The early buzz about Michael Redhill's debut novel, Martin Sloane, the winner of this year's Amazon.ca/Books in Canada First Novel Award, was how long Redhill took to write it: a decade's work, a dozen complete drafts. Now, though, all that anyone talks about is how good it is, and how likely it is to endure. As long as Redhill may have taken to complete Martin Sloane ("Long live revision," wrote the Amazon.ca reviewer), we are sure that readers will be enjoying its precise mysteries for far longer.
This is the 25th anniversary of the Amazon.ca/Books in Canada First Novel Award (and the second year that Amazon has been its proud sponsor). In 1976, its first year, the award went to Redhill's fellow editor at the literary magazine Brick, Michael Ondaatje, for Coming Through Slaughter. But Ondaatje wasn't the only winner that year¨he shared the award with Ian McLachlan for his long-since-out-of-print Seventh Hexagram (and both books beat out Carol Shields's Small Ceremonies¨1976, like 2001, was a very good year for debuts). One of the best things about the First Novel Award has always been its unorthodox policy of publishing the judges' individual opinions, which defuses the star-chamber unanimity of the usual award pronouncements and adds to the discussion, the pleasure and value that good books should evoke. It's fascinating to read that first year's raw opinions: one judge preferred a third book, Susan Kerslake's Middlewatch, and two thought that McLachlan, not the since-anointed Ondaatje or Shields, was the one in his class Most Likely to Succeed.
The judges' comments for this year's award, as you can read elsewhere in this issue, are equally fascinating and diverse. And that's just the sort of conversation that we at Amazon.ca work to create. With our vast selection of books from presses large and small, our personalized recommendations, and our wide-open, incredibly vital customer reviews, we keep in mind that one size does not fit all readers and that other readers are often a customer's best guide to their next favourite book. In that spirit, we would like to congratulate all the nominees¨Dennis Bock, Michael Crummey, Marina Endicott, Linda Little, and Elizabeth Ruth¨as well as Michael Redhill, and thank the judges as well as Olga Stein for their hard work in making this award possible.
General Manager, Canada
Literature Editor, Canada