Iles, Nelson featured at Dallas Book Festival April 29: Winnsboro natives Lenhardt, Park involved in day-long event

Greg Iles - 3-16-17
New York Times best selling author Greg Iles will be a featured guest at the Dallas Book Festival April 29. Joining Iles will be Stanley Nelson, author of “Devils Walking,” the true story of violent race-related murders along the Mississippi during the Civil Rights Era. The first book of Iles’ “Natchez Burning” trilogy is dedicated to Nelson. Iles’ final installment, “Mississippi Blood,” will be released March 21.

DALLAS — National Book Award Winner Andrew Solomon and acclaimed authors Greg Iles, Paulette Jiles, Eric Litwin and Kristen Radke headline the 2017 Dallas Book Festival, a day-long celebration of literature, arts and culture on Saturday, April 29.

Melissa Lenhardt - 3-16-17
Melissa Whitley Lenhardt, who was raised in Winnsboro, will be one of the authors participating in the Dallas Book Festival April 29.

Winnsboro native Melissa Whitley Lenhardt (left) will also be featured during the festival.

Lenhardt will be promoting her books, “Sawbones” and “The Fisher King.”

For the first time, the annual Book Festival is being held in conjunction with the Dallas Festival of Ideas, a series of forums, seminars and discussions about the city’s future, for a unique, unprecedented event in downtown Dallas.

“I attended the event with Stanley Nelson at the Winnsboro Center for the Arts in October,” said Kate Park, executive director of Friends of the Dallas Public Library, which is presenting the Book Festival along with the Dallas Public Library. “I learned that the research and reporting Stanley Nelson has done with the FBI cold case files from the 1950s and 1960s informed and inspired Greg Iles’ fiction. It would be a long-shot, but how great would it be to have Stanley Nelson and Greg Iles appear on the same stage to talk about their books together?”

Kate Park - 3-16-17
Kate Part, executive director of Friends of the Dallas Public Library, is a native of Winnsboro.

The rest, as they say, is history.

“We invited them, and they both said ‘Yes,’” Park explained. “We are thrilled to present Fact and Fiction: A Conversation with Stanley Nelson and Greg Iles at the festival.”

Nelson and Iles met at a friend’s suggestion. They were both interested in the violent Civil Rights Era, especially that perpetrated by a violent off-shoot of the Ku Klux Klan.

The men bonded over their shared research.

Iles dedicated “Natchez Burning” to his friend Nelson, whom he called “an humble hero.”

That respect runs both ways.

“What people don’t think about is how much time and energy Greg puts into a book,” Nelson said of the novelist. “It’s incredibly hard work and he sacrifices a lot with every book.”

When Nelson was in Winnsboro last fall, he spoke about how Iles took a brief mention of a flamethrower in an FBI document and made it the centerpiece of the spectacular ending in “Natchez Burning.”

“While his writing talent is obvious to anyone, what most people do not appreciate is the amount of research and investigation he puts into his work,” Nelson stated. “I’ve watched him. He loves it – but he’s totally serious about what he does.”

Stanley Nelson - 3-16-17
Stanley Nelson, editor of The Concordia Sentinel and author of “Devils Walking,” will be a featured guest at the Dallas Book Festival April 29.

Nelson also says Iles is “a man of his word. If he tells you something, you can bank on it.”

Park is grateful to her hometown for giving her the idea to put Iles and Nelson on the same roster.

“This panel would not be happening without Terry Mathews and The Winnsboro Center for the Arts,” Park said.

The Book Festival, which began in 2006, drew more than 4,000 people last year.

It features dozens of authors in individual presentations, interviews about their work or taking part in panels.

Among the notable writers attending are:

  • Andrew Solomon, who won the National Book Award for “The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression,” and is a noted authority on mental health.
  • Kristen Radke, a writer and illustrator whose appearance coincides with the release of her graphic memoir, “Imagine Wanting Only This.”
  • Paulette Jiles, a novelist and poet whose most recent book, News of the World, was a National Book Award finalist.
  • Eric Litwin, a musician and best-selling author of children’s books who inaugurated the popular “Pete the Cat” series.
  • Greg Iles, whose 15 novels include the best-selling “Natchez Burning” and “The Bone Tree” and the forthcoming “Mississippi Blood,” to be released March 21.
Andrew Solomon- 3-16-17
Andrew Solomon, author of “Noonday Demon” and “Far From The Tree,” will be featured at both the Dallas Book Festival and The Festival of Ideas, to be held Saturday, April 29.

Iles will be featured in conversation with Stanley Nelson, editor of The Concordia Sentinel, of Ferriday, LA, whose investigations of the Ku Klux Klan and unsolved racially-motivated murders in the region inspired many of Iles’ books.

Other highlights include storytelling for children, craft projects and discussions ranging from sportswriting and Shakespeare to quilting and ferreting out truth in an era of fake news.

The Book Festival will take place on all eight floors of the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library, 1515 Young St.

The Festival of Ideas will be centered across the street at Dallas City Hall.

The two festivals will combine for the closing session, featuring a conversation with Yaa Gyasi, who wrote the award-winning “Homegoing,” with complementary programming throughout the day.

“We’re thrilled about these collaborations,” said Park. “Together we’re presenting an amazing array of writers, thinkers and performers who will engage, entertain and challenge our city.”

All of the events are free and open to the public.

The full schedule will be available soon at

Details of the Festival of Ideas can be found at

Festival sponsors include The Dallas Morning News, Dallas Museum of Art, the Roy & Christine Sturgis Charitable Trust, Half Price Books, Deep Vellum Publishing, UNT’s Mayborn School of Journalism, Dallas Area Rapid Transit, Community Coffee, Habitat for Humanity, Institute of Texas Culture,, Tissu, Society of Children’s Book Writers, Dallas Modern Quilt Guild, Urban Spools and WordSpace.

~ Friends of the Dallas Public Library contributed to this article.

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