In Memory of Loyd Little, First-Ever PEN/Hemingway Award Winner (1976)

In Memory of Loyd Little, First-Ever PEN/Hemingway Award Winner (1976)

The Hemingway Society is saddened to learn that the first-ever PEN/Hemingway Award winner, Loyd Little, has passed away. According to his obituary, Mr. Little died on October 17, 2020. A native of North Carolina, Little attended Hickory High School before matriculating to the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.  After graduating from UNC in 1962 with his journalism degree, he enlisted in the Army where he volunteered with the special forces, specifically the Green Berets. He served as a medic in several small villages in Vietnam where his PEN/Hemingway winning book, Parthian Shot, was set.  

The book was released in 1975 and won the 1976 PEN/Hemingway Award. According to an article in the Carolina Financial Times, where Little worked when he received the honor, Parthian Shot “is about soldiers in war who realize when they are cut off in the jungle of the Vietnamese Delta that even the greatest of human tragedy – the killing of each other for obscure reasons – can foster an odd and deepening sense of compassion, love and a gusto to survive.”  The article also states that Mary Hemingway planned on presenting Little with the award.  A reporter forThe New York Times wrote in the 7 May 1976 edition of the paper, that “[t]he book was cited for dealing ‘knowledgeably and movingly with the interaction of polyglot peoples in the Mekong delta with a tiny American military unit which has lost contact with its commanders.” Little stated, in the same Times article, “I was just elated [when I received the news]. I still feel there was a mistake. I expect to get up in the morning and find it isn’t so.” The judges for the first-ever PEN/Hemingway Award were Nona Balakian, Arthur Cohen, Anne Fremantle, Al Murray, and Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

During his life, Little wrote for several newspapers, including the Charlotte News and Atlanta Constitution, taught fiction writing at the University of North Carolina, and imparted his wisdom on scores of high school journalism students at Woods Charter School in Chapel Hill. He leaves behind his wife Kristine Little, her son Andrew Petesch, her daughter Cynthia Sturtevant, grandchildren Wheatley and Lily, and his former wife Drena Worth.  In all, Little wrote five novels and several short stories.

Wayne Catan, April 28, 2021

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