Last Thursday, the Mystery Writers of America (MWA) announced the winners of its 2011 Edgar Allan Poe Awards, “honoring the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction, and television published or produced in 2010.” That spelled good news for such wordsmiths as Steve Hamilton, who secured Best Novel bragging rights with The Lock Artist; Bruce DeSilva, whose Rogue Island was named Best First Novel by an American Author; and Doug Allyn, whose “The Scent of Lilacs” enjoyed acclaim as last year’s Best Short Story. (Click here for a comprehensive list of Edgar winners and nominees.)
Read last week's Rap Sheet on encores in mysteries and thrillers.
While the handing out of the Edgars always marks a high point on the calendar of American crime-fiction fandom, it’s certainly not this year’s first such ceremony—nor will it be the last. Honors in this genre (and others, by the way) aren’t dispensed quite as generously as grade-school good-conduct stars, but they’ve grown substantially in quantity over the years. In addition to long-established groups such as the MWA and the British Crime Writers’ Association (CWA), and more tightly focused organizations along the lines of the Private Eye Writers of America and the Short Mystery Fiction Society, we now have print magazines and websites passing around plaques, statuettes and certificates, hoping to promote themselves as well as their preferred categories of crime, mystery and thriller fiction.
Far be it from me to condemn this liberal veneration of excellence; I’ve been on the receiving end of a couple such prizes myself, and would happily add to my collection. What’s more, these sorts of professional rewards have the value of drawing attention to authors, books and other works that might elsewise go unnoticed.
But there are so many crime-fiction awards nowadays even somebody like me who’s assigned to keep track of them all has a hard time doing so.
For instance, last week brought not only delivery of the Edgars, but also the annual Agatha Awards, honoring “traditional mysteries” (i.e., cozier, low-violence works along the Agatha Christie line). Sponsored by the fan organization Malice Domestic and voted on by attendees at its annual convention outside Washington, D.C., the Agathas went to such authors as Louise Penney (for Bury Your Dead), who’s won before, Avery Aames (The Long Quiche Goodbye) and John Curran (Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks: 50 Years of Mysteries in the Making). Look here for all the victors.
And this last Sunday, the Webzine Spinetingler released the names of who and what won its 2011 Spinetingler Awards. Because those are given out based on online polling, there can often be surprises, as indeed there were this time. Benjamin Whitmer won Best Novel—New Voice honors for Pike, David Corbett captured the Best Novel—Rising Star award for Do They Know I’m Running?, and Jonathan Woods came out on top in the Best Short-Story Collection division with Bad Juju. The full results are here.
In January, 2011 had already brought an announcement that Lindsey Davis, the British creator of a series set in ancient Rome and starring “private informer” Marcus Didius Falco, is the latest winner of the CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger. Sponsored by French luxury jeweler Cartier (how much classier can a prize get?), the Diamond Dagger recognizes “outstanding achievement in the field of crime writing.” Previous awardees include Americans Sue Grafton and Elmore Leonard, and Brits Val McDermid, Andrew Taylor and John Harvey.
The Diamond Dagger is merely the opening act in the CWA’s barrage of similarly pointed prizes—including the Gold Dagger (for the best crime novel of the year), the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger (for the best thriller), the John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger (for the best debut novel by a previously unpublished wordsmith) and the Ellis Peters Historical Award (for, well, the previous year’s historical mystery)—scheduled to be presented over the next six months. In previous years, the CWA has held a gala awards ceremony, complete with TV coverage, in the fall. Yet at least one of its commendations—the Dagger in the Library Award, given to an author for his or her body of work, rather than a single title, and with its recipient chosen by British librarians—is supposed to be bestowed this coming July during the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, taking place in Harrogate, England. (The longlist of contenders for that prize can be found here.)
Tendered earlier in the year as well was the Spotted Owl Award, an accolade created by the Portland, Ore.-based Friends of Mystery fan organization to recognize what its members believe was the finest crime or thriller novel published during the previous year by a Pacific Northwest resident. The 2011 victor turned out to be Dana Haynes, author of the airliner-themed investigative drama, Crashers.
