James Alexander Thom (1933 – 2023) was an accomplished Indiana author, as well a skilled visual artist and wood carver. He was born in Gosport, Indiana and resided in the Owen County log-cabin he built for himself and his wife, Dark Rain Thom, who survives him.
James studied English and journalism at Butler University (Indianapolis) after which he became a reporter and columnist for The Indianapolis Star as well as a freelance magazine writer. His writing focuses on frontier and Indian wars history, and his carefully researched novels have sold more than 2 million copies. Two of these novels were made into television films by Ted Turner and Hallmark. Follow the River, a 1981 novel about a pioneer woman captured by Shawnee Indians became a New York Times bestseller and is now in its 50th printing. Panther in the Sky, his biographical novel about Shawnee chieftain Tecumseh, won the Western Writers of America Spur Award for best novel in 1989.
Years of research among Shawnee Indians for Panther in the Sky led to his marriage to Dark Rain, a Shawnee Indian with whom he co-authored the 2003 novel Warrior Woman. His most recent book, Fire in the Water, about the sinking of the steamboat Sultana during the Civil War, was published in 2016. He was working on another American Indian novel and a memoir, and had illustrating a children’s book at the time of his passing.
Thom was selected as the recipient of the 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award by the Indianapolis Public Library Foundation (The Eugene & Marilyn Glick Indiana Authors Award). He was only the third living Hoosier author (in 2018) to receive this literary honor recognizing outstanding authors who have left an indelible mark on our state’s literary heritage.
His legacy also includes serving as a professor and lecturer in the Indiana University School of Journalism and mentoring many people in the Indiana writing community over the years. Juniper Art Gallery is honored to exhibit Mr. Thom’s beautiful artwork and to carry a selection of his books.