Bahr, Howard 1946–

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Bahr, Howard 1946–

(Howard Leslie Bahr)


Born August 3, 1946, in Meridian, MS; son of Rose Lane. Education: University of Mississippi, B.A., 1976, M.A., 1980. Religion: Episcopal.


Home—Fayetteville, TN. Agent—Wendy Sherman, 450 Seventh Ave., Ste. 2307, New York, NY 10123.


CB&Q Railroad, East St. Louis, IL, train desk clerk, 1969-70; Southern Railway, East St. Louis, yard clerk, 1969; Illinois Central Railroad, Gulfport, MS, operator and clerk, 1970-73; University of Mississippi, instructor in English, 1982-93, assistant curator of Rowan Oak (home of William Faulkner), 1982-84, curator, 1984-93; Motlow State Community College, Tullahoma, TN, assistant professor, 1993-99, associate professor of English, beginning 1999. Instructor at Northwest Mississippi Junior College, 1980, and Calhoun Community College, 1992. Public speaker, lecturer, and leader of workshops at colleges and universities throughout the South. Also worked briefly as a brakeman for Alabama, Tennessee, and Northern Railway and Missouri Pacific Railroad. Military service: U.S. Navy, gunner's mate, 1964-68; received Vietnam Campaign Medal with two stars and Vietnam Defense Medal.


Masons (past master).


First place award, short story category, Southern Literary Festival, 1976; Ella Somerville Creative Writing Award for fiction, University of Mississippi, 1985; Adjutant General's Distinguished Patriot Award, Tennessee Army National Guard, 1994; William Young Boyd Military Novel Award, Naval War College and American Library Association, Harold D. Vursell Memorial Award, American Academy of Arts and Letters, and Mississippi Authors Award, Mississippi Library Association, all 1998, for The Black Flower.



The Black Flower, Nautical and Aviation (Mount Pleasant, SC), 1997.

Home for Christmas (juvenile), Nautical and Aviation (Mount Pleasant, SC), 1997.

The Year of Jubilo, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2000.

The Judas Field, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2006.

Contributor to books, including Critical Essays on William Faulkner: The Sartoris Family, edited by Arthur Kinney, 1985, and American Literary Magazines: The Nineteenth Century, edited by Edward E. Chielens, 1986. Author of "Mixed Train," a monthly column in Illinois Central, 1970-73. Contributor of short stories, articles, essays, and reviews to periodicals, including Saturday Evening Post, Mississippi, Trains, Civil War Times Illustrated, Southern Living, and Faulkner Newsletter.


Howard Bahr's novels The Black Flower, The Year of Jubilo, and The Judas Field all concern the Civil War in the United States. The central character in the first of the three is Bushrod Carter, a Confederate soldier enduring a long term of service. He is at once terrified and indifferent about the horrors he knows he may face in future battles. According to Margaret Flanagan in Booklist, The Black Flower is a bleak novel that summons up "the senseless agony of armed conflict." The author's "blend of historical fact with gut-wrenching emotion has produced a riveting novel of the Civil War, a frighteningly realistic portrait of men and women caught in an awfulness beyond their control," stated a Publishers Weekly reviewer.

The Year of Jubilo focuses on Gawain Harper, a former schoolteacher, as he makes his way back home to Mississippi following his service in the Confederate army. Haunted by his wartime experiences, he hopes to be able to learn to live a normal life once again. Yet even at home he finds the world forever changed. The story portrays "the ambivalence of a man desperately seeking a moral compass in the midst of anarchy and despair," commented Flanagan.

The Judas Field is set twenty years after the Civil War, yet it is still very much concerned with that conflict. Dying of cancer, Alison Sansing is compelled to revisit the Tennessee battlefield where her father and brother died. Her childhood friend Cass, who survived the battle, reluctantly accompanies her, unwilling to revisit the place where he witnessed such horror. "This beautiful novel turns the tables on our view of war," commented Bette-Lee Fox in Library Journal. Michele Leber, in a review for Booklist, called The Judas Field a "beautifully written portrayal of the price that war exacts."

Bahr once told CA: "My motivation for writing is the same one expressed by William Faulkner: to tell a story of the human heart in conflict, and to tell it as honestly and as well as I can. I do not believe any writer of fiction can do more, nor should he attempt any less. William Faulkner was the greatest of my influences, followed by Scott Fitzgerald, Loren Eisley, and Stephen Crane. Mark Twain taught me how to write humor, though I will never do it well. My advice to young writers is: Don't be afraid to imitate; it is the process through which you will eventually find your own voice. Other advice to young writers: Get a good day job (teaching is ideal); learn all you can—the names of birds and flowers, the constellations, how to clean a musket, fire a pistol, saddle a horse, change the carburetor in a Chevrolet. These kinds of things make your writing authentic and real, and they help the reader to trust you. Don't preach. Never have contempt for your characters. Love them all, even the ones you don't like. Write every day. Never go to writing workshops or conferences unless you're being paid to speak. Stay home and write instead. Take your craft seriously, but never yourself."



Booklist, April 15, 1997, Margaret Flanagan, review of The Black Flower, p. 1385; April 1, 2000, Margaret Flanagan, review of The Year of Jubilo, p. 1441; July 1, 2006, Michele Leber, review of The Judas Field, p. 27.

Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 2006, review of The Judas Field, p. 531.

Library Journal, March 15, 2000, A.J. Anderson, review of The Year of Jubilo, p. 124; May 1, 2006, Bette-Lee Fox, review of The Judas Field, p. 74.

New York Times, June 18, 2000, Robert Morgan, review of The Year of Jubilo.

New York Times Book Review, June 18, 2000, Robert Morgan, review of The Year of Jubilo, p. 9; June 17, 2001, Scott Veale, review of The Year of Jubilo, p. 28.

Publishers Weekly, March 10, 1997, review of The Black Flower, p. 52; March 13, 2000, review of The Year of Jubilo, p. 59; May 8, 2006, review of The Judas Field, p. 44.


Book Diva, (August 15, 2006), review of The Judas Field.

Book Page, (February 5, 2007), Alden Mudge, interview with Howard Bahr.

Mississippi Writers Page, (February 7, 2007), biographical information about Howard Bahr.

Pif, (February 7, 2007), Michael Burgin, review of The Year of Jubilo.