Thomas King and Emma Donoghue are among the blockbuster authors on the longlist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize.
But even these cultural heavyweights face fierce competition this year from an eclectic crop of titles largely backed by independent publishers, including the first graphic novel to be nominated for the $100,000 honour.
Ian Williams, last year’s winner, announced the 14 contenders vying to make the final cut for the 2020 prize on Tuesday.
The longlist is evenly split between books from homegrown presses and multinational publishing companies. Many nominees’ names will ring familiar to awards-savvy bookworms and even some film buffs.
King’s nomination for “Indians on Vacation,” from HarperCollins Publishers, comes days before a documentary based on his 2012 non-fiction achievement, “The Inconvenient Indian,” is set to premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Donoghue, the Irish-Canadian author behind the book, screen and stage hit “Room,” garnered a nod for her pandemic-set historical novel, “The Pull of the Stars,” also from HarperCollins Publishers.
The two are up against a formidable field of awards alumni, including two previous Giller winners.
David Bergen, who took home the prize in 2005 for “The Time in Between,” is nominated for his short-story collection “Here The Dark,” from Windsor, Ont.-based publisher Biblioasis.
Lynn Coady, who won the Giller in 2013 for “Hellgoing,” is recognized for her Nova Scotia-set psychological thriller, “Watching You Without Me,” published by House of Anansi Press.
Also hoping for repeat success is Montreal writer Kaie Kellough, who on the heels of his Griffin Poetry Prize win in May, is poised for a cross-genre awards sweep with his Giller-nominated book of short stories, “Dominoes At The Crossroads,” published by Montreal’s Vehicule Press.
Another critical darling receiving his first Giller nomination is the Canadian cartoonist known by the pen name Seth. The final instalment in his five-part epic, “Clyde Fans,” published by Montreal-based Drawn & Quarterly, is the first graphic novel to be up for the prize after organizers started accepting illustrated submissions this year.
Ontario-based writer, painter and photographer Shani Mootoo received her fourth Giller nod for her novel, “Polar Vortex,” published by Book*hug Press.
University of British Columbia professor Annabel Lyon, whose debut novel “The Golden Mean” won awards acclaim in 2009, earned her second Giller nomination for “Consent,” published by Random House Canada.
B.C.-raised, New York-based Emily St. John Mandel is in the running for her haunting story of white-collar crime, “The Glass Hotel,” published by HarperCollins Publishers. Mandel’s award-winning 2014 read about a contagion-ravaged world, “Station Eleven,” recently re-emerged in the zeitgeist between its thematic parallels to the COVID-19 crisis and anticipation of a miniseries adaptation for HBO Max.
In a follow-up to her lauded 2007 debut novel “The Outlander,” Toronto-based Gil Adamson is nominated for her western-meets-mystery, “Ridgerunner,” published by House of Anansi Press.
This year’s longlist also features an exciting string of debuts, including Cree writer and lawyer Michelle Good’s novel, “Five Little Indians,” from HarperCollins Publishers. The book follows a group of residential school survivors trying to forge new lives in Vancouver while coming to terms with their traumatic pasts.
Writer, artist and filmmaker Francesca Ekwuyasi is nominated for her debut novel, “Butter Honey Pig Bread,” published by Arsenal Pulp Press.
Toronto-raised poet Souvankham Thammavongsa is contender for her first short-story collection, “How To Pronounce Knife,” published by McClelland & Stewart, an imprint of Penguin Random House Canada.
Rounding out the longlist is St. John’s, N.L.-based Eva Crocker with her debut novel, “All I Ask,” published by House of Anansi Press.
The nominees were chosen by a jury panel including Canadian authors Mark Sakamoto, Eden Robinson and David Chariandy, British-Canadian novelist Tom Rachman and literary critic Claire Armitstead of The Guardian.
“We were determined to find the most powerful pieces of fiction published this year. And, despite the difficulties posed by the pandemic, we experienced an embarrassment of riches,” the jurors wrote of this year’s longlist.
Organizers say 118 books were submitted by publishers across Canada.
The Giller shortlist will be announced on Oct. 5. The winner will be revealed in a televised ceremony on Nov. 9.
The Giller awards $100,000 annually to the author of the best Canadian novel, graphic novel or short story collection published in English, and $10,000 to each of the finalists.
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