Tom Cooper of New Orleans has won the 2016 Crook’s Corner Book Prize for his debut novel, The Marauders. The third-annual award, which recognizes outstanding first-time novelists whose stories are set in the South, was announced last night by writer Lee Smith during a reception at Crook’s Corner, apparently the country’s only restaurant with its own book award. Smith selected the book from a short list of four finalists culled by a board of Chapel Hill literati.

The Marauders is set in the Louisiana bayou during the wake of Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill. The compelling tale made Cooper the first winner from outside of North Carolina. Cooper receives a $1,000 cash prize and, in the fashion of Parisian literary cafes, a glass of wine a day for a year at Crook’s.

Published in February 2015 by Crown, the crime mystery received a glowing review in The New York Times, which praised its singular voice, and The Wall Street Journal, which included The Marauders on its best-of-2015 list. Additionally, AudioFile Magazine gave the audio edition of The Marauders its highest recommendation, naming it an Earphones Award Winner.

In 2014, Wiley Cash of Wilmington became the first Crook’s Corner Book Prize winner for A Land More Kind Than Home. The former N.C. State professor is now a writer-in-residence at UNC-Asheville. The 2015 award went to Raleigh novelist Kim Church for Byrd, who works as a trial lawyer in the capital city.