Walter's 'The Cold Millions' takes top fiction prize at Washington State Book Awards

<p><p>Jess Walter’s novel “The Cold Millions,” a nuanced, immersive work of historical fiction centered on two brothers and the labor movement in Spokane in the early 20th century, has won the Washington State Book Award for Fiction.</p></p><p><p>The award was announced Friday by the Washington Center for the Book and the Seattle Public Library. This is Walter’s first Washington State Book Award, despite five previous nominations, including for his New York Times best-seller “Beautiful Ruins” and “The Zero,” which was a National Book Award finalist. </p></p><p><p>“This book felt important from the moment it was released, and I’m thrilled that the Washington Center for the Book can claim Jess Walter as one of our state authors,” said Linda Johns, co-manager for the center. “I feel so pleased each year when a Spokane author takes home the top award for fiction, and this year was no exception.”</p></p><p><p>Walter now joins Sharma Shields, Shawn Vestal, Bruce Holbert and Gregory Spatz as winners of the state’s top fiction prize who hail from the Spokane area. Other Spokane writers who have won the prize include poets Tod Marshall, Carolyn Kizer and Christopher Howell, young adult writers Stephanie Oakes, Chris Crutcher and Sherman Alexie, memorist Paul Lindholdt and history writers Timothy Egan and Jack Nisbet. </p></p><p><p>Set in 1909 as Spokane is booming with mining, lumber, railroads and corruption, “The Cold Millions” tells the story of itinerant workers Gig and Rye Dolan. Gig is a labor activist who gets involved in the free speech fight that brought hundreds of “Wobblies” – members of the IWW labor union – to town. Rye, a teenager, gets swept up in it too, and joins forces with activist firebrand Elizabeth Gurley Flynn to raise money for the cause. The story is populated by cops and millionaires, crooked bosses and vaudeville actresses. Through it all is Walter’s sly sense of humor and a pointed repudiation of the kinds of inequality that still exist in America today.</p></p><p><p>Other finalists in the fiction category this year were “The Second Star,” by Alma Alexander, of Bellingham (Crossroad Press); “Living Color: Angie Rubio Stories,” by Donna Miscolta, of Seattle (Jaded Ibis Press); “Vera Violet,” by Melissa Anne Peterson, of Shelton (Counterpoint Press); and “The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows,” by Olivia Waite, of Seattle (Avon Impulse)</p></p><p><p>Other winners announced are:</p></p><p><p>E.J. Koh for “The Magical Language of Others” (biography/memoir);</p></p><p><p>Clyde Ford for “Think Black” (creative nonfiction);</p></p><p><p>Jennifer Haupt as editor for “Alone Together: Love, Grief and Comfort in the Time of COVID-19” (general nonfiction);</p></p><p><p>Phoebe Bosché, Anna Bálint, and Thomas Hubbard for “Take a Stand: Art Against Hate, a Raven Chronicles Anthology” (poetry);</p></p><p><p>Jennifer K. Mann for “The Camping Trip” (picture book);</p></p><p><p>Sara Kapit for “Get a Grip, Vivy Cohen!” (books for young readers);</p></p><p><p>and Jennifer Longo for “What I Carry” (young adult literature).</p></p>