Local author Heather Henson named one of three finalists for $10K book award 

Published 9:34 am Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Photo by Sara Barringer
Heather Henson has been named one of three finalists for the Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award for her novel “The Whole Sky.”


Press release

Fiction ruled the day in 2017, with all three finalists for the 12th annual Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award falling into that category. This is the first time since the award’s inception in 2006 where works of imagination swept all of the top spots—among semi-finalists as well as finalists. In the five previous years combined, only two novels made the top three. This year’s winner will be announced at a by-invitation evening reception on April 19 at the Ryan family farm near Lexington, Kentucky.

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“This certainly has been the Year of the Novel, especially the Mystery/Thriller,” said lead judge Kay Coyte. “Cases could be made for each of the three finalists, all of which were beautifully written, tightly edited, well-presented books. And it’s fitting that International Women’s Day was this month, as two of the three were written by women, and all have as their protagonist a smart, strong, independent female.”

Finalists include a suspenseful tale of crime at the racetrack; a murder mystery by an author with a famous racing surname; and a young adult novel about a girl with special talents when it comes to horses.

Following are the finalists for 2017, listed alphabetically:

Flamingo Road

Author: Sasscer Hill

Noted mystery author Sasscer Hill’s latest is a spine-tingling tale of crime, gangs, and suspicious racetrack happenings, featuring for the second time, Baltimore police officer Fia McKee. When a horse is stolen, McKee goes to work undercover for the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau to find out who’s “gaming the system,” and to recover the animal while bringing the culprits to justice.


Author: Felix Francis

Felix Francis continues the tradition of his late father, famed mystery writer Dick Francis, with his seventh solo novel. A classic Francis murder mystery, Pulse begins with the suspicious death of a well-dressed, unidentified man—at a racetrack, of course. Dr. Chris Rankin represents a Francis first as a female lead character. The complex young ER doctor with a racing connection launches a personal investigation into who the deceased was and why he was killed … and soon finds herself in the crosshairs of trouble.

The Whole Sky

Author: Heather Henson

A mysterious illness sweeps through Thoroughbred farm country, resulting in hundreds of stillborn foals, and veterinarians have no answer. Enter 12-year-old Sky Traveler, a “horse whisperer” blessed with the additional gift of hearing horses speak back to her. While dealing with her own tragedies—the death of her mother and an alcoholic father—Sky uses her unique talents to uncover the reason behind the deadly epidemic, and to stop it.

The Dr. Tony Ryan Award annually recognizes the best book with a Thoroughbred industry background published in the previous year. A $10,000 winner’s prize is offered, with $1,000 going to each of the two finalists. All three also receive Tipperary crystal statuettes of Castleton Lyon’s iconic stone tower.

For further information, contact Betsy Hager at: (859) 455-9222 or at bhager@castletonlyons.com