Canadian author and screenwriter Brad Smith has been shortlisted for the 2022 Dashiell Hammett Prize for his historical crime novel Copperhead Road.
Established in 1991, the Dashiell Hammett Prize has been awarded by the North American Branch of the International Association of Crime Writers and selected by a reading committee from almost 300 American and Canadian novels. Named after the revered crime writer and political activist Dashiell Hammett, the award is granted to the writer whose novel embodies literary excellence in crime writing. Past Canadian winners have included The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood and The Outlander by Gil Adamson.
Brad Smith has been nominated for his most recent title, Copperhead Road. Smith is an author from southern Ontario who draws on his many adventures from working across North America and Africa.
Copperhead Road is a historical crime novel which takes place in the summer of 1936 and follows a family living in the middle of the Appalachia who is decimated by the great depression. In the wake of this devastation, the Flagg family decides to start running moonshine across the country, navigating their business outside of the law.
Smith’s fast-paced novel took a lot of inspiration from his own research about the lesser-known history of stock car racing.
“I’ve always known about the correlation during the depression years between the moonshiners in Appalachia and the guys who became the fledgling stock car drivers, which was a brand new sport back then. Some of the moonshine runners became these amazing drivers because they had to run their revenues through bad back roads and mountain roads. So it was kind of an interesting juxtaposition there and I had in my mind for a few years that I’d like to turn that into a story. And then I started doing research on it and I did,” Smith said in a call with CBC Books.
“I was a fan of Dashiell Hammett. So I’m honoured to be included in anything with his name on it because he was kind of the master at this type of fiction.”
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His previous novels include The Return of Kid Cooper which won the 2019 Spur Award from the Western Writers of America, and One-Eyed Jacks which was also shortlisted for the Dashiell Hammett Prize in 2000.
Copperhead Road was selected alongside four other novels, all by American writers: Gangland by Chuck Hogan, Don’t Know Tough by Eli Cranor, Pay Dirt Road by Samantha Jayne Allen and What Happened to the Bennetts by Lisa Scottoline.
The winner will be announced later this summer.