The annual Left Coast Crime convention, which took place in Santa Fe, N.M., in late March, resulted in a quartet of prize pronouncements. J. Michael Orenduff, author of The Pot Thief Who Studied Einstein, walked away with The Lefty Award (for a humorous mystery), while Jacqueline Winspear was given the Bruce Alexander Memorial Historical Mystery Award for The Mapping of Love and Death, Margaret Coel picked up the Hillerman Sky Award (a special honor given to the mystery that best portrayed the landscape of the Southwest) for The Spider’s Web, and Craig Johnson’s last Sheriff Walt Longmire novel, Junkyard Dogs, scored The Watson (another special commendation, given to the mystery novel with the best sidekick).
Also revealed in March were the latest winners of the Short Mystery Fiction Society’s Derringer Awards. Named in memory of an infamous, short-barreled 19th-century pocket pistol, the Derringers acknowledge exceptional quality in abbreviated crime fiction. Sean Doolittle, Todd Robinson and Art Taylor were among this year’s most recognizable Derringer champs.
As 2011 progresses, the pace of prize dispersals and nominee alerts picks up. Substantially.
A day after the Edgar Awards were presented, the Crime Writers of Canada organization issued the list of its candidates for the 2011 Arthur Ellis Awards. Those honors get their name from Arthur Ellis, which was the pseudonym used by Canada’s official hangmen during the early 20th century. (It’s no surprise that the prize itself is a wooden model of a hanging man, with arms and legs that move when the trophy’s string is yanked.) There are seven Arthur Ellis categories, including Best Novel, Best Short Story, Best Unpublished First Crime Novel and Best Crime Writing in French (a group that has occasionally been dropped, due to a paucity of entrants). This year’s contestants include Jeffrey Moore (The Extinction Club), Hilary Davidson (The Damage Done) and Allan Stratton (Borderline). Winners will be declared during a banquet on June 2 in Victoria, British Columbia, on the eve of this year’s Bloody Words crime-fiction fan gathering.
Over the course of CrimeFest, an increasingly popular conference for British mystery readers and authors, set to run from May 19 to 22 in Bristol, England, three different commendations will be given away: the eDunnit Award (honoring the best crime-fiction ebook first published in the UK in 2010), the Last Laugh Award (for the best humorous crime novel of 2010), and the Sounds of Crime Award (for the best abridged and unabridged crime audiobooks).
A highlight of this year’s ThrillerFest, the annual congregation of writers and readers most interested in espionage, suspense and psychological thrillers, scheduled for July 6-9 in New York City, will be the presentation of the Thriller Awards. Among the competitors in various divisions are by Michael Connelly’s The Reversal, Carla Buckley’s The Things That Keep Us Here and Robert Gregory Browne’s Down Among the Dead Men. (A complete rundown of contenders is available here.)
July 6 should also bring word of who will receive The Strand Magazine’s latest Critics Awards in two categories: Best Novel and Best First Novel.
Then comes the Big Daddy of American crime-fiction prize-giving, the Bouchercon author-fan conference, which is slated to take place this year in St. Louis, Sept. 15-18. Among its abundant events will be presentations of the 2011 Anthony Awards (with nominations and votes coming from Bouchercon attendees), Barry Awards (chosen by the readers of Deadly Pleasures Mystery Magazine), Macavity Awards (selected and voted on by members of Mystery Readers International), Shamus Awards (bestowed by the Private Eye Writers of America in recognition of high-quality P.I. fiction) and Crimespree Awards (sponsored by Crimespree Magazine and chosen online by readers).
Just two days after Bouchercon closes, on Sept. 20, the North American Branch of the International Association of Crime Writers will pick its winner of the 2011 Hammett Prize. In the running are one nonfiction work and three novels, all listed here.
Finally, though no date has yet been determined, sometime in the fall the Crime Writers’ Association of Australia is expected to winnow down its longlist of nominees and announce the latest recipients of its Ned Kelly Awards, named after a notorious 19th-century bushranger, and celebrating the best crime fiction and true-crime books produced Down Under.
Winning one of these prizes brings an author great cachet, and can whip a wind up behind a newcomer’s career or ensure the continuance of a veteran’s publishing contract. But of course, they aren’t guarantees of enduring renown. How many of you, for instance, remember Warren Kiefer’s The Lingala Code, which won the Edgar for Best Novel in 1973, or Roy Winsor’s The Corpse That Walked, which picked up the Edgar for Best Paperback Original in 1975?