Top Canadian book prize awarded to humorist, travel writer

Tue Oct 30, 2012 10:30pm EDT

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* Author pockets $50,000 and raises his flask

* In its 19th year, Giller chosen by 3-member panel

By Russ Blinch

TORONTO, Oct 30 (Reuters) - A humorist, travel writer and novelist who penned a fictional tale about the inner workings of Nigerian email scams won Canada's most prestigious and lucrative literary prize on Tuesday.

Will Ferguson won the C$50,000 ($50,000) Scotiabank Giller prize for his novel "419," published by Penguin Canada.

"I'd like to raise a toast to the written word," Ferguson, said in his acceptance speech as he drank from a flask at the podium.

Besides the cash prize, the award will likely to lead to a sharp boost in sales for the novel that is about a woman who hunts for those she believes are responsible for her father's death.

The winner was chosen from a short list that included Alix Ohlin for "Inside," Nancy Richler for "The Imposter Bride," Kim Thúy for "Ru" and Russell Wangersky for "Whirl Away."

In its 19th year, this year's Giller winner was chosen by a three-member jury: the Irish author Roddy Doyle, the Canadian publisher and essayist Anna Porter and the American author Gary Shteyngart.

Ferguson's book was called a "fast-paced, impeccably plotted thriller that investigates the world of Nigerian email scams," by Globe and Mail critic John Barber, who had predicted the book was the odds on favorite to win.

In the run-up to the competition the Giller jury extolled Ferguson as a "true travel writer" who was attuned to detail as well as dialogue and suspense.

"It is tempting to put "419" in some easy genre category, but that would only serve to deny its accomplishment and its genius," the jury said.

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