It took 18 years, and 10 books, but Dennis Lehane finally got to take home a small bust of Edgar Allan Poe. At the 67th Annual Edgar Awards Banquet, held Thursday night at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Manhattan, his Live by Night (Morrow), about a cop’s son gone bad, was named the Best Novel of the year by the Mystery Writers of America. In his acceptance speech, Lehane thanked a troika of James’s who influenced his fiction-Lee Burke, Crumley and Ellroy, before acknowledging his daughters’ essential part in the creative process. “They cost so much friggin’ money,” he noted, to laughter, that he has no choice but to keep on writing. On a more serious note, he credited his early access to a public library as instrumental to his career, something he termed an “act of benevolence, or, as the Tea Party would have called it, socialism.”
It was also a good night for Sherlock Holmes, who went two-for-two in very different incarnations for the second straight year. BBC’s reimagining of a master sleuth in the 21st century landed Sherlock co-creator and writer Steven Moffat honors for his teleplay, “A Scandal in Belgravia.” And the nod for Best Critical/Biographical work published in 2012 went to James O’Brien for Oxford University Press’ The Scientific Sherlock Holmes: Cracking the Case with Science and Forensics. O’Brien poked fun at himself for selling out by accepting Oxford’s offer to write the book rather than continuing to labor on a book on his first love, chemistry, that did not have a publisher attached to it.
Chris Pavone’s The Expats (Crown) was named Best First Novel by an American Author, and the distinction of Best Paperback Original went to Ben H. Winters’ The Last Policeman: A Novel (Quirk) set in a pre-apocalyptic America. Winters pandered, as he himself put it, to a wide range of people, in his remarks, in the publishing industry, for dedicating their careers to making others’ dreams come true.
PW contributor and respected critic Oline Cogdill shared the Raven Award, marking “outstanding achievement in the mystery field outside the realm of creative writing, with the people behind San Diego’s Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore. Karin Slaughter’s “The Unremarkable Heart,” collected in Mystery Writers of America Presents: Vengeance, which she termed “the meanest story” she’d ever wrote, walked away with the Best Short Story Award.
Incoming MWA President Charlaine Harris defended the genre against assertions that fictional crime can cause real-world trouble, observing that it serves as a healthy outlet for writers’ and readers’ own homicidal tendencies. That sentiment was echoed by one of the two heavyweights of the genre-Ken Follett and Margaret Maron- who were named Grand Masters. Follett cited Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature for the proposition that the reduction of violence in recent centuries was directly related to the invention of the novel, and the spread of literacy, which “helped people understand the lives of others in an emotional way.”
Maron marveled at how far she’d come since 1977, when, having authored a few short stories, and with no plans to write a novel, she despaired that she’d already met everyone she was ever going to, before discovering kindred spirits at MWA. Maron’s formulation about her fiction was a bit more prosaic- than her co-Grand Master- mystery writers “create chaos, and then resolve the chaos.”
The most lyrical acceptance speech, fittingly, was given by poet Patricia Smith, a National Book Award finalist, and National Poetry Series award-winner. Smith won the Robert L. Fish Memorial Award for the short story, “When They Are Done With Us,” which appeared in Akashic’s Staten Island Noir.
Jack D. Ferraiolo’s The Quick Fix (Abrams-Amulet Books), the end product of his pitch to put a Lew Archer-like character in middle school was the Best Juvenile Novel. Code Name Verity (Hyperion), Elizabeth Wein’s World War II spy thriller won Best Young Adult Novel. Paul French was dubbed as the winner who travelled the greatest distance to attend, coming from China to land the Best Fact Crime trophy, for Midnight in Peking: How the Murder of a Toung Englishwoman Haunted the Last Days of Old China (Penguin). The Ellery Queen Award to honor writing teams and outstanding people in the mystery-publishing industry went to Akashic Press.