English professor presented with ‘outstanding novel’ award

SHSU English Professor Dr. Paul Ruffin has been honored in the Dictionary of Literary Biography Yearbook, for his novel “Pompeii Man”.

The novel was honored in the yearbook for being an outstanding novel published during 2002. It was chosen based upon many factors, including story line, sense of place and characters.

This marks the second entry for Ruffin, whose collection “Islands, Women, and God” was honored as one of 13 fiction collections published in 2001. His book of stories, “The Man Who Would Be God” received a half page review in the New York Times Book Review when it was published in 1993.

“I’ve actually gotten a lot of attention about my books of stories,” said Ruffin.

“Pompeii Man,” published by Southern Louisiana University’s Louisiana Literature Press, focuses on a librarian at a junior college on the Mississippi Coast and while on a lark, comes up with a fantasy that involves turning his wife into a $2,000 a night prostitute, and ends up sharing that fantasy with a bartender. Ruffin said that one reviewer called it a “disturbing erotic thriller”.

Ruffin got the idea for the book while visiting the state capital of his native Mississippi for “Mississippi Writers’ Day,” not long after he and his wife married. While walking out of a hotel on his way to the capital, Ruffin thought about how a man could have lots of fantasies about his wife, and also, as Ruffin said, stupidly include others in his ideas.

Ruffin originally intended to turn the ideas into a short story, but after 30 pages he realized that it was going to be a novel instead. For a while, Ruffin’s agent sent the book around to different publishers in New York with no sale.

Since its publication, the novel has received positive reviews. The Baton Rouge Advocate reviewed the book and then devoted the front page of its supplemental book section one Sunday to a review of the book, featuring pictures of Ruffin and the book’s cover.

Ruffin has many influences in his writing.

“Faulkner definitely, I was brought up on Faulkner,” said Ruffin. Ruffin had strongly been influenced by Faulkner and had also completed his Master’s thesis on Faulkner. Other influences included other authors such as Ernest Hemingway and Flannery O’Connor.

“Hemingway influenced me a little bit,” said Ruffin.

In addition to his writing and teaching duties, Ruffin also writes a weekly column for The Huntsville Item entitled “Ruffin’ It”.

At the moment, Ruffin is working on many projects, including two novels entitled “The Keepers” and “The Gravel Pit War.” His second novel, “Castle in the Gloom” is due out next year from the University Press of Mississippi. In addition, Ruffin is making plans to write a memoir entitled “Growing Up in Mississippi Poor and White but Not Quite Trash” and is also completing a book of stories on Texas entitled “The Segovia Chronicles.”

The Dictionary of Literary Biography is published on a yearly basis and chronicles achievements made by some of the world’s best authors. It lists the best of poetry and fiction collections and the best novels published during the previous year as selected by the Dictionary’s editorial staff.

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