On Monday the three finalists for the prestigious Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour were announced. The list includes a Companion of the Order of Canada (Thomas King for Indians on Vacation) and a previous winner (Joseph Kertes for Last Impressions), along with first time novelist Morgan Murray for his Saskatchewan-based satirical novel Dirty Birds.

“I may have screamed a little bit when I found out,” says Murray from his home near Mabou, NS. “It was a dream come true just to be nominated, but to be on a short list of just three, with two Canadian writing legends, it’s beyond my wildest dreams. If I win it might kill me,” he says.

Despite being published by a small independent publisher based in Newfoundland and Labrador, Breakwater Books, and being released in the midst of a global pandemic, Dirty Birds has received more than its share of positive reviews and accolades.

ScotiaBank Giller Prize winner, and two-time Leacock Medal winner Will Ferguson compared Dirty Birds to the work of the legendary American author Kurt Vonnegut, and winner of Canada Reads Lisa Moore called it a “joyful extravaganza.”

Dirty Birds is also a finalist for three Atlantic Book Awards—Best Atlantic-Published Book, Best Novel, and Best First Novel—has been named as a Hot Summer Read by The Globe & Mail, being picked for the CBC Books Reading List for both Fall and Winter 2020, been named to the Canada Reads 2021 Longlist, the ReLit Awards 2020 shortlist, and named a finalist for the prestigious international Foreword Indies Awards in the Humour category.

Dirty Birds follows the misadventures of Milton Ontario—not to be confused with Milton, Ontario—and his pursuit of fame, fortune, love, and the meaning of life as he moves from his parents’ basement the fictional village of Bellybutton, Saskatchewan to vibrant and bohemian Montreal.

“Milton’s got all kinds of ideas and ambitions and not one clue or shred of talent,” says Murray. “Yet, all his dreams do come true, in a way, just never in the way he expects, and always in the most disastrous over-the-top way. Poor, Milton.”

Named for the famed humour writer, the Stephen Leacock Medal has recognized the best book of humour written in Canada for 74 years. Past winners of the now $15,000 prize have included Terry Fallis, Will Ferguson, W.O.Mitchell, Stuart McLean and Mordecai Richler. Murray’s Dirty Birds is one of the 10 long-listed books. The winner will be announced June 4, 2021.

For more information about Morgan Murray, Dirty Birds, and upcoming author events, visit morganmurray.ca.

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