Tijuana Straits wins Times Literary Prize

Winners’ topics include artists, killers and war.

Books about artists, killers and war figured prominently in the 25th annualLos Angeles Times Book Prizes awarded Friday night at UCLA’s Royce Hall, thecurtain-raiser on this weekend’s Festival of Books on the Westwood campus.

The Robert Kirsch Award for lifetime achievement was presented to TonyHillerman, whose novels of the American Southwest “reinvented the mysterynovel as a venue for the exploration and celebration of Native Americanhistory, culture and identity,” according to the citation.

Some of the winners, such as the Pulitzer Prize-winning “De Kooning: AnAmerican Master,” by journalists Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan, have alreadyscored literary honors. But for others, such as Lorraine Adams’ debut novel”Harbor,” the $1,000 prize marked the first formal recognition.”Surf noir” writer Kem Nunn, a National Book Award finalist for an earlierwork, received the prize for best mystery/thriller for “Tijuana Straits: ANovel,” set on the Mexican border and exploring the effects of willfully laxenvironmental controls on local residents. “Combining graceful yetuncompromising prose with a powerful story about the forces that collidealong the wasteland border,” the judges wrote, “Nunn delivers a nonstopthriller whose unlikely hero – a talented surfer, now a solitary ex-con – isforced to go up against some monstrous thugs driven mad by poisons from theforeign-owned factories.”