Saskatchewan writer Candace Savage, who built her long career in close partnership with recently bankrupted Vancouver publisher Douglas & McIntyre, has won the $60,000 Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction for A Geography of Blood: Unearthing Memory from a Prairie Landscape.
Published by D&M imprint Greystone Books with the David Suzuki Foundation, Savage's 29th book documents the author's growing interest in the natural and human history of southwestern Saskatchewan near her home in Eastend – "a speck in the Big Empty of the North American outback."
"A two-week vacation evolves into a decade-long fascination with the region and the writing of A Geography of Blood, a part-memoir, part history, part geological survey, part lament, part condemnation of the accepted myth of the settlement of the Western Plains, and above all, a haunting meditation on time and place," the Weston prize jury said.
A Geography of Blood prevailed over four other titles on the short list for the prize, now in its second year, which has gained attention with a winner's purse larger than that of any fiction prize in Canada. Runners-up were Kamal Al-Solaylee's Intolerable, Modris Eksteins's Solar Dance, Taras Grescoe's Straphanger and The Measure of a Man by JJ Lee.
Known mainly as a nature writer, Savage has been a stalwart of the D&M stable since 1988, when the company published Wolves, the first in a series of books that grew to include Grizzly Bears, Peregrine Falcons and Wild Cats. In 2010, Savage was inducted as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. Last year she published Prairie: A Natural History.
Exploring a historical landscape that has featured prominently in the work of Saskatchewan novelist Guy Vanderhaeghe, A Geography of Blood is her most personal book, Savage told an interviewer. "I like to think that my other books are personal or political in their own way," she said. "But this is the first time I've written myself into the story as a character and a first-person presence. I really enjoyed it."