- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 29, 2005

Mary Lee Settle, 87, Pen/Faulkner founder

CHARLOTTESVILLE (AP) — Mary Lee Settle, a novelist and founder of the Pen/Faulkner award for fiction, died Sept. 27 of lung cancer at her home in Ivy. She was 87.

Mrs. Settle founded the annual Pen/Faulkner award in 1981 to honor the best work of fiction by an American author.

“In creating Pen/Faulkner, Mary Lee not only established a juried prize free of commercial interference but by the sheer force of her personality, she imagined a community of writers and readers meeting to honor good books and to have a great time,” said novelist and Pen/Faulkner board member Susan Richards Shreve. “Her spirit is central to Pen/Faulkner today.”

Although Mrs. Settle won the National Book award in 1978 for “Blood Tie,” a novel about European and American expatriates living in Turkey, she was perhaps best known for “The Beulah Quintet.” The five-book series traces a family’s history from 17th-century England to West Virginia in the 1980s.

Mrs. Settle, who was born in Charleston, W.Va., said she drew on her experiences living in West Virginia and Kentucky coal towns for her work.

“We have a strong sense of place, West Virginians do,” Mrs. Settle said.

When she was 10, her family returned to West Virginia from Florida and lived with her grandmother in the coal-mining community of Cedar Grove.

Mrs. Settle left the state at 18 to attend college in Virginia, but left school to join the Barter Theatre as an apprentice. She later worked as a model in New York City, then volunteered with the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force in England during World War II.

Mrs. Settle’s first novel, “The Love Eaters,” was published in 1954. She went on to write more than a dozen books, including children’s books, and several plays.

Survivors include a son, Christopher Weathersbee.


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