LOOKS LIKE a good year for Canadian novels. In the last few weeks we've read two we think outstanding and we’ve given them each a Maclean’s Novel Award of five thousand dollars.
The first, Olga, is a satirical tale dealing with a fanatical Russian religious sect in the Okanagan district of British Columbia. The author is John Cornish, whose earlier novel. The Provincials, excited critical comment in 1951.
The second. Florencia Bay, is about a disillusioned prospector searching for his own peculiar destiny on the lonely beaches of Vancouver Island. The author is James McNamec and this is his first novel. His short stories have long been familiar to readers of this magazine.
We plan to publish Olga in its entirety in a single issue of Maclean’s late this year. Florencia Bay will be serialized in several issues later in the winter.
An awful lot of citizens on the Coast seem to be writing these days—perhaps it’s the climate. John Cornish, for instance, has been scribbling things ever since he edited the campus paper at the University of B.C. in 1936. Besides his two novels he’s published several short stories. He served six years as an army private and now works as a chain man on a survey gang.
We’ll let James McNamee, another British Columbian, speak for himself:
"My mother was so Irish she wouldn’t allow any child of hers to be born under the Union Jack. When her time with me had come, she left Victoria, crossed the Straits, was delivered by a U. S. army doctor, and died. My father brought me back to Victoria to be raised a Catholic by childless Presbyterian friends . . . I got thrown out of Grade 12 for something. I think it was for smoking . . . 1 went to McGill. McGill turns out good men. They turned me out my first Christmas . . .
“After I married, we lived in Europe then came out to Alberta and went into cattle and wheat. 1 got hailed out a hundred percent in a district that had never seen a hailstone in twenty-seven years. The wife went schoolteaching to keep me and the kids from eating gophers.
“The war started ... 1 did all right. I started as a private and ended as a company commander.
“Then I worked for the B. C. government. My wife kept on teaching. She is head of the French department at the Abbotsford Senior High School.
“There’s confusion in this house. We talk business in English and then throw cups and discuss each other’s ancestry in French.
"1 jumped out of a cherry tree and hurt my spine, and so quit my job to write a novel. There's nothing to writing. You start at fifteen and you publish at fifty.” ir
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