Saskatchewan-Based Novel a Finalist for the Leacock Medal for Humour

It’s been a busy few days for Morgan Murray’s debut novel, Dirty Birds. After being named a finalist for three Atlantic Book Awards on Friday, it was announced Monday that Dirty Birds is also a finalist for two national book awards: the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour and the ReLit Awards. 

Since its release this past August, Dirty Birds has received rave reviews, with the likes of Scotia Bank Giller Prize winner Will Ferguson comparing it to the work of Kurt Vonnegut, and winner of Canada Reads Lisa Moore calling it a “joyful extravaganza.”

Dirty Birds has also received a number of honours, including being a finalist for three Atlantic Book Awards—Best Atlantic-Published Book, Best Novel, and Best First Novel, being named as a Hot Summer Read by The Globe & Mail, being picked for the CBC Books Reading List for both Fall and Winter 2020, being named to the Canada Reads 2021 Longlist, and a in March it was named a finalist for the prestigious international Foreword Indies Awards in the Humour category.

“I’m still in disbelief about the three Atlantic Book Award nominations,” says Murray from his home near Mabou, NS. “But then to get two more, and not just any two by the ReLit Awards and especially the Leacock Medal, I’m stunned. Any recognition like this is so special. But the Leacock Medal has been my Stanley Cup since I was forced to realize I’d never win the actual Stanley Cup,” he says.

Dirty Birds follows the misadventures of Milton Ontario—not to be confused with Milton, Ontario—and his pursuit of fame, fortune, love, and the meaning of life as he moves from his parents’ basement the fictional village of Bellybutton, Saskatchewan to vibrant and bohemian Montreal.

“Things don’t always go Milton’s way,” says Murray. “He’s not particularly talented, nor clever, nor motivated, so he sort of stumbles from one mishap and misadventure to the next, getting himself into all kinds of trouble.”

Murray, who now lives in Cape Breton with his wife, well-known cartoonist Kate Beaton, and their young daughter, grew up on his family’s farm in rural Alberta, but his mother’s side of the family hail from southern Saskatchewan, where Murray’s great-grandparents homesteaded near Riverhurst.

Named for the famed humour writer, the Stephen Leacock Medal has recognized the best book of humour written in Canada for 74 years. Past winners of the now $15,000 prize have included Terry Fallis, Will Ferguson, W.O.Mitchell, Stuart McLean and Mordecai Richler. Murray’s Dirty Birds is one of the 10 long-listed books. Three finalists will be named on May 3, with the winner announced June 4, 2021.

The ReLit Awards are annual awards recognizing the best independently published novels, short fiction, and poetry in Canada. The Globe & Mail has called the awards “the country’s pre-eminent literary prize recognizing independent presses.” The winner of this year’s ReLit Awards will be announced on April 23.

For more information about Morgan Murray, Dirty Birds, and upcoming author events, visit

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