23rd Annual Hamilton Art Council Literary Awards: Kerry Schooley Award
Lisa Emmons

This is the third and final in our three part blog series showcasing the finalists of this year's 23rd Annual Hamilton Art Council Literary Awards

The Kerry Schooley Award is our most storied literary award at the Hamilton Arts Council. The award is named after Kerry Schooley, who was a larger-than-life, tireless promoter of both Hamilton and Hamilton writers. There is a good chance that if Kerry was still with us, he’d be nominated for this award regularly and would take it home at least one.

This year’s shortlist has three very different books up for the award, which is given to the book that best captures the spirit of the Hamilton and its surrounding areas. Only the feel of the city in their pages holds these books together.

What We Salvage, by David Baillie, is set in Hamilton’s skin-head subculture of the 1980s. The story follows a nameless, homeless teenager through his misadventures, which happen around Hamilton landmarks like Jackson Square, Gore Park and Barton Street. The book teems with characters, and the author weaves a coming of age story deftly through both the characters and the darkness of Hamilton’s downtown in the eighties. What We Salvage handles everything from street prophecy and suicide to love and survival.  

David Baillie was born, raised, and educated in Hamilton, Ontario. He emigrated from Canada to the United States in 1996, and for the last seventeen years has been teaching modern and postmodern art and literature at a New England college preparatory school. What We Salvage is Baillie’s debut novel, a work that draws upon his own experiences in Hamilton’s post-boot culture music scene of the late ’80s-early ’90s. He currently lives in central Massachusetts with his two sons, his artist / educator wife Darcy, and her two daughters.

At Albert Tysdale’s eightieth birthday party, all the guests were astonished by his stories, and some demanded that he write a book about his life. Unwanted, written by his son, David Tysdale, is Albert’s response to their challenge. The book follows Albert’s life, from a young boy left at an orphanage by his mother to his life as a doctor, and it is a remarkable life. Albert’s voice rings through this book, which is a lively, engaging, true story.

“I write, sketch, paint, film, practice healthcare, philosophize and coach. Not necessarily in that order,” writes David Tysdale, who has worked in education and health care for over 30 years. Dr. Tysdale has taught primary and university level programs, worked in family counseling and prehospital emergency medicine, and is a visual artist as well as the author of the Kindle books The Lost Witch and The Missing Link. Unwanted is the true story of Tysdale’s father Albert, detailing his journey through the orphanages and foster homes of a gritty Canadian steel town during the Great Depression, and into the years of the Second World War.

In The Midnight Games, young Nate Silva is drawn to Ivor Wynne Stadium to investigate the strange noises from late night events keeping his neighbourhood awake. What Nate discovers has nothing to do with football. We soon discover that David Neil Lee has plunged us into an alternate Hamilton, where we still have a Central Library, but where the H.P. Lovecraft’s Cult of Cthulhu is threatening the city and young Nate must stop their plans.

When he heard that local publisher Noelle Allen was looking for Hamilton-based books, David Lee offered to write her “a horror novel that people could read on the bus.” The result was The Midnight Games, a novel that summons the horrific universe of H.P. Lovecraft into the precarious lives of the city’s working-class east end. David Lee is currently finishing a PhD in English at the University of Guelph. His books include the jazz study The Battle of the Five Spot, the novel Commander Zero, and the winner of the 2006 Hamilton Literary Award for non-fiction, Chainsaws: A History.

Join us on December 7th at the Norman and Louise Haac Studio Theatre, Theatre Aquarius, 190 King William Street at 7:00 pm to discover which of these fine books has taken home the award. 

We thank the Kerry Schooley Award sponsor the Hamilton Spectator for their generous support.