Concordia University

Concordia graduate Taylor Lambert wins W.O. Mitchell Book Prize for his inside account of the class divide in Calgary’s moving business

Darwin’s Moving tells a true story of the difficult lives led by furniture movers, which often includes addiction and poverty
September 17, 2018
By Molly Hamilton

When author and journalist Taylor Lambert, BA (jour.) 08, heard he won Calgary’s W.O. Mitchell Book Prize for his non-fiction book Darwin’s Moving (NeWest Press), he was more-than pleasantly surprised.

“I was absolutely shocked when I found out that I won,” Lambert says. “It’s a huge honour. I’ve never been nominated, let alone won any award for a book.”

Book cover of Darwin’s Moving Darwin’s Moving gives an up-close look into the moving industry and the very obvious class divisions that exist between the movers and the clients.

The City of Calgary announced the three authors shortlisted for the $5,000 cash award in April 2018. The prize is awarded annually for an outstanding book of fiction, poetry, non-fiction, children’s literature or drama published in the preceding year. Lambert was announced as the winner on June 13, 2018.

Writing the book

While in the middle of working on another book in 2013-14, Lambert started moving furniture with Darwin’s Moving, a residential moving company in Calgary, to help pay the bills. “It was during that time that I got the idea to write a book about the moving industry and use it as a way to explore class divides,” he says.

“Darwin’s moving has a pretty good clientele of well-to-do people from the oil industry, executives, CEOs and professional athletes,” he explains. “Meanwhile, the movers tend to be the lowest rung amongst skilled labourers and on the opposite end of the socioeconomic spectrum.”

In his book, Lambert uses the moving company to bring attention to the stark contrast between the wealthy and the poor in Calgary and many other Canadian cities. “The moving industry is a bridging of a divide in a much-divided society in an intimate way that you don’t see very often. That struck me as something worth exploring,” he says.

“Once I had the idea to do it, I needed to ask Darwin [Schulz] for his permission, which he gave readily,” Lambert reports. “I was worried he would see it as a liability. I wanted to write an honest book about his guys and their backgrounds. They’re often former criminals, sometimes violent guys and sometimes they use drugs on the job.”

Taylor Lambert, BA 08 Taylor Lambert was announced as winner of the W.O. Mitchell Book Prize on June 13, 2018. | Photo: Aaron Sostar

To write the book, Lambert continued to work for Darwin’s Moving. “When I got home at the end of the day, I would immediately sit down and write a short story about that day, about the move, what had happened, and what the guys had said and done,” he says. “I compiled a bunch of these little move stories and picked out the best ones to use in the book.”

Concordia influence

As a journalism student at Concordia, Lambert wasn’t exactly sure what he wanted to do with his degree. Yet, he attributes the literary journalism course taught by Brian Gabrial, a Concordia professor in the Department of Journalism, for influencing the kind of route he’s taken since graduating. “The nature of the class had a very big impact on me and my career, as evidenced by my career path,” he says.

In addition to Darwin’s Moving, Lambert has written numerous news articles as a journalist, and has authored three other non-fiction books — Leaving Moose Jaw (2013), Rising: Stories of the 2013 Alberta Flood (2014) and Roots: Extracted Tales From a Century of Dentistry at the University of Alberta (2017).

Today Lambert works full-time as a magazine freelancer. “There are no books on the horizon, though I’m sure I’ll write another one,” he says. “A producer has approached me about adapting Darwin’s Moving to the screen — but that’s all I can say about that.”

In the acknowledgment section of Darwin’s Moving, Lambert mentions Gabrial, one of his most supportive mentors. “I told him I was thinking about writing a magazine article about furniture movers and I explained to him the story,” Lambert says.

“He told me, ‘That’s a book. That’s absolutely a book.’ I said, ‘You’re crazy.’ He had to talk me into it but he did. He’s the reason that Darwin’s Moving is a book.”

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