William started writing in his early teens and continued until his death in 2012. He began to be published in his late fifties. Below are the works published during his lifetime and after.
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The Long Home, 1999
In a literary voice that is both original and powerfully unsettling, William Gay tells the story of Nathan Winer, a young and headstrong Tennessee carpenter who lost his father years ago to a human evil that is greater and closer at hand than any the boy can imagine - until he learns of it first-hand. Gay's remarkable debut novel, The Long Home, is also the story of Amber Rose, a beautiful young woman forced to live beneath that evil who recognizes even as a child that Nathan is her first and last chance at escape. And it is the story of William Tell Oliver, a solitary old man who watches the growing evil from the dark woods and adds to his own weathered guilt by failing to do anything about it.
Set in rural Tennessee in the 1940s, The Long Home will bring to mind once again the greatest Southern novelists and will haunt the reader with its sense of solitude , longing, and the deliverance that is always just out of reach.
The Long Home was adapted in to a film directed by James Franco. Although principle photography began in 2015, the film has not been released.
Provinces of Night, 2000
It’s 1952, and E.F. Bloodworth is finally coming home to Ackerman’s Field, Tennessee. Itinerant banjo picker and volatile vagrant, he’s been gone ever since he gunned down a deputy thirty years before. Two of his sons won’t be home to greet him: Warren lives a life of alcoholic philandering down in Alabama, and Boyd has gone to Detroit in vengeful pursuit of his wife and the peddler she ran off with. His third son, Brady, is still home, but he’s an addled soothsayer given to voodoo and bent on doing whatever it takes to keep E.F. from seeing the wife he abandoned. Only Fleming, E.F.’s grandson, is pleased with the old man’s homecoming, but Fleming’s life is soon to careen down an unpredictable path hewn by the beautiful Raven Lee Halfacre.
In the great Southern tradition of Faulkner, Styron, and Cormac McCarthy, William Gay wields a prose as evocative and lush as the haunted and humid world it depicts. Provinces of Night is a tale redolent of violence and redemption–a whiskey-scented, knife-scarred novel whose indelible finale is not an ending nearly so much as it is an apotheosis.
The 2010 film Bloodworth is based on Provinces of Night and is directed by Shane Dax Taylor. It stars Val Kilmer, Kris Kristofferson, and Hillary Duff.
I Hate To See That Evening Sun Go Down, 2002
William's debut collection, I Hate to See That Evening Sun Go Down, brings together thirteen stories charting the pathos of interior lives. Among the colorful people readers meet are: old man Meecham, who escapes from his nursing home only to find his son has rented their homestead to "white trash"; Quincy Nell Qualls, who not only falls in love with the town lothario but, pregnant, faces an inescapable end when he abandons her; Finis and Doneita Beasley, whose forty-year marriage is broken up by a dead dog; and Bobby Pettijohn -- awakened in the night by a search party after a body is discovered in his back woods.
William Gay expertly sets these conflicted characters against lush backcountry scenery and defies our moral logic as we grow to love them for the weight of their human errors.
The 2009 film, That Evening Sun, was based on the short story I Hate to See That Evening Sun Go Down. It stars Hal Holbrook and is directed by Scott Teems.
Wittgenstein's Lolita/The Iceman, 2006
Two short stories published by Wild Dog Press. Gay maps out a landscape of love and death, exploring the terrain where a person's love of life interacts with their fear of the dark unknown. He portrays a character looking for love that reaches beyond death--with occasional morbid consequences.
Suspecting that something is amiss with their father’s burial, teenager Kenneth Tyler and his sister Corrie venture to his gravesite and make a horrific discovery: their father, a whiskey bootlegger, was not actually buried in the casket they bought for him. Worse, they learn that the undertaker, Fenton Breece, has been grotesquely manipulating the dead.
Armed with incriminating photographs, Tyler becomes obsessed with bringing the perverse undertaker to justice. But first he must outrun Granville Sutter, a local strongman and convicted murderer hired by Fenton to destroy the evidence. What follows is an adventure through the Harrikin, an eerie backwoods filled with tangled roads, rusted machinery, and eccentric squatters—old men, witches, and families among them—who both shield and imperil Tyler as he runs for safety.
With his poetic, haunting prose, William Gay rewrites the rules of the gothic fairytale while exploring the classic Southern themes of good and evil.
Time Done Been Won't Be No More, 2010
Time Done Been Won't Be No More: Collected Prose is a collection of short stories, essays, memoirs and an interview. William Gay is well known for his fiction but he is also widely published with his essays, mostly dealing with music, and his memoirs. This is the first collection that includes his nonfiction prose. The elegant use of language that his readers have come to expect is as evident in his collected prose as it is in his novels.
Little Sister Death, 2015
The first of the posthumous releases.
David Binder is a young, successful writer living in Chicago and suffering from writer’s block. He stares at the blank page, and the blank page stares back—until inspiration strikes in the form of a ghost story that captivated him as a child.
With his pregnant wife and young daughter in tow, he sets out to explore the myth of Virginia Beale, Faery Queen of the Haunted Dell. But as his investigation takes him deeper and deeper into the legacy of blood and violence that casts its shadow over the old Beale farm, Binder finds himself obsessed with a force that’s as wicked as it is seductive.
A stirring literary rendition of Tennessee’s famed Curse of the Bell Witch, Little Sister Death skillfully toes the line between Southern Gothic and horror, and further cements William Gay’s legacy as not only one of the South’s finest writers, but among the best that American literature has to offer.
The second of the posthumous releases.
As William described the Stoneburner manuscript: "My original idea on this novel, a crime novel or thriller for lack of a better word, was to create a series character somewhat in the mold of Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe or Ross Macdonald's Lew Archer, to write a sort of film noir on paper. But, books, as Faulkner said, never match the dream you had of them and the book turned out to be about three characters who are enslaved to the past and never quite break free of it."
John Stoneburner, a jaded detective, has abandoned his office in Memphis to live on the banks of the Tennessee River. There he meets retired sheriff, Cap Holder, who made a small fortune after Hollywood produced a movie based on his exploits cleaning up the drug dealers in his rural county. Holder hires Stoneburner to hunt down his young girlfriend and a suitcase full of drug money after they disappeared at the same time. The investigation brings Stoneburner in contact with a figure from his youth, Thibodeaux, now an unpredictable town drunk. Enslaved to their past indeed, the intertwined trajectories and motives of Stoneburner, Holder, Thibodeaux and the young woman eventually collide in a crazed chase across Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, and Arkansas.
The Lost Country, 2018
The third of the posthumous releases. Now available for pre-order.
Ten years after it was first announced, Dzanc Books is proud to deliver the lost novel from a master of the Southern Gothic―the work William Gay fans have anticipated for a decade.
Billy Edgewater is a harbinger of doom. Estranged from his family, discharged from the Navy, and touched by a rising desperation, he sets out hitchhiking home to East Tennessee, where his father is slowly dying.
On the road, separately, are Sudy and Bradshaw, brother and sister, and a one-armed con man named Roosterfish. All, in one way or another, have their pasts and futures embroiled with D.L. Harkness, a predator in all the ways there are. Hounded at every turn by scams, vigilantes, grievous loss, and unspeakable violence, Edgewater navigates the long road home, searching for a place that may be nothing but memory.
Hailed as “a seemingly effortless storyteller” by the New York Times Book Review and “a writer of striking talent” by the Chicago Tribune, William Gay, with this long-awaited novel, secures his place alongside Faulkner, O’Connor, and McCarthy as one of the greatest novelists in the Southern Gothic tradition.