Gil Adamson wins $50K Writers' Trust Fiction Prize for Ridgerunner

The $50,000 prize annually recognizes the best in Canadian fiction.
Ridgerunner is a novel by Canadian author Gil Adamson. (Jean-Luc Bertini, House of Anansi)

Toronto writer Gil Adamson has won the 2020 Writers' Trust Fiction Prize for her novel Ridgerunner.

The $50,000 prize annually recognizes the best in Canadian fiction. 

Ridgerunner is a novel about William Moreland, the notorious thief known as Ridgerunner, as he moves through the Rocky Mountains, determined to secure financial stability for his son. His son, Jack Boulton, is trapped in a life not of his own making. Semi-orphaned and under the care of a nun, Sister Beatrice, Jack has found himself in a secluded cabin in Alberta. Little does he know, his father is coming for him. 

Ridgerunner was also on the Scotiabank Giller Prize shortlist.

Adamson is a writer and poet. Her first novel, The Outlander, won the First Novel Award and was a Canada Reads finalist in 2009, when it was championed by Nicholas Campbell. She has published several volumes of poetry, including Primitive and Ashland

"I remember being done with The Outlander and realizing to myself that I wasn't done with that whole world. I had enjoyed writing and being in that world so much, it seemed sort of sad to just leave it behind forever," Adamson told CBC Books in an interview.

"Gil Adamson's Ridgerunner sinks readers into a Wild West never before seen in an adventure as sprawling and impeccably rendered as the land itself — a scrupulously researched, evocative landscape that shapes the spaces, both interior and exterior, of those who live there as well as the dangerous ties that bind them.

"Through the eyes of an infamous thief and the 12-year-old son for whom he is searching, Adamson explores notions of good and evil as ubiquitous as gun smoke and just as nebulous, along with the reminder that all which is fought for comes at a cost," the jury said in a statement.

The jury was comprised of former CBC journalist and novelist Waubgeshig Rice and writers Elisabeth de Mariaffi and Yasuko Thanh.

"Writing is a solitary endeavor and you never know when you finish a book what its prospects will be. I so very proud to this award in this very strange year," Adamson said in her acceptance speech.

"When I heard that I won the Writers' Trust Fiction Prize, my first thought was 'There's the start of my next book.' That's what funding the arts does. It creates more art."

The other finalists were Thomas King for his novel Indians on Vacation, Zsuzsi Gartner for her novel The Beguiling, Michelle Good for Five Little Indians and Maria Reva for her short story collection Good Citizens Need Not Fear. They each received $5,000.

Last year's winner was Toronto writer André Alexis for his novel Days by Moonlight.

The $60,000 Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction was also given out: Jessica J. Lee won for her memoir Two Trees Make a Forest.

The Writers' Trust of Canada is an organization that supports Canadian writers through literary awards, fellowships, financial grants, mentorships and more.

The organization was founded in 1976 by Margaret Atwood, Pierre Berton, Graeme Gibson, Margaret Laurence and David Young.

It also gives out seven prizes in recognition of the year's best in fiction, nonfiction and short story, as well as mid-career and lifetime achievement awards.

Their 2020 emerging writers prizes were handed out in October. The recipients of the 2020 mid-career and lifetime achievement awards will be announced on Dec. 2.

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