The annual Edgar Allan Poe Awards dinner, hosted by the Mystery Writers of America, was a night of milestones—starting with the Edgars themselves, which turned 70 this year. That’s 70 years of celebrating the best of mystery fiction, crime fiction, suspense, thrillers, and true crime—all the stuff we love to read and watch, all the stuff that gives us a chance to escape, even as it makes our hearts pound and our mouths go dry.
The Edgar Awards dinner is a glamorous event, a room full of men in tuxedos and women in gowns, all of whom could devise imaginative ways to kill each other during the interval between the entree and dessert. But, none of them would because they love each other, really. It’s a competition of the friendliest rivals. “It really is an honor to be nominated,” Lori Roy told me. “And that’s the last cliché you’ll hear from me this evening.”
Roy knows a thing or two about Edgar nominations. Her novel, Bent Road, won the Edgar for “Best First Novel” in 2012, and Until She Comes Home was nominated for Best Novel in 2014. This year, with her third nomination (for Let Me Die in His Footsteps), “I’m more relaxed this time, but I’m still star struck,” she said at the start of the evening. Also a little tired, I’d venture, since she’d completed the manuscript for her next novel just three days earlier.
Deadlines were a topic of discussion and commiseration, as they tend to be in a room full of writers. Incoming MWA president Jeff Abbott pointed out that it was April 28th and his next manuscript deadline was April 30th. “If you see me pull out my laptop tonight, don’t worry,” he told the group.
On the other hand, Walter Mosley, who was honored as the 2016 MWA Grand Master, had time for everyone. The author of 52 books, including the Easy Rawlins series, is as thoughtful, gracious, and beguiling as his prose. His acceptance speech—titled “Acceptance”—was a highlight of the evening.
Martin Edwards won in the “Best Critical/Biographical” category for his book The Golden Age of Murder, about cozy detective stories of the 1920s and 30s. “I tried to address the rather patronizing dismissal of books written at that time,” he said, giving cozy writers and readers the respect they deserve.
Lou Berney, who was something of a fan favorite (at least where I was sitting), won “Best Paperback Original” for his novel The Long and Faraway Gone.
And, I must mention Peter Flannery who won the Edgar for “Best Teleplay” for “Gently With the Women” from the BBC seriesInspector George Gently. He wasn’t on hand to accept the award himself, but I cheered for him anyway.
Viet Thanh Nguyen was awarded “Best First Novel” for The Sympathizer. If the title sounds familiar to you, that’s because it also won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Whether another novel had ever won an Edgar and a Pulitzer in the same year no one could recall. This most certainly was a milestone. “There was no doubt on our committee that this was the winner,” one of the Edgars judges told me, adding that the Edgars picks had been decided long before the Pulitzer winners were announced.
And the evening ended with Lori Roy taking home the Edgar for “Best Novel.” With that win, she became only the third person—and the first woman—to win Edgars for “Best First Novel” and “Best Novel.” A fitting end to a milestone evening.
The Complete 2016 Edgar Allan Poe Award Winners List
Let Me Die in His Footsteps by Lori Roy
BEST FIRST NOVEL
The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL
The Long and Faraway Gone by Lou Berney
BEST FACT CRIME
Whipping Boy: The Forty-Year Search for My Twelve-Year-Old Bully by Allen Kurzweil
The Golden Age of Murder by Martin Edwards
BEST SHORT STORY
“Obits” – Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King
Footer Davis Probably is Crazy by Susan Vaught
BEST YOUNG ADULT
A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis
BEST TELEVISION EPISODE TELEPLAY
“Gently with the Women” – George Gently, Teleplay by Peter Flannery
ROBERT L. FISH MEMORIAL AWARD FOR BEST FIRST SHORT STORY
“Chung Ling Soo’s Greatest Trick” – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by Russell W. Johnson
Sisters in Crime
ELLERY QUEEN AWARD
Janet Rudolph, Founder of Mystery Readers International
THE SIMON & SCHUSTER – MARY HIGGINS CLARK AWARD
Little Pretty Things by Lori Rader-Day
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.