The Brian McConnell Book Award is a prize established “to encourage scholarship in the field of contemporary legend, to recognize and inspire standards of excellence in contemporary legend publications and to commemorate the life and work of Brian McConnell, a long time member of ISCLR, celebrated crime reporter, author and legend scholar.”
"This book wouldn’t have been possible without the people who opened their homes to me and told me their stories,” said LeJeune. “These stories were often so amazing and interesting to me, and I wanted to make this book as interesting to readers. The award recognizes several different achievements of the book, but it’s especially rewarding to hear the judges found the book so accessible and engaging."
LeJeune’s book has been recognized as a work that offers access to a legend cycle grounded in place and in social history, both locally and statewide. By tracing legends from the early years of Louisiana - infamous pirate Jean Laffite and the storied couple Bonnie and Clyde, to less familiar bandits like train-robber Eugene Bunch and suspected murderer Leather Britches Smith - LeJeune outlines how the Louisiana legend cycle about outlaws continues to serve to maintain local identity today.
Of particular note are the intricacies of folk and institutional justice in the context of these legends, the legacy of the Civil War and resentment over incursions by Jayhawkers from the northern states and the role that tourism and ostension (real-life occurrence of events described by a legend) play in sustaining the legend cycle.
LeJeune, a 1997 graduate of the Master of Fine Arts program in creative writing at McNeese, is past president of the Louisiana Folklore Society. He was also a finalist for the 2016 Tennessee Williams Festival Poetry Prize.