Distinguished Author Award Asserts ‘Books Matter’

Best-selling novelist William Bernhardt received the Royden B. Davis, S.J. Distinguished Author Award for his accomplishments in writing and literature. The award was presented by the Friends of the Weinberg Memorial Library at a dinner on Nov. 14 at the McIlhenny Ballroom of the DeNaples Center.

Berhhardt saw the award not only as an honor, but as a public proclamation that "books genuinely matter."

"Books matter. Books change people's lives for the better. That's why we are here tonight. That's why we read. That's why we write and that's why God willing we always will," said Bernhardt.

Bernhardt told the audience about his lifelong love affair with books, explaining that he grew up in a library and knew by age seven that he wanted to write. He desire was to recreate for readers the first experiences he had at the library.

"What a wonderful thing that must be to have this ability to create whole new worlds that didn't exist before and send them out like ships on the sea to be boarded by people you never even met," said Bernhardt.

He spoke about books like Uncle Tom's Cabin, The Jungle, and The Grapes of Wrath, which were so profound that they were able to initiate social change.

"Books historically have changed the world and will again," said Bernhardt.  

Bernhardt submitted his first book to be published at age 11 only to have it rejected. He was rejected hundreds of times and found himself still not published at college graduation. He decided to go to law school and pursue a career as a trial lawyer.
The former trial lawyer is now known for his mastery of the courtroom drama. Capitol Offense, which is the 17th novel in the Ben Kincaid series he introduced in 1991, was just published in September 2009.

Bernhardt said the difficulties he went through to first get published inspired him to start his own publishing company in 1999 to help new authors.

The Distinguished Author Award Series began with the Friends of the Weinberg Library's desire to recognize and honor the work of fiction and non-fiction authors. The Friends also saw it as an opportunity for authors to share their literary pursuits and impressions with residents of northeastern Pennsylvania. The annual event helps the Friends of the Library Endowment Fund, which supports special gifts for the Weinberg Library collections and services.  The Distinguished Author Award was named for the late Royden B. Davis, S.J., who served as the first president of the Friends of the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Library at Scranton.

Past recipients of the Distinguished Author Award have included Emmy, Oscar and Golden Globe-winning author and actor Jack Palance, Malachy McCourt, Mary Higgins Clark, Carol Higgins Clark, Lisa Scottoline, Linda Fairstein, James Grippando, Philip Margolin and Mary Gordon.