Red Deer author Sigmund Brouwer won Canada’s top crime fiction award for his youth novel Dead Man’s Switch.
Getting the Arthur Ellis Award for best juvenile novel is “very, very thrilling,” said Brouwer. “Believe me, I was surprised when they called my name — and delighted!”
Since the prize is named for a historic Canadian hangman, a trophy resembling a hanged man was presented to him last week at a ceremony at Toronto’s Arts and Letters Club.
Brouwer said the “unique” piece of hardware has a place of honour on top of his bookshelf.
While the prolific author has four million copies of his books in print, so far he’s written only three titles in the youth mystery genre.
His Dead Man’s Switch, published by the American firm Harvest House, is about a teenage boy who becomes endangered when he sets out to unravel a dark conspiracy. It’s a case of the hunter becoming the hunted on a remote island in a plot inspired by Brouwer’s own adolescent reading of The Most Dangerous Game, a short story by Richard Connell.
“I thought it was a fascinating concept,” said Brouwer, whose novel includes the use of modern devices to solve various dilemmas.
“The protagonist uses some new technology to defeat the bad guy.”
He added Dead Man’s Switch was written carefully and seriously, as “young readers are smart. I wanted to write this as well as if I was writing a grown-up novel.”
Judges called the book a “cleverly crafted intense mystery thriller” that’s loaded with action, humour, believable characters, plot twists — and food for thought: “Frighteningly realist in its exploration of the secrets and abuses of power that are hidden in today’s world, teens will have plenty to think about and discuss.”
While there’s no cash tied to the prize, Brouwer believes winning the esteemed Arthur Ellis Award raises his profile in Canadian literature.
Dead Man’s Switch already has a sequel, Nowhere To Hide, about teenage cyber bounty hunters who get drawn into another conspiracy.
The Central Alberta author is also in the running for another award. His book Thief of Glory is a finalist in the Alberta Readers’ Choice Awards, which comes with a purse of $10,000. It will be announced on Sept. 18.
Brouwer has written across many genres, from children’s picture books to scientific thrillers. He is published by mainstream and evangelical publishers.
The author, who has visited thousands of students at schools across North America to promote literacy, is married to a Christian singer Cindy Morgan and has two daughters. He divides his time between Nashville and Central Alberta.