The 2012 High Plains Book Awards were announced last Saturday at the Yellowstone Art Museums in Billings, Montana, and winners included a hometown heroine: Jenny Shanks, who took Best Fiction honors for The Ringer. Shanks, who lives in Boulder, loosely based her book on the 1999 slaying of Ismael Mena, who was killed when the Denver Police Department raided the wrong house. But unlike the Mena saga, which has no happy ending, her novel winds up a tale of redemption and forgiveness -- and baseball -- as it follows Patricia Maestas, the Mexican-American wife of a Mexican immigrant killed by police; Ed O'Fallon, the officer who shot her husband; and their two sons, who end up playing in the same competitive youth league in Denver.
Shank was in Billings to accept the honors. "It was a lot of fun," she reports. "Thomas McGuane gave a funny speech."
See also: - Jenny Shank leads a literary tour of Denver - And the pitch: Jenny Shank's The Ringer - Ismael Mena: The high price of Denver's drug war: lies, bad busts, cops in harm's way and the death of an innocent man.
That was the keynote at the awards banquet; McGuane was given the 2012 Emeritus Award for his body of work and its contribution to the literature of the High Plains.
Eighty-eight books first published in 2011 were nominated by publishers in the United States and Canada for the awards, which are sponsored by the Parmly Billings Library and divided into seven categories. The winners were selected by a panel of published writers with connections to the High Plains.
The other winners:
Best Nonfiction Hand Raised: The Barns of Montana Chere Jiusto and Christine W. Brown
Best First Book American Masculine Shann Ray
Best Short Stores American Masculine Shann Ray
Best Poetry Songs of Unreason Jim Harrison
Best Art & Photography Arapaho Journeys: Photographs and Stories from the Wind River Reservation Sara Wiles
Best Women Writer Married Into It Patricia Frolander
Nominations for the 2013 High Plains Book Awards -- for books first published in 2012 -- will be accepted January 14, 2013 through March 15, 2013. Although the authors do not have to live on the High Plains, their work should reflect life in the region, which includes Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Colorado and Kansas, as well as the Canadian provinces of Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan. Learn more about the contest at highplainsbookawards.org.
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Shank's book was also a finalist for the Reading the West award; find out more here.