It was fifth-time lucky for author Richard Gwyn, whose bestselling biography of Sir John A. Macdonald was nominated as a finalist for four other national literary awards before winning the $25,000 Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing at a ceremony in Ottawa on Wednesday night.
The first volume of Gwyn’s biography was also a finalist for the same prize, awarded by the Writers’ Trust of Canada, when it was published in 2007.
The second volume, titled Nation Maker, is “a fully rounded and compelling portrait of our first prime minister’s public and private life,” according to the Cohen prize citation. “Gwyn shows how Macdonald built a nation out of a reluctant union of impoverished colonies, and shaped the Canada we know today.”
Until today, Nation Maker was also distinguished as the most persistent bridesmaid at Canada’s burgeoning non-fiction love-ins – the one who never caught the bouquet. It was a finalist for the inaugural Hilary Weston Non-Fiction Prize, the 2011 Governor-General’s Literary Award, the 2011 British Columbia National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction and the 2012 Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction.
Four other Cohen prize finalists received $2,500 each from the Writers’ Trust. They are Ron Graham ( The Last Act), Max and Monique Nemni ( Trudeau Transformed), Andrew Nikiforuk ( Empire of the Beetle) and Jacques Poitras ( Imaginary Line).