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Times Literary Prizes Awarded

Winners' topics include artists, killers and war. The event kicks off the paper's weekend festival.

April 23, 2005|Scott Martelle | Times Staff Writer

"Surf noir" writer Kem Nunn, a National Book Award finalist for an earlier work, received the prize for best mystery/thriller for "Tijuana Straits: A Novel," set on the Mexican border and exploring the effects of willfully lax environmental controls on local residents. "Combining graceful yet uncompromising prose with a powerful story about the forces that collide along the wasteland border," the judges wrote, "Nunn delivers a nonstop thriller whose unlikely hero -- a talented surfer, now a solitary ex-con -- is forced to go up against some monstrous thugs driven mad by poisons from the foreign-owned factories."

A nonfiction environmental book, Charles Wohlforth's "The Whale and the Supercomputer: On the Northern Front of Climate Change," won the science and technology award.

"From his vantage point on the undermined ice of a too-warm Alaskan winter, Charles Wohlforth gives an interesting, informative, introspective, philosophical and beautifully written account of the consequences of climate change," the judges said. "His story combines the research efforts of scientists studying global warming with the insights and experiences of the Inupiat -- the Eskimos of the Arctic Ocean coast ... to interpret the whispered warning from 'the white world' of the far north."

The Young Adult Fiction prize went to British author Melvin Burgess for "Doing It," a novel that "breaks new ground in honesty about the teen experience." The book "unsentimentally explores the infinite ways in which high school boys are obsessed, exhilarated, embarrassed and tortured by sex."

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