own life and travels to Hollywood. Six years later, Blanche has transformed into the celebrated Bianca LaBelle, a reclusive star of adventure films. When Graham’s remains are found on a Santa Monica beach, the question becomes: is there a connection between LaBelle and Graham? Casey is the author of ten Alafair Tucker mysteries. She has twice won the Arizona Book Award, been a finalist for the Willa Award, and a nine-time finalist for the Oklahoma Book Award for fiction. She lives in Tempe, Arizona.        


Seeking Grace in Beulah Land
Lu Clifton
Two Shadows Books

Grace Barlow suddenly disappears from Pittsburg County, Oklahoma, after the final days of World War II. The local residents are mystified as to what happened to the young wife and mother of two daughters. When her husband, Grover, did not file a missing person’s report, people assumed Grace had left of her own free will; after all, she was a free-spirited woman with huge aspirations. Grover quietly carried on with his life as a sharecropper, raising his two girls. Over the next sixty years, he did not mention Grace’s name, until now. When Mack Barlow returns to Pittsburg County to deal with his grandfather’s end-of-life requests, he discovers information about the night Grace disappeared. A native Oklahoman, Clifton writes both young adult and adult fiction. She was a 2017 Oklahoma Book Award finalist for Scalp Dance, and again in 2018 for her book The Bone Picker. Her book Seeking Cassandra won the 2017 Oklahoma Book Award in the young adult category. She resides in Davis, Illinois.

Seeking Grace in Beulah Land

Crystalline Crypt
Mary Coley
Moonglow Books

Mandy Lyon’s best friend Jenna Wade holds tightly to her secret past. An orphan, Jenna never confides anything about her early life, until one afternoon when she discovers a painting of herself in a Tulsa art gallery.  Wanting to learn more about her friend, Mandy ignores Jenna’s wishes and finds the painting. Now after just one hour has past, the gallery is on fire and Jenna is missing. At the risk of losing her job, Mandy sets out to find her friend. Her journey leads to the discovery of a cryptic note, a creepy Tulsa funeral home, and a ranch near Medicine Park in Oklahoma’s Wichita Mountains. Mandy soon becomes convinced that someone would rather see her dead than have Jenna’s secrets revealed. Coley, the author of seven mystery/suspense novels is the winner of the 2018 Tony Hillerman Award. She divides her time between Oklahoma and New Mexico.


West of Alva
Dave Eagleston
Dave Eagleston Publisher

Matt is a fifteen-year old boy from Tulsa, who has never stepped foot on a farm. Now, away from home, he finds himself homesick and employed by a poor, alcoholic wheat farmer near Alva. He doesn’t understand why he must sleep on the attic floor across the room from the old farmer. As the days pass, Matt faces the challenges associated with farm life, and slowly begins to learn the truth about the farmer’s downfall. When he hits a roadblock, Matt turns to his new young friends, Carl and Sam. Can the farmer stay sober long enough for the new friends to find the hidden connection between Camp Alva and a dangerous plot to terrorize the farmer and take over his farm? Eagleston grew up in Tulsa and graduated from Oklahoma State University. He currently lives in McKinney, Texas.


Mary Anna Evans                 
Poisoned Pen Press

In her latest Faye Longchamp mystery, Evans explores what secrets can lie beneath the surface? Faye is in Oklahoma City, attending a conference celebrating indigenous arts. A deafening explosion rocks the historic hotel she is staying at, and sends Faye crashing to the lobby’s marble floor. She is not injured, but she is shaken—after all, anytime something blows up in Oklahoma City, the first word that comes to mind is bomb! To Faye’s amazement, the explosion reveals subterranean chambers that once housed Chinese immigrants a century before. Her excitement upon the discovery soon turns to dread, as the bodies of three children are found deep beneath the city. Evans teaches fiction and nonfiction writing at the University of Oklahoma. She resides in Washington, Oklahoma.


The Tale Teller
Anne Hillerman

Three crimes have taken place on the Navajo reservation: the disappearance of a priceless artifact, a murder, and a theft. Navajo Police Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn returns to the police department, attempting to solve a perplexing case involving a missing traditional weaving that had been donated to the Navajo Nation. As the investigation unfolds, the lead suspect dies under mysterious circumstances, and Leaphorn receives an anonymous warning. The discovery of a homicide victim by Tribal Officer Bernie Manuelito creates more complications as the tribal police and the FBI are caught in a turf war. Moreover, Sergeant Jim Chee’s burglary case evolves into something more sinister. As these three peace officers’ investigations merge together, it creates an unexpected opportunity for Bernie Manuelito. Hillerman was born in Lawton and is an award-winning reporter and the author of seven non-fiction books. She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.


A Forgotten Evil
Sheldon Russell
Cynren Press

Caleb Justin and Joshua Hart have big dreams in post-Civil War America. They leave Ohio headed for Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where they intend to join Sheridan’s troops in their pursuit of Indian lands. Things do not work out as planned, and Joshua is assigned to George Armstrong Custer’s troops, while an injury has left Caleb alone and undefended on a war-ravaged prairie, where he is captured by Indians. Later, Caleb finds himself once again alone on the prairie, until he meets Joan Monnet, the daughter of a wealthy railroad magnate, who was rescued from an Indian attack. In the winter of 1868, Custer is poised to attack a Cheyenne village, located on the Washita River. Joshua, Caleb, and Joan are suddenly trapped in the crossfire of one of the bloodiest battles on the American frontier. Will their courage be enough to survive? Russell won the 2007 Oklahoma Book Award in fiction for Dreams to Dust: A Tale of the Oklahoma Land Rush, and again in 2018 for The Bridge Troll Murders. He and his wife, Nancy, live in Waynoka, Oklahoma.