Paul St. Pierre 2000
In 2000, Paul St. Pierre received the sixth George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award for an Outstanding Literary Career in British Columbia. He is a wry comic writer who has been compared to Mark Twain.
Born in Chicago in 1923, he served in the RCAF and began his journalism career with stints at the Columbian in New Westmister and the News Herald in the late 1940s. He wrote for the Vancouver Sun from 1947 to 1968, and again from 1972 to 1979. He served as the Liberal MP for the Coast Chilcotin riding from 1968 to 1972 and chaired the B.C. Liberal caucus for two years. He was a police commissioner for B.C. from 1979 to 1983.
St. Pierre’s best-known book, Breaking Smith’s Quarter Horse (D&M) has never been out of print since its publication in 1966. It was preceded by a work of juvenile fiction, Boss of the Namko (1965) and followed by Sister Balonika (a play, 1969), Chilcotin Holiday (newspaper columns, 1970) and Smith and Other Events (1983), for which he became the first Canadian winner of the Western Writers of America Spur Award for fiction.
His Chilcotin titles showcase the humour and stubborn independence of ranchers and Indians who instinctually resent government. In terms of style and content, they are links between classic outdoor titles such as Richard Hobson Jr.’s Nothing Too Good For A Cowboy and the short stories of W.P. Kinsella.
St. Pierre’s work for and about the Chilcotin led to his creation of the award-winning and popular CBC-TV series Cariboo Country for which, as the sole writer, he wrote more than 20 scripts. Long before such lighter fare as The Beachcombers and Danger Bay, long before North of 60, Cariboo Country was the first significant portrayal of non-urban B.C. culture on television to percolate far beyond B.C.’s borders.
The success of Cariboo Country launched the acting career of Chief Dan George who appeared in George Ryga’s The Ecstasy of Rita Joe and Little Big Man with Dustin Hoffman. St. Pierre’s play How to Run the Country was produced by the Vancouver Playhouse in 1967. In addition he contributed the text to British Columbia, Our Land (1981) and produced a lively collection of character sketches, travel articles and opinion pieces, Chilcotin and Beyond (1989).
Paul St. Pierre’s novel, In the Navel of the Moon (1993), is set in the fictional Mexican border town of San Sebastian de Hidalgo (“my best work but a bust at the sales counter”). In Mexico, he says, he is known as ‘El Hombre Lobo’, the wolf man, “because, they say, I have pale eyes, hair on my face and pace around a lot.”
In 2002 he published a collection of observations and pronouncement called Old Enough to Know Better (Harbour), including some reminiscences of experiences as a Member of Parliament, newspaper columnist, police commissioner, father, wet-fly fisherman and wing shot. He maintains a mobile trailer home in the Chilcotin, a home in Fort Langley and a third home in Sinaloa, Mexico.
He is the father of one son and three daughters and the grandfather of eight. He writes a syndicated newspaper column called Straight Wry. He has been known to say of his literary efforts that it is indoor work and there is no heavy lifting.
“Paul St. Pierre is a storyteller… in France or Germany they would erect a statue in his honour.”
— Charles Lillard, critic
“This guys wears British Columbia on his sleeve, and our collective imagination is the richer for it.”
— Scott McIntyre, publisher
“There are so few masters of humour that he deserves a special award for giving us so much pleasure.”
— Edith Iglauer, author