2013 Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction Finalist

This Great Escape

Andrew Steinmetz
This Great Escape: The Case of Michael Paryla

Andrew Steinmetz

Jury Citation

The stated purpose of Andrew Steinmetz’s This Great Escape is simple – to profile the actor Michael Paryla, a distant relative of the author, whose crowning glory (just before his sudden and possibly accidental death from an overdose in Hamburg) was an uncredited 57-second appearance in the iconic WWII movie The Great Escape. But under Steinmetz’s obsessive, poetic gaze, the focus gradually expands to capture both writer and reader in the frame. In this innovative and unexpectedly funny book, no one, not even the most insignificant bit player, makes a clean escape.

About the Book

He had fifty-seven seconds of screen time in the most lavish POW film Hollywood ever produced. The film is The Great Escape; the actor, though uncredited, is Michael Paryla, who died shortly after filming. Andrew Steinmetz tenderly reconstructs the life of a man seen by millions yet recognized by no one, whose history—from childhood flight from Nazism to suspicious death twenty years later—intersects with the plot of the classic war film. Splicing together documentary materials with correspondence, diary entries, and Steinmetz’s own travel journal, This Great Escape examines how our most anonymous and undocumented moments can brush against the zeitgeist of world history.

About the Author

Born in Montréal, Andrew Steinmetz is the author of a memoir, two collections of poetry, and a novel, Eva’s Threepenny Theatre, which tells the story of his great-aunt Eva who performed in one of the first touring productions of Bertolt Brecht’s masterpiece The Threepenny Opera. An unusual fiction about memoir, Eva’s Threepenny Theatre won the 2009 City of Ottawa Book Award and was a finalist for the 2009 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. Steinmetz is also the founding editor of Esplanade Books, the fiction imprint at Véhicule Press. He lives in Ottawa.




Woodcock Fund



Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing


September 19 for books published between June 20 and September 18, 2018


Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction
and Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize


July 18 for books published between May 16 and Sept 30, 2018


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