Alex Shakar, Stephen King win Times Book Prizes


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Alex Shakar’s novel “Luminarium,” about the role technology and spirituality play in shaping people’s reality, and Stephen King’s “11/22/63,” about a time traveler who attempts to prevent John F. Kennedy’s assassination, were among the winners Friday at the 32nd annual Los Angeles Times Book Prizes.

The awards to Shakar in the fiction category and to King in mystery-thrillers were among 12 presented at USC’s Bovard Auditorium in a ceremony that launched this weekend’s Los Angeles Times Festival of Books at the campus.

More than 400 authors will participate in readings, signings, panel discussions, musical performances and other events. The festival, which moved to USC in 2011 after 15 years at UCLA, runs through Sunday. About 150,000 visitors are expected to attend.

Shakar’s “Luminarium” prevailed over four competitors that included two National Book Critics Circle Award winners: Julie Otsuka’s “The Buddha in the Attic” and Edith Pearlman’s “Binocular Vision: New & Selected Stories.”

King’s competition included A.D. Miller’s “Snowdrops,” a contemporary thriller set in Russia that was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize. The winning book was a departure for King, the author of scores of volumes of contemporary horror, suspense and science fiction whose early titles included “Carrie” and “The Shining.”

Winner of the Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction was Ismet Prcic for “Shards,” a provocative debut novel about a young Bosnian who has fled his war-torn homeland and is struggling to reconcile his past with his present life in California.

At Bovard, hundreds of book lovers filled the seats and listened with rapt attention as the contenders were introduced.

The pony-tailed Prcic bounded to the stage in black shirt and pants, with a patterned tie draped over his shoulders. “I dress myself,” he quipped, adding: “I didn’t think this was going to happen.” He went on to thank fans who read books “all the way through.”

Pete Hautman won the Young Adult Literature prize for “The Big Crunch,” an adolescent love story. “I think I used up all my adrenaline,” he said in accepting the honor. “Speaking for all the authors desperate for affirmation, this is really cool.”

The prizes honor extraordinary literary accomplishment in 12 categories.

Contenders included poet Linda Norton, first-time novelist Chad Harbach (“The Art of Fielding”) and young-adult literature authors Maggie Stiefvater and Libba Bray.

Although most winners were announced Friday night, two recipients had already been identified. Receiving the Robert Kirsch Award, for the body of work of a Western writer, was Rudolfo Anaya, praised as the “godfather and guru of Chicano literature.” The online writers community Figment was recognized with the Innovator’s Award. Previous winners of the Innovator’s Award, which focuses on cutting-edge business models, technology or applications of narrative art, were Dave Eggers and Powell’s Books of Portland, the first bookstore ever honored.

Other 2011 Book Prize winners:

Biography: John A. Farrell, “Clarence Darrow: Attorney for the Damned” (Doubleday)

Current Interest: Daniel Kahneman, “Thinking, Fast and Slow” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

Graphic Novel: Carla Speed McNeil, “Finder: Voice” (Dark Horse)

History: Richard White, “Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America” (W.W. Norton & Co.)

Poetry: Carl Phillips, “Double Shadow: Poems” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

Science & Technology: Sylvia Nasar, “Grand Pursuit: The Story of Economic Genius” (Simon & Schuster)

Young Adult Literature: Pete Hautman, “The Big Crunch” (Scholastic Press)

A complete list of 2011 finalists and past winners, as well as eligibility and judging information, can be found at

-- Martha Groves

Photo: John A. Farrell is handed a Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Biography from Eric Lax, right. Credit: Ricardo DeAratanha, Los Angeles Times