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Academy Gothic

Publication Date: October 2015


Hardboiled noir meets academic satire in Academy Gothic. Tate Cowlishaw is late for another faculty meeting when he discovers the body of Scoot Simkins, dean of Parshall College. Cowlishaw might be legally blind but sees that a man with three bullets in his head didn’t put them there himself. The police disagree. When Cowlishaw investigates, he is told his teaching contract won’t be renewed. Suspects aren’t hard to come by at the college annually ranked Worst Value by U.S. News & World Report. While the faculty brace for a visit from the accreditation board, Cowlishaw’s investigation leads him to another colleague on eternal sabbatical. Before long, his efforts to save his job become efforts to stay alive. A farcical tale of incompetence and corruption, Academy Gothic scathingly redefines higher education as it chronicles the last days of a dying college.

Academy Gothic was originally published by Southeast Missouri State University Press.

The dead-on parody of academic jargon and the well-spun plot alone make this mystery worth reading. —Publishers Weekly

Hill’s whodunit exposes a lackluster side of academia with a dry, witty humor, while frequent plot twists keep readers on their toes until the final pages. —Booklist


A murder mystery set in a dismal, crumbling college, Academy Gothic is both dark and delightfully funny. Stubborn, jaded, legally blind Tate Cowlishaw is a compelling amateur hardboiled detective, navigating the murk of office politics thickened by bloody murder.
—Steph Cha, author of Dead Soon Enough

In attempt to describe the experience of reading this novel, I am compelled for the first time in my life to use the term uproarious. Smartly funny, wildly paced, tonally perfect, it’s also blisteringly honest, especially on the subject of our decrepit institutions. Academy Gothic combines the wit of Kingsley Amis with the absurdist vision of Nathanael West. It’s far more than a boilerplate who-done-it, though it is everywhere and always concerned with the mysteries that both define and forever fail to explain us.
—Michael Parker, author of All I Have in This World

Half murder mystery, half ghost story, and half satire of higher education in America, Academy Gothic rollicks from start to finish. It is a joy to read. James Tate Hill writes with genuine charm and a keen eye for the absurd.
—Andrew Ervin, author of Burning Down George Orwell’s House

Academy Gothic is a fast-paced, hilarious, who-done-it noir jammed with jaw-dropping similes even Raymond Chandler would envy. Infused with impeccably timed, deadpan humor, the robust prose between these pages is crafted by a true wordsmith.
—Marie Manilla, author of The Patron Saint of Ugly

About the Author

© Noren Bonner

James Tate Hill

James Tate Hill is the author of the memoir Blind Man’s Bluff (W. W. Norton), a New York Times Editors’ Choice and Washington Independent Review of Books Favorite Book of 2021. His fiction debut, Academy Gothic, won the Nilsen Literary Prize for a First Novel. His stories and essays have been published in Lit Hub, Shondaland, Salon, Prairie Schooner, and In These Hallowed Halls: A Dark Academia Anthology, among others, and his work has been listed as Notable in three editions of The Best American Essays. Fiction Editor for Monkeybicycle, he was born in Charleston, WV and currently lives in Greensboro, NC.

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