St. Paul author and Macalester College faculty member Marlon James has been named the fiction winner of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize for his novel, "The Book of Night Women."

The book is set during a Jamaican slave revolt at the end of the 18th century. It was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle award in fiction and the winner of a Minnesota Book Award. It is the second novel for James, who was born in Jamaica.

"I was extremely surprised at the attention that the book got," James said Wednesday. "It's a novel about slavery; it's not the most heartwarming topic. I really thought the audience for it would be narrow at best."

Winners receive a $10,000 honorarium, and runners-up receive $1,000. They will be honored on Nov. 7 in Dayton, Ohio. The prize was founded in 2006 as an outgrowth of the Dayton Peace Prize, which commemorates the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords ending the war in Bosnia. It celebrates the power of literature to promote peace and global understanding.

"The book is about slavery, and sometimes we think that's a thing of the past," James said. "If you think that through bloody conflict, however justified, you can get to somewhere peaceful, it doesn't always work that way. There's a huge price you pay for victory."

The nonfiction winner is Dave Eggers, for "Zeitoun," his book about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Novelist Geraldine Brooks will receive the prize for lifetime achievement.

James will be the speaker at the Talk of the Stacks at 7 p.m. Nov. 3 at Minneapolis Central Library, 300 Nicollet Mall. Eggers will be here in May as part of the Pen Pals Lecture Series. Both events are sponsored by the Library Foundation of Hennepin County.

Laurie Hertzel • 612-673-7302