Alberta writer Robert Kroetsch dies at 83

Canadian novelist and poet Robert Kroetsch has died in a car accident near Drumheller, Alta. He was 83.

Canadian novelist and poet Robert Kroetsch has died in a car accident near Leduc, Alta. He was 83.

Kroetsch died Tuesday while returning to his home in Leduc from the Artspeak Festival in Canmore, according his publisher University of Alberta Press.

Five other people were injured in the two-car collision that killed Kroetsch. One is in critical condition, according to police.

One of Kroetsch's best-known novels is The Studhorse Man, a tall tale about a Western studhorse man who creates mayhem in his quest to breed his rare blue stallion. It won the Governor General's Literary Award for fiction in 1969.

Tale of the Klondike

He also wrote The Man from The Creeks, a ribald retelling of Robert Service's poem, The Shooting of Dan McGrew, set against the backdrop of the Klondike Gold Rush. First published in 1998, it was re-released in 2008.

He is considered a post-modern writer, experimenting with magic realism in What the Crow Said and parodying the myths of the founding of the West in many of his books, often to comic effect.

Kroetsch wrote seven non-fiction works, nine books of fiction and 14 poetry collections, including Seed Catalogue and The Hornbooks of Rita K (2001), a nominee for the Governor General's Literary Award.

He is also considered a mentor, editor and teacher to many students and writers, among them Aritha VanHerk, Rudy Wiebe and Myrna Kostash.

Linda Cameron, director at University of Alberta Press, said Kroetsch will be missed for his sense of humour, his storytelling and his ability to connect with readers and listeners.

"Almost every western Canadian writer (and many from around the world) can tell you a story about how Robert Kroetsch could make you feel as if you were the only person in a room full of people. It was his gift to encourage aspiring writers while offering tremendous insight into the work of established writers — his colleagues and friends," she wrote in a tribute to him.

Earlier this year Kroetsch won the Lieutenant Governor's Alberta Distinguished Artist award and two weeks ago was presented with the Golden Pen Award from the Writers' Guild of Alberta.

Novels set in Alberta

Kroetsch was born and raised in Heisler, in central Alberta, and many of his novels — including Words of My Roaring (1966), Gone Indian (1973) and Badlands (1975) —  are set in Alberta farm country.

He attended the University of Alberta and received his B.A. in 1948. He worked at various odd jobs in the Canadian North and Labrador before going to McGill University in Montreal in 1954 to study for a year under Hugh MacLennan.

He continued his studies at Middlebury College in Vermont and at the University of Iowa in 1961 where he earned a Ph.D. He remained in the U.S. until the 1970s, when he returned to teach at University of Manitoba and University of Calgary and later at the Saskatchewan Summer School of the Arts.

After retiring he lived in B.C. before returning to Alberta. He has been writer-in-residence at several Canadian universities.

His most recent book of poetry, Too Bad: Sketches Toward a Self-Portrait, was shortlisted for the Alberta Readers' Choice Award.

Kroetsch became an officer the Order of Canada in 2004. The Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry is given to an emerging Canadian poet annually and the winning manuscript is published by Snare Books.