Bank robber wins Victoria book prize

Stephen Reid honoured for collection of essays, Polly Horvath wins children's lit prize

When Stephen Reid became $5000 richer on Oct. 16, it was based on his literary prowess, not his ability to hold up a bank.

The author, incarcerated for a 1999 Victoria bank robbery and ensuing chase, won the 10th Annual City of Victoria Butler Book Prize for A Crowbar in the Buddhist Garden, a collection of essays about growing old in prison. Polly Horvath, author of One Year in Coal Harbour took home the 6th Annual Bolen Books Children’s Book Prize.

Mayor Dean Fortin and event sponsor Brian H. Butler presented Thistledown Press publisher Al Forrie with the prize money on behalf of Reid last night (Oct. 16) at the awards gala. Polly Horvath accepted $5,000 for her novel One Year in Coal Harbour.

Jurors for the prize included writer George Fetherling, academic and editor Laurie Ricou, and librarian Michelle Whitehead, who called Reid’s book “a prison ethnography taut with wit and humanity.”

Reid began writing in 1984 while serving a 21-year prison sentence for his role as a member of the “Stopwatch Gang.” Reid has written the novel Jackrabbit Parole, taught creative writing, worked as a youth counsellor, and served on boards such as the John Howard Society, Prison Arts Foundation, PEN Canada, Spirit of the People, and the Journal of Prisoners on Prisons. He is married to writer Susan Musgrave.

Children’s Book Prize jurors included Leslie Hudson, librarian Freda Nobbs, and bookseller and writer Beryl Young, who described One Year in Coal Harbour as at once contemporary and timeless.

“Woven throughout are glimpses of just what it means to be alive, of how to discern what you truly value and cherish, how to find beauty, even when it’s wrapped in anger and pain,” they said of Horvath’s work.

The other four finalists for the City of Victoria Butler Book Prize included C.P. Boyko for Psychology and Other Stories, Christina Johnson-Dean for The Life and Art of Ina D.D. Uhthoff, Lorna Crozier for Book Of Marvels: A Compendium of Everyday Things and Bill Gaston for The World. Sarah N. Harvey for Three Little Words and Kit Pearson for And Nothing But the Truth were finalists for the Bolen Books Children’s Book Prize.

 

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