Author Tyler Trafford has swept all three awards for which he was nominated as of this past Friday evening, when 200 authors gathered to celebrate Alberta’s literary achievements at the Fairmont Palliser Hotel in Calgary.
Trafford’s book, Almost a Great Escape: A Found Story is a family memoir about a Second World War love affair between his mother and a Norwegian pilot, and a son’s discovery of his mother’s past. It received the $10,000 Alberta Readers’ Choice Award at Friday evening’s gala. Trafford was also awarded the Wilfrid Eggleston Award for Nonfiction on Friday, and will receive the City of Calgary’s W.O. Mitchell Award next Wednesday, June 18th.
Commenting on his wins, Trafford said, “Winning one award was more than I had hoped for, but winning three was beyond anything I had ever contemplated. I appreciate everybody’s enthusiasm for the book, from the votes to the apparently endless recommendations to friends, book clubs, and reviewers. I hope all those who participated will consider themselves part of the book’s success . . . we’re all winners.”
Almost a Great Escape is the story of a son who takes an unexpected journey into his mother’s long-buried past – a past hidden inside a Campbell’s Soup box. Following her death, Trafford opened the box, where he found a confusion of old letters, journals, and creased photographs that revealed his mother’s secret WWII romance, and more. The letters were from the Norwegian fighter pilot Jens Müller, who would become famous as one of the architects of “the Great Escape” and one of only three prisoners to make it home.
But this forbidden romance is only one of the many mysteries of Trafford’s unusual inheritance. As he reconstructs and deconstructs his mother’s life, from her youth as a wealthy Montreal socialite to her final days as a broken but unbent casualty of an unhappy marriage, Trafford begins to understand her willingness to pay the price for her choices. He also discovers the power and inspiration of his mother’s life.
The Alberta Readers’ Choice Award is one of North America’s richest literary prizes and is voted on by the public through the Edmonton Public Library. Fiction and narrative non-fiction titles by Alberta authors are eligible. Trafford’s book competed with Todd Babiak’s Come Barbarians, Diana Davidson’s Pilgrimage, Michael Hingston’s The Dilettantes, and Theresa Shea’s The Unfinished Child. The award was given out as part of The Writers’ Guild of Alberta’s 2014 Calgary Conference, during which the Guild presented its Alberta Literary Awards, and the Book Publishers Association of Alberta presented its Alberta Book Publishing Awards.
The Wilfred Eggleston Award for Non-Fiction was established in 1982 in honour of Wilfrid Eggleston (1901–1986). Eggleston’s family homesteaded near Manyberries, AB, in 1909. He was a teacher with the Golden Prairie School District, and later attended Queen’s University, and became a journalist. His career included jobs with the Toronto Daily Star and the Reuters News Agency. He headed the school of journalism at Carleton University and was awarded the Order of the Empire in 1943. In addition to his career as a journalist, Eggleston published several non-fiction works, including his memoir Literary Friends (1980).
The W.O. Mitchell Prize is awarded by The City of Calgary, in conjunction with the Writers’ Guild of Alberta, in honour of acclaimed Calgary writer W.O. Mitchell. Established in 1996 and administered by the Writers’ Guild, the $5,000 prize is awarded annually for an outstanding book of fiction, poetry, non-fiction, children’s literature, or drama published in the preceding year. The award will be presented to Trafford at the 2013 Calgary Awards on Wednesday, June 11, 2014, at 7:30 p.m. in the Calgary Municipal Complex.
Tyler Trafford worked as a reporter, editor, and columnist first with the Calgary Herald, then with the Australian and later with the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel. When he returned to Canada, he began writing biographies, histories, and works of fiction, including The Story of Blue Eye, which was shortlisted for the 2005 Grant McEwan Author’s Award. He now lives in Pincher Creek, Alberta.