- For other people of the same name, see Larry Brown .
(July 9, 1951–November 24, 2004) was an American writer who was born and lived in Oxford, Mississippi. Brown wrote fiction and nonfiction. He graduated from high school in Oxford but did not go to college. Many years later, he took a creative writing class from the Mississippi novelist Ellen Douglas. Brown served in the United States Marine Corps from 1970 to 1972. On his return to Oxford, he worked at a small stove company before joining the city fire department.
An avid reader, Brown began writing in his spare time while he worked as a firefighter (at City Station No.1 on North Lamar Blvd.) in Oxford in 1980. The nonfiction book On Fire
describes how Brown, having trouble with sleeping at the fire station, would stay up to read and write while the other firefighters slept. His duties as a firefighter included answering fire alarms at Rowan Oak...the home of William Faulkner, now a museum...and the University of Mississippi campus. By his own account, Brown wrote five unpublished novels, including one that he always used as an example to younger writers about a man-eating bear loose in Yellowstone Park, and hundreds of short stories before he began to publish. His first published work was a short story that appeared in the June 1982 issue of biker magazine Easyriders
. His first books were two collections of short stories: Facing the Music
(1988) and Big Bad Love
(1990). After 1990, Brown turned to writing full time and increasingly turned to the novel as his primary form. Brown's novels include Dirty Work
(1989), Father and Son
(2000), and The Rabbit Factory
In March 2007, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill published Brown's unfinished novel A Miracle of Catfish
. Although Brown died before finishing the book, the final page of the published version includes his notes about how he wanted the novel to end. The novel also includes a lengthy introduction by Brown's editor, Shannon Ravenel, discussing her work on the project and her work with Brown over the years. Except for the novel The Rabbit Factory,
all of Brown's books were published by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, a division of Workman Publishing. The paperback editions of Brown's early works were published by Vintage Books, a division of Random House, although other paperback houses picked up his later works.
Brown's nonfiction includes On Fire
(1995), on the subject of his 17 years (1973-1990) as a firefighter, and Billy Ray's Farm
Brown was awarded the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters award for fiction. Brown was the first two-time winner of the Southern Book Award for Fiction, which he won in 1992 for his novel, Joe
and again in 1997 for his novel Father and Son
. In 1998, he received a Lila Wallace-Readers Digest Award, which granted him $35,000 per year for three years to write. In 2000, the State of Mississippi granted him a Governor's Award For Excellence in the Arts.
For one semester, Brown taught as a writer-in-residence in the creative writing program at the University of Mississippi, temporarily taking over the position held by his friend Barry Hannah. He later served as visiting writer at the University of Montana in Missoula. He taught briefly at other colleges throughout the United States. He has been compared to other Southern writers, including Cormac McCarthy, William Faulkner and Harry Crews. In interviews, Brown cited these authors, along with Flannery O'Connor, Raymond Carver and Charles Bukowski, as influences. He also cited contemporary music as an influence, and his tastes were broad. He appeared with the Texas alt-rock band fronted by Alejandro Escovedo, a good friend of his, and he cited the lyrics of Leonard Cohen as an influence. He also had friends in the film industry, including Billy Bob Thornton.
A film based on Big Bad Love
starring Debra Winger and Arliss Howard was released in 2001. The majority of the film was shot in neighboring Marshall County and Holly Springs, to the north of Oxford. Independent filmmaker Gary Hawkins directed a documentary of Brown's life and works in The Rough South of Larry Brown
Brown died of an apparent heart attack at his home in the Yocona community, near Oxford, in November 2004.