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Johnston hopes for a hit in India

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A Winnipeg writer is hoping for a hit in one of the world's biggest markets this month with a real-life adventure story of war and survival.

Four Miles to Freedom: Escape From a Pakistan POW Camp is Faith Johnston's story of three Indian Air Force pilots who were shot down during the 1971 war with Pakistan. The three escaped from a POW camp, attempted to flee to Afghanistan and were captured in the Khyber Pass.

Johnston, in India for the launch this week in the city of Pune, learned about the story because one of the men is a friend of her husband, also a former Indian Air Force pilot. Her last book was the novel The Only Man in the World, published by Turnstone Press.

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Did you sing We Are the Champions when you heard the news of Alice Munro's Nobel Prize? Are you more afraid of waiting for the dentist without a book to read than you afraid of the dentist?

When you see a story about Ben Johnson, do you still think somebody's misspelled the name of the Elizabethan satirist?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, the highlight of your festival season awaits Wednesday at Finn McCue's Irish Pub at The Forks. The Manitoba Writers' Guild and the Writers' Union of Canada are teaming up to put on a literary pub quiz with promises of merriment, prizes and "excellent grammar."

The quiz entry fee is $5 per person and the fun runs from 7 to 9 p.m.

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After more than 20 years as a prominent environmental journalist, Alberta's Andrew Nikiforuk received this year's Writers' Trust Matt Cohen Award, which honours a Canadian writer for a lifetime of distinguished work in French or English.

Nikiforuk's most recent book, The Energy of Slaves: Oil and the New Servitude (Greystone Books), which compares our reliance on nearly free energy with the reliance of slave societies on unpaid labour. His earlier books examined the environmental risks of Alberta's oilsands, the role of climate change in the destructive spread of the pine beetle, and the violent campaign against oil and gas waged by Wiebo Ludwig, the leader of a rural religious community.

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Five Canadian books are on this year's list of 100 Notable Books, produced by the New York Times.

On the fiction side, the late David Rakoff's novel Love, Dishonor, Marry, Cherish, Perish joins CanLit Queen Margaret Atwood (Maddaddam, the third instalment in her dystopian trilogy) and sort-of-Canuck Eleanor Catton (the Booker Prize winner for The Luminaries).

Two Canadian non-fiction titles made the list: Margaret MacMillan's The War That Ended Peace, about the causes of the First World War, and Amanda Lindhout's A House in the Sky, about her harrowing experiences after being kidnapped by Islamist rebels in Somalia. Lindhout's memoir also scored a spot on the Slate magazine top books list.

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A symbolic die-off at a literary conference, a demonstration outside Montreal's Bibliotheque National and a YouTube video of authors going silent are all part of a campaign by Quebec writers to have the price of books regulated.

The Quebec writers organization UNEQ launched the "Sauvons les livres" campaign this fall to call attention to the loss of independent bookstores and small publishers. The campaign focuses on the impact of big-box retailers offering bestsellers at discounted prices.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 7, 2013 A1

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