TORONTO – Award-winning author Ross King is in familiar territory after landing on the short list for the RBC Taylor Prize for a fourth time.
King was previously shortlisted in 2007, 2011 and 2013, but has never taken home the $25,000 non-fiction prize.
The bestselling Estevan, Sask.-born writer, who is based in the U.K., was named among the five finalists for the award on Wednesday.
King made the short list for “Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies” (Bond Street Books/Doubleday Canada). “Mad Enchantment” has received plenty of accolades in recent months, named as a finalist for the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction, and longlisted for the British Columbia’s National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction.
Joining King on the RBC Taylor Prize short list is Kingston, Ont., author Diane Schoemperlen for “This Is Not My Life: A Memoir of Love, Prison, and Other Complications” (HarperCollins Canada).
The memoir details Schoemperlen’s nearly six-year involvement with an inmate serving a life sentence for second-degree murder. But there’s a political aspect to the work as well as Schoemperlen shares her observations about the Canadian prison system, she noted in a phone interview on Wednesday.
“Honestly, it really does mean the world to me,” Schoemperlen said of the honour.
“It was a very difficult book to write not only because of the emotional part of it, but it is the first memoir I’ve ever written. So, it really took me a long time to figure out how to do that. It’s very unlike writing fiction, and certainly knowing I had put myself out there that sometimes felt a little bit nerve-racking.”
Toronto-based Max Eisen is in contention for “By Chance Alone: A Remarkable True Story of Courage and Survival at Auschwitz” (HarperCollins Canada).
McGill University Prof. Marc Raboy was recognized for “Marconi: The Man Who Networked the World” (Oxford University Press) on famed Italian inventor and engineer Guglielmo Marconi.
Rounding out the list is Toronto-born, Jerusalem-based writer Matti Friedman who was recognized for “Pumpkinflowers: An Israeli Soldier’s Story” (Signal/McClelland &Stewart).
“I think there is a topicality to all of them, and I think anyone can find some kind of place in these books and some kind of surprise as well,” said novelist and jury member Colin McAdam in an interview.
“(Readers will) learn a lot from all of them. They’re all contributions, in a way, to knowledge and our understanding of ourselves and of certain events. I think there’s something for everybody in all of these books.”
Joining McAdam on the jury for the 16th edition of the prize are Canadian historian and writer John English and retired broadcaster Ann MacMillan.
The trio read 101 books written by Canadian authors, which were submitted by 29 Canadian and international publishers.
Named in honour of the late Canadian historian and writer Charles Taylor, the RBC Taylor Prize recognizes excellence in Canadian non-fiction writing and emphasizes the development of the careers of the authors it celebrates.
Rosemary Sullivan won the 2016 award for “Stalin’s Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva” (HarperCollins Canada).
In addition to the cash prize, this year’s winner will receive a crystal trophy and get to name their choice to receive the $10,000 RBC Taylor Prize Emerging Writer’s Award. The remaining finalists will be awarded $2,000 apiece.
The RBC Taylor Prize winner will be announced at a gala luncheon in Toronto on March 6.
— Follow @lauren_larose on Twitter.