This year’s winner of the richest prize for fiction in Canada, the Scotiabank Giller Prize, is veteran journalist and author Linden MacIntyre for his second novel The Bishop’s Man published by Random House Canada.

The C$50,000 Giller prize, which was announced last night at a gala that is broadcast across Canada by CTV, is renowned in Canadian publishing for the boost it gives to the winning book. Sales of last year’s winner, Joseph Boyden’s Through Black Spruce published by Penguin Group (Canada), quickly increased from 30,000 to 90,000 copies. Random House of Canada president and CEO Brad Martin said there are currently 9,000 copies of The Bishop’s Man on the market or “in the pipeline,” but as soon as the winner was announced he sent word to print another 35,000 copies. The title currently has no U.S. publisher.

Although there was no one favorite, MacIntyre’s win was considered a surprise because two of the other novels had received more attention. Annabel Lyon’s novel The Golden Mean about Aristotle’s education of Alexander the Great, which was also published by Random House Canada, got a lot of press because it was shortlisted for two other major prizes as well. Anne Michaels’ novel The Winter Vault, published by McClelland & Stewart, was the much anticipated and well-received follow-up to her debut novel Fugitive Pieces, which won many prizes including the Orange Prize for Fiction in the U.K.

But jury member and author Russell Banks, who worked with British author Victoria Glendinning and Canadian author Alistair MacLeod, to choose the winner, said the jury’s decision was unanimous. Glendinning described MacIntyre’s book, about the sexual abuses of children by Catholic priests and the church’s suppression of evidence, as courageous. “It’s written as if it is a detective novel, which in some aspects it is,” said MacLeod. But Banks also praised its style, saying MacIntyre’s descriptions of winter in small towns stays with him. “He catches it exactly. The oppressiveness of it, the exquisite beauty of it but the burden of it as well.”

In his speech, which MacIntyre said he had planned to give later at home, he praised the other authors and thanked his publisher and editor Anne Collins, agent Don Sedgwick of the Transatlantic Literary Agency, and his wife and fellow journalist Carol Off. He also made a point of thanking “a bunch of fishermen, men and women, on the west coast of Cape Breton who inspired me to do this story in Inverness Country. And last but not least a whole bunch of priests and nuns who are struggling do their jobs in spite of the failures of their leadership and in spite of the failures of a few people who they thought were working on the same team.”

Collins, v-p and publisher at Random House Canada, called the book wise and well-crafted. “There are just some very touching, tough issues at the heart of that book. It seems to have spoken to the jury,” she said. And commenting on the author’s dual success as journalist and now as a prize-winning author, she added, “You can’t take the journalist out of him, but there’s an artist in there.”