The 20th Hamilton Literary Awards: The Kerry Schooley Award Shortlist
Stephen Near

Making its debut at the 20th Annual Hamilton Literary Awards is the Kerry Schooley Book Award. Named in honor of the late Kerry Schooley, the Award recognizes those books that celebrate and are most evocative of the city of Hamilton. Schooley was himself a well-known Hamilton poet, teacher, publisher, editor and noir-fiction writer but passed away in 2010. Born in this city, he was heartened by the growth of the arts community and was a cornerstone of the Hamilton Literary scene. This year, the Hamilton Arts Council is pleased to feature three intriguing stories that capture the spirit of this great city.

A Private Man, by Chris Laing, is an smart novel about the adventures of a former RCMP officer and army veteran turned private detective in post-war Hamilton. Laing's hard boiled story leads the reader to the upper echelons of Hamilton's high society and then back through the gritty streets of steeltown as our "medium-boiled gumshoe" tackles a complex conspiracy of arson, art theft, murder and money laundering. Given how much A Private Man embraces the genre of noir, it is an appropriate finalist for this Award given Schooley's own love of the mystery thriller.

Jeffrey Luscombe's remarkable debut novel, Shirts and Skins, shows the reader Hamilton through the ever-changing perspective of a young man coming-of-age. In a series of compelling  stories, the books tells the tale of a boy who yearns to escape the city for a better life far from the steel mills. But Josh eventually learns that you can never truly leave your hometown behind. Both charming and realistic, Shirts and Skins is a unique take on the ‘coming out’ novel set amid the sometimes gritty environment of industrial Hamilton.

The Fishers of Paradise, by Rachael Preston, tackles one of Hamilton's forgotten chapters in history and breathes new life into the literary character of the city. Set amid the 1930s boathouse community of Cootes Paradise, Preston's story follows the Fisher family in a story about about choices, relationships and how we allow such factors to define us. A finely drawn work of historical fiction, The Fishers of Paradise shows readers the currents of civic conflicts running beneath the more intimate human drama of crime, passion and intrigue that are set centre stage in the book.

The 20th Annual Hamilton Literary Awards take place on November 12th, 2013 at Theatre Aquarius in Hamilton, ON.