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Stevie Cameron
Stevie Cameron

Books on Pickton, Richler among finalists for Charles Taylor Prize Add to ...

An account of the Robert Pickton murders and a biography of Mordecai Richler have made the short list for the $25,000 Charles Taylor Prize for literary non-fiction.

Stevie Cameron's On the Farm and Charles Foran's Mordecai: The Life and Times were named as finalists on Tuesday.

Rounding out the list are Defiant Spirits by Ross King, about the rise of the Group of Seven; The Love Queen of Malabar by Merrily Weisbord, about Indian writer Kamala Das; and The Geography of Arrival about author George Sipos's youth in London, Ont.

The Geography of Arrival is published by Nova Scotia-based Gaspereau Press. It's the same publisher that came under scrutiny when it was unable to meet demand for The Sentimentalists, the novel that won the 2010 Scotiabank Giller Prize.

Gaspereau Press co-owner Gary Dunfield said Tuesday the publisher was "really pleased" that Sipos was nominated for the Charles Taylor and didn't express concern about meeting demand.

"We're only (on the) short list, we've been here before, we have some idea what it looks like," Dunfield said in a telephone interview. "Winning is another thing altogether, so we'll sort it out as we get there."

"It is in print, orders are filled, I have no outstanding orders. There's books here. We'll continue to sort it out as we go forward."

Juror David Macfarlane, the Giller-nominated author of Summer Gone, said Sipos's memoir was a "lovely, lovely book" and that he hoped the Charles Taylor recognition would inspire a wider audience to discover it.

"I'd certainly hope so," he said. "It's what every writer wants to have happen. And to be perfectly honest, it's not just Gaspereau - writers always worry about getting their books into stores. And this, I hope, will help them do that."

The Charles Taylor Prize has become one of the biggest non-fiction book prizes in Canada since its inaugural year in 2000.

The short list whittled down from 153 submissions by a three-person jury that also included The Worlds Within Her author Neil Bissoondath and University of British Columbia professor Eva-Marie Kroller.

"I was totally staggered," said prize founder Noreen Taylor, whose late husband, Charles, was an author and journalist who died in 1997. "I think this list could have gone to 10, I'm being honest."

Said Macfarlane: "One unifying element of all these books - very diverse in subject matter, very diverse in approach - is that they're all beautifully written books. ... For me, if I was to say what's holding this list together, I would say five good books that engaged me from beginning to end."

The winner of the annual award will be announced at a gala luncheon in Toronto on Feb. 14, with the runners-up receiving $2,000 each.

Ian Brown claimed last year's prize for The Boy in the Moon, about a father's relationship with his disabled son, while Tim Cook's Shock Troops won in 2009.

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