I considered titling this post “The Night I Hugged John Connolly,” but that might sound like I’m showing off. So I’ll begin my recap of the 68th annual Edgar Awards gala banquet at the nominees’ cocktail party, the prelude to the grandest evening in the mystery community’s year.
In a reception room at the Grand Hyatt in New York City, the Edgar Award nominees circulate, pose for photos, and try to appear nonchalant about their nominations. They’ve had months to accustom themselves to the sound of “Edgar Award nominee” attached to their names. Mystery Writers of America revealed the nominees’ list in January. Nevertheless, this is the night the winners are announced and it’s only natural for everyone to feel jitters.
“I get excited just seeing my book in the bookstores,” said Kimberly McCreight, whose domestic suspense novel Reconstructing Amelia, a New York Times Bestseller, was up for Best First Novel by an American Author. (Criminal Element’s Katherine Tomlinson called it, “a terrific debut, a book to build a career on.” The Edgar nomination proves she called it right.) McCreight is on deadline to complete the manuscript for her next domestic thriller (another reason for jitters!). “It’s set in a university town and it’s about how the history of where you come from affects your life,” she explained. Look for it in April, 2015.
Seizing my chance to gush unashamedly, I made a beeline for Will Pascoe, a nominee for Best Television Episode Teleplay for his work on Orphan Black. If you’re not watching this BBC America series, you ought to be. It is extraordinary, built for binge-watching, and series star Tatiana Maslany might be the most talented actress on TV today. I said all of this, and much more to Will, who coped graciously with my effusiveness. We talked about Tatiana Maslany’s ability to portray so many diverse characters so seamlessly. (Secret: She uses music playlists for each character to help her switch personalities.) “When your lead is that talented you write freely because you know she can pull it off,” he said. “In the writers’ room, every day we’d thank the acting gods for sending us Tatiana.”
Jeff Soloway, winner of the Robert L. Fish Memorial Award for his short story “The Wentworth Letter,” published in The Malfeasance Occasional: Girl Trouble (you might have heard us mention this once or twice before) proudly waved the flag for digital publishing. His first novel, The Travel Writer, will be released—digitally, natch—on June 3. “I believe that I’m the first author to win an Edgar Award whose work is only in digital format,” he told the audience during his acceptance speech later in the evening.
For the awards banquet I was seated at a table with John Connolly. (Who’s a lucky girl? Me, obviously.) William Kent Krueger was one table away. Laura Lippman and Hank Phillippi Ryan were at another table nearby, and from where I was sitting, I could see Lee Child. Yes, I’m name-dropping. Wouldn’t you?
Outgoing MWA President Charlaine Harris passed the torch to incoming president Brad Meltzer, pointing out that MWA is “ the least drama-prone professional organization of all” then adding that Brad Meltzer has “Ninja assassin capabilities.” I think she might have been kidding about the second thing. **
Amy Timberlake, who won in the Best Juvenile Mystery category for her historical One Came Home, recalled sneaking into the adult section of the public library as a kid and discovering Elephants Can Remember by Agatha Christie. “I expected elephants,” she said, adding, “I never recovered.”
Annabel Pitcher, who won in the Best Young Adult category for Ketchup Clouds, sent a message from England where, she said, “it’s the middle of the night and I will be up nursing my baby, dreaming up stories, and wondering if I’ll ever have time to write again.”
Carolyn Hart, whom Hank Phillippi Ryan called “the muse of traditional mysteries,” was honored as an MWA Grand Master, as was Robert Crais, who described himself as a Trivial Pursuit question in the category of 1980s TV—Cagney & Lacey, L.A. Law, Quincy, Baretta, The Equalizer, Miami Vice…all before he gave the world Elvis Cole.
A fellow mystery lover, who shall remain nameless, confided that even though he didn’t want to play favorites he was pulling for William Kent Krueger in the Best Novel category. “He’s such a nice man,” he told me. I’m sure that mystery lover was one of the many who gave a whoop when Krueger’s name was announced for Ordinary Grace.
John Connolly (did I mention we were tablemates?) won in the Best Short Story category for “The Caxton Private Lending Library & Book Depository,” published in Bibliomysteries. He called it “the oddest story I’ve ever written,” which might be the best recommendation ever. Back at the table after collecting his Edgar, it was hugs all around, because that’s what you do when everyone’s dressed up, and happy, and star struck, and jittery. So, yes, it was the night I hugged John Connolly, but more than that it was a night spent celebrating the achievements of diabolically good authors. A grand night indeed.
2014 EDGAR AWARD WINNERS
Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger
Best First Novel
Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews
Best Paperback Original
The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood
America is Elsewhere: The Noir Tradition in the Age of Consumer Culture
by Erik Dussere
Best Short Story
“The Caxton Private Lending Library and Book Depository” – Bibliomysteries
by John Connolly
One Came Home by Amy Timberlake
Best Young Adult
Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher
Best TV Episode/Teleplay
“Episode 1” – The Fall, Teleplay by Allan Cubitt
Mary Higgins Clark Award
Cover of Snow by Jenny Milchman
Robert L. Fish Award For the Best First Short Story by an American Author
“The Wentworth Letter” by Jeff Soloway
** Editor's Note: If you wondered what was hanging on the the left side of the podium, it was a copy of a Best Speaker certificate from Miami Beach Senior High, brought to prove our emcee didn't need to be jealous of anyone, for example, Harlan Coben, who Meltzer swore had a tattoo on his backside in honor of his Shamus, Edgar, and Anthony Awards.
With that certificate is Carolyn Hart's gracious acceptance speech, delivered after her Grand Master award. (Wouldn't you think crime writers would be more careful with leaving behind trace evidence?) In any case, I solemnly swear that below is what I found drawn on the back of Meltzer's pride and joy… What can it mean? Mysteries abound, do they not?
Images and scavenging via Laura K. Curtis and Clare Toohey.
Leslie Gilbert Elman is the author of Weird But True: 200 Astounding, Outrageous, and Totally Off the Wall Facts. Follow her on Twitter @leslieelman.
Read all of Leslie Gilbert Elman’s posts for Criminal Element.