Colin McAdam has won the 2013 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize for A Beautiful Truth (Hamish Hamilton Canada), which tells the parallel stories of a couple who adopt a chimpanzee named Looee and the primates at a research institute in Florida.
This is the first major Canadian literary prize win for McAdam, who received many accolades for his two previous novels. “I’m used to being the bridesmaid,” he joked after receiving the $25,000 award at Toronto’s Glenn Gould Studio Wednesday evening.
McAdam was a finalist for the Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and a Governor General’s Literary Award for his first novel, Some Great Thing, which won the Amazon/Books in Canada First Novel Award. His second novel, Fall, was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2009. A Beautiful Truth was also a finalist for this year’s Governor General’s Literary Award.
McAdam said A Beautiful Truth was his most challenging novel to write. “I’m used to believing in my work, but not in trying so earnestly to try to get a set of beliefs across,” he told Q&Q. “Things don’t work unless they convince emotionally, so it was a matter of translating these philosophical beliefs into a real story that could do the work that logic can’t.”
McAdam, who said his next novel won’t be as philosophically driven, won over Krista Bridge for The Eliot Girls, published by Douglas & McIntyre, and three House of Anansi Press authors: 2013 Giller winner Lynn Coady for Hellgoing, Cary Fagan for A Bird’s Eye, and Lisa Moore for Caught, which was also shortlisted for this year’s Giller. Each finalist received $2,500.
While Moore was overlooked for this year’s Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, she did receive the Writers’ Trust Engel/Findley Award, also worth $25,000. The prize, chosen by a jury composed of past winners Jane Urquhart, Wayne Johnston, and Nino Ricci, is awarded to a writer in mid-career for a body of work.
Author and journalist Andrew Nikiforuk was the recipient of this year’s Matt Cohen Award: In Celebration of a Writing Life, worth $20,000. The prize is awarded to “a writer dedicated to writing as a primary pursuit, for a body of work.” Author-illustrator Barbara Reid won the Vicky Metcalf Award for Literature for Young People, also worth $20,000.
The Writers’ Trust Distinguished Contribution Award, given to an individual or institution for their longstanding involvement with the organization, was awarded to Canadian publisher McClelland & Stewart, which helped establish the Journey Prize for short fiction.
Also among the night’s winners was Toronto writer Naben Ruthnum, who won the $10,000 Writers’ Trust of Canada/McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize for “Cinema Rex,” a story published in The Malahat Review. Ruthnum has published stories in Riddle Fence, Joyland, Qwerty, and Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. He also recently completed a thriller called Scrapbook under a pseudonym, Nathan Ripley.
Ruthnum mounted the stage to accept the prize amid huge cheers from the other Journey Prize nominees, whom he acknowledged in his speech. Ruthnum also thanked jurors Miranda Hill, Mark Medley, and Russell Wangersky, as well as his “friend Simon McNab, who I used to work at Rogers Video with and obsess over movies with” and “my mother and father who, not only did I take my life from, I stole their lives as well to make a story out of. Except for all the creepy sexual details.”
*Correction: Nov. 22: An Earlier version of this story misspelled Naben Ruthnum’s name. Q&Q regrets the error.