This week, several news outlets, including The Chicago Tribune, reported the shocking discovery that Aaron Hernandez, the former New England Patriots player convicted of murdering Odin Lloyd and sentenced to Life Without Parole, suffered from Stage 3 chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease that can only be detected during an autopsy. He killed himself in his jail cell earlier this year in April. He was only twenty-seven.
Given this news and the possibility that Americans might finally be ready to look at the dangers of football, we thought it apropos that, this week, Dennis Covington also selected Christopher Lowe's A Guest of the Program: Stories as the IHLR 2017 Chapbook Competition.
About the collection, Covington said, “Part expose, part crime thriller, A Guest of the Program is a seamless immersion into the corruption underlying college football and its recruitment practices. Even for readers uninterested in the sport itself, this collection simply can't be put down. It has voice, clearly delineated points of view, and a tangible, often excruciating setting. But its primary strength is the dark presence of its main characters combined with the inventiveness and accuracy of its prose.”
The chapbook coincidentally drops in line with our earlier probes into sports: IHLR’s Sports Issue (18.4) and our 2014 interview with Steve Almond, regarding the release of his eleventh book, Against Football: One Fan’s Reluctant Manifesto.
Lowe is the author of Those Like Us: Stories (SFASU Press) and You’re the Tower: Essays (Yellow Flag Press). His writing has appeared in many journals, including Third Coast, Bellevue Literary Review, Brevity, Baltimore Review, and War, Literature, and the Arts. He lives in Lake Charles, Louisiana, with his wife and daughter, and teaches in the MFA program at McNeese State University.
Additionally, Covington selected Albert Sgambati’s The Chosen & Other Stories as the runner-up. About this chapbook, Covington said, “This is a wild, unpredictable collection of sometimes tragic moments in an often fantastic world. We’re driven not so much by what will happen, but with what unexpected language it will happen, and with what unexpected details. Many of the pieces in the collection are nonlinear and fragmented, but we don’t care. We’re looking for the next setting, the next character, and the next perfectly penned dialogue.”
Iron Horse would like to congratulate Lowe and Sgambati, as well as the other finalists: Nat Akin, Faith Holsaert, Ginny MacDonald, Michael Martone, Khristian Mecom, Marc Sheehan, Penn Stewart, and Derek Updegraff. These writers turned out terrific manuscripts for this competition, and we’re sorry we can’t publish all ten.
We look forward to next year’s competition—this time for poetry. Submission gates will open in the spring of 2018.