After years of covering politics for the Atlanta Journal Constitution and CNN and writing about things Southern in "Atlanta Rising" and "Secret Formula" (the history of Coca-Cola's marketing strategy), Allen has shifted his interest westward. Allen's award-winning article appeared in the spring 2001 issue of Montana, The Magazine of Western History, published by the Montana Historical Society.

Entitled "Montana Vigilantes and the Origins of 3-7-77," the article was based on research he's doing for a book on the founding fathers of Montana, Allen says, "who happened to carry out the deadliest campaign of vigilante justice in American history."

A certificate and $500 cash prize are awarded to the author of the winning essay. The award is for the best article, essay, or commentary on state, provincial, or territorial history in North America appearing in a periodical publication.