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‘Daredevils,’ the debut novel by SR columnist Shawn Vestal, is a finalist for Washington Book Award

UPDATED: Tue., Aug. 8, 2017

Spokane writer Shawn Vestal, and former Spokane residents Timothy Egan and Sherman Alexie, are among the finalists for the 2017 Washington State Book Awards.

Vestal, a columnist for The Spokesman-Review and the author of the award-winning story collection “Godforsaken Idaho,” is a finalist in the fiction category for his debut novel, “Daredevils” (Penguin Press).

The novel centers on a teenage girl raised in a fundamentalist Mormon community – a polygamous Mormon community – who as punishment for misbehavior is married off as a sister-wife. She chafes at her new life, and enlists a fellow teen to help her escape. In naming “Daredevils” to its list of the top 100 books of 2016, the San Francisco Chronicle called it a “full-throttle, exhilarating debut novel” that “centers on faith, daring and the unexpectedly glorious coming-of-age of a Mormon teenager.”

Originally from Gooding, Idaho, Vestal has worked at The Spokesman-Review since 1999, after stints at the newspapers in Bozeman; Coeur d’Alene and Burley in Idaho; and Roseburg, Oregon.

The past two winners in the fiction category have come from Spokane, Sharma Shields in 2016 for “The Sasquatch Hunter’s Almanac,” and Bruce Holbert in 2015 for “The Hour of Lead.”

Egan, who grew up in Spokane and graduated from Gonzaga Prep before moving to Seattle, is nominated in the history/general nonfiction category for “This Immortal Irishman: The Irish Revolutionary Who Became an American Hero” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). Egan, who also writes for the New York Times, is a six-time Washington book award winner. His 2006 book, “The Worst Hard Time,” about the dust bowl of the 1930s, also won the National Book Award.

Alexie also is no stranger to the Washington book awards, having won in 1994 for his beloved story collection “The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven” and the poetry collections “Old Shirts and New Skins” and “First Indian on the Moon,” and again in 2008 for his National Book Award-winning young adult novel “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.” This year, he’s nominated in the picture book category, with “Thunder Boy Jr.” (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.)

The awards, presented by the Washington Center for the Book at the Seattle Public Library, will be presented at a gala on Oct. 14. For more information, visit

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