The West Coast Book Prize Society revealed the winners of this year’s B.C. Book Prizes at a lively ceremony held last night (May 12) at SFU Woodward’s Goldcorp Centre for the Arts. Braced by a long but successful hunt for parking, the Georgia Straight arrived at the centre’s Djavad Mowafaghian Cinema just in time to dive into an open seat and clear the aisle for the formal, bagpiper-led entrance of B.C.’s lieutenant governor, Steven L. Point.
Once under way, the proceedings moved briskly but with plenty of humour. Much of this was supplied by the host, author and comic Charles Demers, who opened by pointing out that ancient Mayan predictions have pegged this as the final B.C. Book Prizes ceremony in history. He also mentioned his concern that the prize society moved away from the traditional dinner format in 2010 because he had eaten too much that night.
The evening’s big winner was, appropriately, a hefty volume: The Chuck Davis History of Metropolitan Vancouver (Harbour), by the late, revered local historian. It took both the Roderick Haig-Brown Regional Prize and the Bill Duthie Booksellers’ Choice Award. The first of these was accepted by Davis’s widow, Edna, and the second by Harbour publisher Howard White, who recalled that Davis considered the book “the capstone of his writing career”, set in place just before his death in 2010.
The night’s closing highlight was provided by author, poet, and advocate Brian Brett, who accepted the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Literary Excellence, honouring “writers who have contributed to the development of literary excellence in the province”, as the prize society puts it. Brett’s speech was both gracious and rousing, winning calls of “hear, hear” from the audience with a sketch of the “copyright quagmire” that besets the publishing industry in the Internet age, and castigating the “petty cruelty of a government with a tarsands mentality”.
The five other winners were the following:
Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize: Esi Edugyan, Half-Blood Blues (Thomas Allen)
Hubert Evans Non-Fiction Prize: Charlotte Gill, Eating Dirt (Greystone, in partnership with the David Suzuki Foundation)
Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize: John Pass, crawlspace (Harbour)
Christie Harris Illustrated Children’s Literature Prize: Sara O’Leary (author) and Julie Morstad (illustrations), When I Was Small (Simply Read)
Sheila E. Egoff Children’s Literature Prize: Moira Young, Blood Red Road (Doubleday Canada)