© Cape Breton Post - TC Media
Cape Breton author Bill Conall has been named winner of the 2014 Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour for his novel The Promised Land.
The Orillia, Ont.-based Stephen Leacock Associates award the annual literary prize to the best book of humour written in the previous year by a Canadian. A national award, it carries a $15,000 cash prize courtesy of TD Bank Group. Conall will also receive a silver Leacock memorial medal.
Conall and the four other authors shortlisted for the honour —Arthur Black, Jane Christmas, Wayne Johnston, and Steve Smith — will be celebrated at a gala award dinner in Orillia on June 7.
Published by Boularderie Island Press, The Promised Land begins with the arrival of a small truckload of hippies in Cape Breton in 1970 and explores the challenges and opportunities faced by newcomers to Cape Breton. Through the adventures of his characters, Connall tells their story with humour, kindness, and insight.
Conall, who grew up in Ontario and lived for several years in Saskatoon and British Columbia before moving to the community of Tarbot in Cape Breton seven years ago, talked about The Promised Land in an interview with the Cape Breton Post last year. He said he didn't have to go far to hear some real-life stories of what it was like to settle in rural Cape Breton in the 1970s.
"A lot of them are my neighbours, and we are all CFAs (come-from-aways) and I interviewed some of them, and of course I talked to people, and just keep my ears open and my mouth shut as much as I can," he said. "I also grew up in that era of the 60s and 70s so I used my own frame of reference and set it in this community and it worked."
In addition to his writing, Connall is also an acoustic musician and composer and has recorded two albums of original music. His short fiction has been published in several Canadian magazines and anthologies. His first book, The Rock in the Water (Hidden Book Press), was published in 2009 and was shortlisted for the Stephen Leacock award.
Past Leacock winners include W.O. Mitchell, Pierre Berton, Farley Mowat, Will Ferguson, Mordecai Richler and Robertson Davies.