Mary Lee Settle

Mary Lee Settle (July 29,1918 - September 27, 2005) was an American writer.[1]

Mary Lee Settle
Mary Lee Settle
Born(1918-07-29)July 29, 1918
Charleston, WV
DiedSeptember 27, 2005(2005-09-27) (aged 87)
Ivy, VA
Rodney Weathersbee
(m. 1939; div. 1946)
Douglas Newton
(m. 1946; div. 1956)
William Tazewell (m. 1978)

She won the 1978 National Book Award for her novel Blood Tie.[2] She was a founder of the annual PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.[3]


Early years

Settle was born in West Virginia and spent her childhood in Pineville, Kentucky. She was the daughter of Joseph Edward, a civil engineer, and Rachel Tompkins Settle.[4] As a teenager she lived in West Virginia and spent two years at Sweet Briar College in Virginia. After the college she moved to New York City in pursuit of a career as an actress and model, and tested for the part of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind.[5]

She married the Englishman Rodney Weathersbee in 1939 and moved to England. The couple had a son, Christopher Weatherbee. During World War II, she joined the British Women's Auxiliary Air Force, and then the Office of War Information. She divorced her first husband in 1946 and married the Englishman Douglas Newton from whom she divorced in 1956.[5]

Upon returning to the US she started her writing career. She would later teach at Bard College, the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and University of Virginia.[6]

She lived for many years in Canada, in England, and in Turkey.[7]

In 1978, when she was 60, she married William L. Tazewell, an American writer and historian. He died in 1998.[8]


Settle is most famous for a series of novels called The Beulah Quintet (Prisons, O Beulah Land, Know Nothing, The Scapegoat, The Killing Ground), which cover the history of the development of people from the seventeenth-century England to the contemporary West Virginia.[8] She wrote several works of non-fiction.

PEN/ Faulkner Foundation

(Main article: PEN/ Faulkner Foundation)
Because Settle advocated that authors should have their own price program, she founded the PEN / Faulkner Award. The winners are selected by other authors and can be awarded with a grand prize of $15,000. The prize has become one of the most largest fiction awards in the country.[4]


In 1978 Settle won the National Book Award for her novel Blood Tie, a novel set in Turkey.[8]

In 1983 she won the Janet Heldinger Kafka Prize for The Killing Ground, the last volume of her series Beulah Quintet.[9]


She died of lung cancer in a hospice in Ivy, Virginia on September 27, 2005, aged 87, while working on her last book, an imagined biography of Thomas Jefferson.[10]


Novels and memoirs

  • The Love Eaters (1954)
  • The Kiss of Kin (1955)
  • O Beulah Land (1956)
  • Know Nothing (1960)
  • Fight Night on a Sweet Saturday (1964)
  • All the Brave Promises: The Memories of Aircraft Woman 2nd Class 2146391 (1966)
  • The Clam Shell (1970)
  • Prisons (1973)
  • Blood Tie (1977)
  • The Scapegoat (1980)
  • The Killing Grounds (1982)
  • "Celebration" (1986)
  • Charley Bland (1989)
  • Turkish Reflections: A Biography of Place (1991)
  • Choices (1995)
  • Addie: A Memoir (1998)
  • I, Roger Williams: A Novel (2002)
  • Spanish Recognitions: The Road from the Past (2004)

Other non-fiction

  • All the Brave Promises
  • The Scopes trial
  • Water World
  • The Story of Flight (1967)


  1. "Mary Lee Settle". Retrieved July 31, 2012.
  2. "National Book Awards – 1978". National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-03-28.
    (With essay by Rebecca Wolff from the Awards 60-year anniversary blog.)
  3. Matt Schudel (September 29, 2005). "Novelist Mary Lee Settle; Founded PEN/Faulkner Award". Washington Post. p. B07.
  4. Gates, Anita (September 29, 2005). "Mary Lee Settle, 87, Author of 'Beulah' Novels, Is Dead". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved July 30, 2019.
  5. Reed, Christopher (October 10, 2005). "Mary Lee Settle". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved July 21, 2017.
  6. "Mary Lee Settle profile". Archived from the original on March 7, 2012. Retrieved July 31, 2012.
  7. Christopher Reed (October 10, 2005). "Mary Lee Settle". The Guardian.
  8. Crane, Interviewed by John Kenny (1990). "Mary Lee Settle, The Art of Fiction No. 116". Spring 1990 (114). ISSN 0031-2037. Retrieved July 30, 2019.
  9. "Mary Lee Settle Wins Kafka Prize for Fiction". The New York Times. October 26, 1983. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved July 30, 2019.
  10. Anita gates (September 29, 2005). "Mary Lee Settle, 87, Author of 'Beulah' Novels, Is Dead". The New York Times.
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