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Darn Good Books: Popular Fiction from the Past

One of my personal missions is to remind Canadians—and especially young Canadian writers—that popular fiction has deep roots in this country, and that we used to celebrate it. We can debate why the Governor General's Literary Awards (aka the GGs) have gone from being a fiction award embracing all genres to one narrowly focused on literary fiction, but we should remember those former winners, just as we should remember which Governor General helped create the awards in the first place: our 15th Governor General John Buchan, Lord Tweedsmuir, himself a prolific writer who, of all his many works, was best known for his 28 popular novels of adventure, including his classic spy novel The 39 Steps.

"What we are trying to do," explained one of the GGs' founders, Globe & Mail book review editor William Arthur Deacon, in 1940, "is crown good books, the 'best' books by a plain, common-sense standard. E.g. we won’t just pick the current best-seller because it is popular; but neither will we choose some obscure thing that the public would not bother with. We want quality, merit, but of the sort that people will want to buy and like to read. A spotlight for 'darn good books.'"

Here are a few of them.


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