Sooke author Jim Bottomley says he thinks his nomination at this year’s national Arthur Ellis Awards goes against the grain for literature that tackles mystery writing.
Bottomley is among the finalists announced for best unpublished manuscript. Hypnotizing Lions is a psychological thriller centered around an escape from a prison psychiatric hospital.
The book’s theme is based on a simple question: Do delusions destroy?
“It’s meant to be very scary, with many twists,” Bottomley said.
When he found out he was short-listed for the award, Bottomley said, he wasn’t surprised.
“I was quite confident I would, but obviously you have to be measured in that because you could be disappointed. It’s been a long haul with lots of rewrites, and I’m comfortable the book is told in a good way.”
Three judges read and evaluate the entries in each of the seven prize categories of the Arthur Ellis Awards. Final winners are announced on May 23 in Toronto.
The book goes against the norm of most “cozy mysteries,” like Miss Marpole or Agatha Christie, where the protagonist solves the crime without violence on the page, while reflecting on more friendly social issues that usually end up as best sellers.
“My novel is more risky. It doesn’t mask books from the past,” Bottomley said, adding cozy mysteries tend to be favoured in judging.
Bottomley started writing Hypnotizing Lions in 1984 (yes, 35 years ago) and he’s turned down numerous offers from publishers in a quest to get the book to near perfection.
“I’ve always been of the mindset I wanted to make it the best that I could,” he said.
It’s one of the reasons he moved to Sooke in 2016 from Jasper, Alta . He heard the small B.C. town was noted for its literary talent and support.
The Sooke Writers’ Collective fit the bill and he credits local authors Angela Dorsey and David Reichheld for their mentoring.
“The group’s super helpful. I wouldn’t be in the contest finals without the help of the Sooke writers,” said Bottomley.
The move has come full circle for Bottomley, who entered university to take English but soon learned post secondary English was more about critiquing others work than writing. He transferred to the school’s business program.
His career soon took him into marketing and today he’s a futurist and travels the world as a professional speaker.
But it’s the love of writing that keeps him grounded.
Over the years, he talked to agents, publishers, and screenwriters about his book and took specialized course always with the hope of one day getting it published.
Bottomley took 13 years off from fiction writing to make a living and build equity, with the idea he’d come back to writing full-time. “I didn’t want to wake up at age 65 and be a starving writer,” he said.
The Arthur Ellis Awards are a group of Canadian literary awards, presented annually by the Crime Writers of Canada for the best Canadian crime and mystery writing published in the previous year. The award is presented at a gala dinner in the year following publication.
The awards are named for Arthur Ellis, the pseudonym of Canada’s official hangman. The award statue itself is a wooden model of a hanging man. The arms and legs move when the statue’s string is pulled.