Ottawa historian Mark Bourrie takes home the Taylor Prize

Mark Bourrie.

Ottawa journalist and historian Mark Bourrie is the winner of the 2020 RBC Taylor prize for non fiction for his biography of Pierre-Esprit Radisson called Bush Runner (Biblioasis).

The $30,000 prize was handed to Bourrie at a lunch in Toronto on Monday.

The book revealed much about the swashbuckling hero of the early years of the fur trade in what is now Canada and the northern United States.

Bourrie’s research told a tale of Radisson, who was a treacherous, back-stabbing rogue who once sampled human flesh and often told lies about his exploits.

But he did help found the Hudson’s Bay Company and, as Bourrie told ARTSFILE’s Paul Gessell after the book’s publication, he was often present at some of the great events of the time.

“He’s living with Indigenous people in North America. He’s with Charles II of England and his court of scoundrels, traitors, and ex-pirates. He’s in England during the Great Plague. He’s in London during the Great Fire. He’s set upon by spies. He’s in the Arctic. Then he’s with pirates in the Caribbean. After that, he’s at Versailles. And then the Arctic again. Along the way, he crosses paths with the most interesting people of his day.”

As he accepted the award the 62 year old author said that he had “wondered if anybody cared about what I wrote.” Turns out they do.

The other finalists each received $5,000.

They are:

Robyn Doolittle Had It Coming: What’s Fair in the Age of #MeToo? (Allen Lane);
Jessica McDiarmid Highway of Tears: A True Story of Racism, Indifference and the Pursuit of Justice for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (Doubleday Canada);
Ziya Tong The Reality Bubble: Blind Spots, Hidden Truths and the Dangerous Illusions That Shape Our World (Allen Lane)
Timothy C. Winegard The Mosquito: A Human History of Our Deadliest Predator (Allen Lane).

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Peter Robb began his connection with the arts community in Ottawa in the mid-1980s when he was the administrator and public relations director of the Great Canadian Theatre Company. After a long career in journalism with the Ottawa Citizen where he served in a number of different posts he returned to the arts when he became the Citizen's arts editor.