man wearing dark pants and gray vert standing outside in front of a tree with pink blossoms
Maurice Prize winner Kirk Colvin (M.A., creative writing, '98) returned to writing after a long career in the Coast Guard.

Book Informed by Alum’s Experience in Haiti Wins Maurice Prize

Kirk Colvin spent a year as U.S. Coast Guard attaché to the American Embassy during the final months of the brutal Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier regime in the 1980s. His time there informed his novel Bloodless Coup, winner of the Maurice Prize for Fiction.

“I really feel quite honored,” said Colvin, who in 1998 earned a master’s degree in creative writing from the UC Davis Department of English.

The Maurice Prize of $10,000 is awarded to UC Davis alumni and was established in 2005 by bestselling author John Lescroart in honor of his father. Learn more about the award and past winners.

Like Colvin once was, the narrator of Bloodless Coup is the Coast Guard attaché in Haiti. He becomes an unwitting catalyst in a dangerous plot to depose Baby Doc that involves a powerful voodoo priest and takes a turn into the supernatural.

Growing up in the 1950s and 1960s in what’s now Silicon Valley, Colvin was captivated by the giants of science fiction writing and tried emulating them in his school notebooks. After earning a degree in biology, he became a Coast Guard officer and pilot, a career that sent him around the nation and, for a time, to Haiti. Shortly before retiring, he took a creative writing class at the University of Alaska; a story he produced for the class won first place in a Pacific Northwest Writers Conference contest.

“That bit of success was enough to get me thinking about doing something with my writing,” said Colvin, who lives in El Dorado Hills. “After retirement, I joined the El Dorado Writers’ Guild; that was in 1994 and I’m still attending meetings.”

A few years later, he enrolled at UC Davis.

“I was considerably older than my classmates, but they didn’t hold that against me,” he recalled. “It was fun, challenging and rewarding. I had great instructors … and wonderful classmates whose encouragement and friendship made those two years a joy. I’d go back tomorrow and do it again if UC Davis would let me.”

— Jeffrey Day, content strategist in the UC Davis College of Letters and Science

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