The judges of this year's Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Award lined up with their transatlantic colleagues this morning by naming Booker Prize-nominated Canadian authors Esi Edugyan and Patrick deWitt to their short list of five authors vying for the $25,000 prize, billed by organizers as "the Golden Globes of the prize season."
The two authors, virtually unknown before their emergence this summer on the Booker list, were joined by a trio of other relative unknowns on the Writers' Trust list, which ignores books published this year by what juror and author Rabindranath Maharaj called "the heavy hitters" of Canadian literature.
DeWitt was nominated for his now brisk-selling post-modern Western, The Sisters Brothers, and Edugyan was nominated for Half Blood Blues, a book that survived the bankruptcy of its first publisher to emerge as a favourite on 2011 prize lists.
The oldest among the new generation of finalists is veteran writer and teacher Clark Blaise, who has been billed the "best unknown writer in Canada." He was nominated for The Meagre Tarmac, a collection of linked stories described by prize judges as "an Indo-American Canterbury Tales."
At the other end of the spectrum, British Columbian Michael Christie was nominated for his debut collection of short stories, The Beggar's Garden. Also nominated was Dan Vyleta for The Quiet Twin, his second novel.
"This was a year when, apart from the heavy hitters, there were a number of good books by relatively unknown writers," said juror Maharaj, a 2005 finalist for the Rogers Writers Trust prize and winner of this year's Trillium Prize for his novel The Amazing Absorbing Boy.
The jury ignored prior reputations in selecting the best five from among 120 books from 53 publishers, he added, saying, "It would be hard to quibble with this list."
Prominent writers left off the list include Michael Ondaatje, Elizabeth Hay, Muriam Toews, Wayne Johnston Guy Vanderhaeghe and Marina Endicott.