10/01/2012 12:15 EDT | Updated 12/01/2012 05:12 EST

Giller jury shortlists Kim Thuy, Will Ferguson for $50K prize

Montreal's Kim Thuy and Calgary's Will Ferguson are among the five authors in the running for the Giller Prize, among Canada's most prestigious literary honours.

Organizers announced the shortlisted authors in Toronto on Monday.

The finalists for the $50,000 prize, which celebrates the best Canadian work of fiction in English (or translated into English) of the past year, are:

- Will Ferguson, though known as a humourist, is nominated for his dark thriller 419.

- Kim Thuy for her autobiographical novelRu (translated by Sheila Fischman).

- U.S.-based Montrealer Alix Ohlin for Inside, a modern tale about four intertwined characters.

- Montreal's Nancy Richler for her mid-century set novel The Imposter Bride.

- Halifax-raised, St. John's-based journalist and author Russell Wangersky for his short story collection Whirl Away.

This year's three-member jury — comprising American satirist Gary Shteyngart, Irish author Roddy Doyle and Canadian publisher and writer Anna Porter — whittled the list down from the 13-title long list revealed in early September. Overall, nearly 145 books were submitted for consideration.

The Canadian fiction scene is "very vibrant. It's a really healthy eco-system," Shteyngart told CBC News on Monday.

"From the standpoint of knowing Margaret Atwood and Alice Munro and Douglas Copeland, this was a real eye-opener," he added.

The finalists all "know how to tell a good yarn. I mean, these are all books, that ... I was glued to it, page after page after page. Some of these books I read months ago, and they've stayed with me entirely."

Celebrating writers

The six finalists will be celebrated at the 2012 Giller Prize gala, to be held in Toronto on Oct. 30 and broadcast by CBC Television.

With the advice of friends like Mordecai Richler, businessman Jack Rabinovitch founded the Giller Prize in memory of his late wife, literary journalist Doris Giller.

"We started it because we wanted to highlight good writers," he recalled on Monday.

"Mordecai pointed out, I think very vigorously, that authors make a living by selling their books. So the more marketing influence that we could bring, to focus on the books, was very tangible and beneficial to the authors."

Awarded annually since in 1994, the prize has previously gone to writers Rohinton Mistry, Margaret Atwood, Vincent Lam, Alice Munro, Michael Ondaatje, Esi Edugyan and Mordecai Richler. Winning the prize typically offers a major sales boost to the chosen author and title.