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Former IU journalism professor receives Lifetime Achievement Award



Thom - updated photo

The Indianapolis Public Library Foundation announced that James Alexander Thom, historical fiction novelist and winner of the first Indiana Authors Award in the National Category, has been selected as the recipient of the 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award. Courtesy Photo Buy Photos

James Alexander Thom, a former IU School of Journalism professor and lecturer, received the 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Indianapolis Library Foundation, according to a January press release.

Thom, a historical fiction novelist and former Indianapolis Star reporter and columnist, also won the Indiana Authors Award in 2009.

He was also inducted into the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame in 2014, according to his website.

Thom said awards always come as surprises because he never works on stories with an award in mind, according to the release.

“Storytelling is its own reward,” he said. “It takes the cake. Good thing, because the pay isn't all that great.”

Thom said making a living off of writing is icing on the cake.

“Then they surprise you with an award like this, and it's like a bright candle on top of the icing on top of the cake,” he said, according to the release.

The press release describes the Lifetime Achievement Award as a literary honor that recognizes authors who leave a mark on Indiana’s literary heritage.

Each year, winners of the award receive a $2,500 grant from the Library Foundation to give to an Indiana public library of the winner’s choosing.

Thom’s work focuses on the history behind Native American wars and frontier life, according to the release.

His novels have sold more than 2 million copies, and two of them — "Follow the River" and "Tecumseh: The Last Warrior" — were made into TV films.

“Fire in the Water,” Thom’s recent book about the steamboat Sultana sinking during the Civil War, was published in 2016.

Thom’s 1981 novel “Follow the River,” followed a woman captured by Shawnee Native Americans and became a New York Times Best Seller. The book is in its 50th printing, according to the release.

His biographical novel, "Panther in the Sky" is about Shawnee chieftain Tecumseh and won the Western Writers of America Spur Award for best novel in 1989.

Thom met his wife, a Shawnee Native American, while researching the Shawnee. The two then co-authored the 2003 novel "Warrior Woman," according to the release.

Thom lives in a log house in Owen County where he is currently working on another novel about Native Americans and a memoir, all while illustrating a childrens' book.

Christine Fernando

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