UT Journalism Professor Writes Mystery Set in Nashville

KNOXVILLE — For years, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, journalism professor Jim Stovall had a novel in his head. Now, thanks to a Knoxville writers’ group, anyone can read it.

Jim Stovall
Jim Stovall
Stovall’s recently published novel, “Kill the Quarterback,” is available on Amazon.com and in Knoxville bookstores such as Carpe Librum.

“Kill the Quarterback” is a mystery/thriller about a police reporter in Nashville who covers the investigation into the murder of a star college quarterback. The reporter finds out more than the police do about the murder and thereby puts himself in the sights of the killer.

Find more about the book at http://killthequarterback.com.

“Writing for the Mass Media” — one of several textbooks Stovall has authored or co-authored — is in its seventh edition and has been used in about 450 different schools during the past 25 years.

Despite his journalism background and his writing experience, penning “Kill the Quarterback” was a whole different ballgame.

“Like many other people, I sometimes read novels and say to myself, ‘How did this thing get published? It’s not very good. I could do better than this,'” he said.

Stovall had gone to a workshop sponsored by the Knoxville Writers Guild in the summer of 2006. Local author Cynthia Mobley led the workshop and, afterward, asked a small group of the participants — those she considered the most promising — to join an advanced fiction writing group. When members finished their books, Mobley, who runs Greyhound Books (http://bushidopress.com), a small publishing house, offered them publishing contracts.

Mobley said her role is to teach novel-writing structure, and offer an expert eye and honest criticism. She also helps the writers explore traditional publishing, as well as the many new options that exist into today’s Internet-driven world.

With the support of the small writing group, dubbed St. James Infirmary Writer’s Group, which continues to meet monthly, Stovall has finished and published two books — his novel, “Kill the Quarterback,” and a collection of musings about writing called, “The Writing Wright.”

Mobley calls Stovall — journalism instructor, writer, painter and beekeeper — “a Renaissance guy.”

“As a writer, he’s flat-out good with an excellent ear for dialogue, prose and flow,” she said.

Stovall said writing the novel was “a lot more fun (than writing a scholarly text), but harder in some ways because you’re making it all up.

“As a journalist, you always worry, ‘Is this right? Is this accurate? Am I quoting this person correctly?’ When you write a novel, you don’t have to worry about that.”

Stovall credits Mobley for helping him learn how to craft a story that would sustain a novel.

While the storytelling part was new to him, the writing came naturally.

“I really do apply to the principles I teach to my writing,” said Stovall, who has taught journalism for 30 years, the past three at UT Knoxville. “Even as a novelist, I write like I think a journalist should write — short sentences, short words, short paragraphs. I try to be simple and straightforward. I try to report the story.

“I don’t know how to write differently.”

Contacts:

Amy Blakely, (865) 974-5034, amy.blakely@tennessee.edu