Dec 122014
 

The calendar says it is still 2014, but the Mystery Writers of America have named the recipients of some very special 2015 awards, which will be presented at the annual Edgar Awards banquet next April.

The 2015 Grand Masters Awards, which are really life/career achievement awards, go to two fine, long-standing authors, Lois Duncan and James Ellroy.

The group is also awarding two Raven Awards, which are presented for outstanding achievement outside the field of creative writing. The awards will go to Jon and Ruth Jordan of Crimespree Magazine and to Kathryn Kennison, the founder of the Midwestern mystery conference Magna Cum Murder - a conference I haven't yet attended, meaning I ought to get up and go. 

The MWA is presenting its 2015 Ellery Queen Award to Charles Ardai, the editor of the publishing (and republishing) house, Hard Case Crime. The award is designed to honor writing teams (such as the team that was Ellery Queen) and/or leaders in the mystery publishing industry.

You can find full details about the awards and the winners here. They will all receive their awards at the Edgar banquet in New York on April 29, 2015. Congratulations to the honorees!

Hat tip to Xavier Lechard, of the At the Villa Rose blog (via Facebook).

Jan 162014
 

The Mystery Writers of America has announced the nominees for this year's Edgar Awards, honoring mysteries in various formats that first appeared in 2013. Among the honorees are two fine authors being recognized as Grand Masters, Carolyn Hart and Robert Crais.

The awards will be presented at the MWA's annual banquet in New York City, being held this year on May 1. It's also worth noting that this year marks the 205th anniversary of Edgar Allan Poe's birth.

Congratulations to all the nominees and honorees for a job well - or perhaps fiendishly - done.

Dec 042013
 

Robert Crais and Carolyn Hart have been named as the recipients of this year's Mystery Writers of America Grand Master Award. The MWA (whose motto is "Crime Doesn't Pay...Enough") will present the awards along with the rest of the Edgar Awards at next year's awards banquet in New York City on May 1.

You can read full details, including reactions from the newly-named Grand Masters, in the MWA news release. Congratulations to both - the awards are extremely well-deserved.

The MWA also named the winner of its special Raven Award which will go this year to an independent book store, Aunt Agatha's, of Ann Arbor Michigan.

May 032013
 

The Mystery  Writers of America presented the 2013 Edgar Awards last night at their annual banquet in New York City. Among the winners:

  • Best novel: Live by Night by Dennis Lehane
  • Best first novel: The Expats by Chris Pavone
  • Best paperback original: The Last Policeman: A Novel by Ben H. Winters
  • Best fact crime: Midnight in Peking: How the Murder of a Young Englishwoman Haunted the Last Days of Old China
  • Best critical/biographical: The Scientific Sherlock Holmes: Cracking the Case with Science and Forensics by James O'Brien
  • Best short story: "The Unremarkable Heart" - Mystery Writers of America Presents:  Vengeance by Karin Slaughter
  • Best juvenile: The Quick Fix by Jack D. Ferraiolo
  • Best young adult: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
  • TV episode teleplay: "A Scandal in Belgravia" - Sherlock, Teleplay by Steven Moffat
  • Robert L. Fish memorial: "When They Are Done With Us" - Staten Island Noir by Patricia Smith
  • Mary Higgins Clark award: The Other Woman by Hank Phillippi Ryan
  • Grand Master award: Ken Follett, Margaret Maron
  • Raven award: Oline Cogdill, Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore, San Diego & Redondo Beach, CA
  • Ellery Queen award: Akashic Books

 Congratulations to all the award winners and nominees, and you'll find a complete list here at the MWA site. Looking forward to seeing many of them later today at Malice Domestic!

Apr 272012
 
by Meredith Cole

TV? Who has time to watch TV? Today I'm going to be a diva and totally ignore the question because I'm in New York City for the Edgar Awards this week. Squee!

Wednesday night I got to congratulate fellow criminal mind Tracy Kiely on her Mary Higgins Clark nomination. If you haven't read her book, Murder Most Persuasive, yet, do it. It's hilarious. I also got to chat for awhile with Mary Higgins Clark, who is totally charming. And visit with lots of friends like Molly Weston, Rosemary Harris, and Ellen Crosby.

Thursday night was the Edgar banquet. First of all, it's a total thrill to see the mystery community get dressed up. Second, I got to see other wonderful criminal minds who took pity on me when I said I had to blog tomorrow. Thanks y'all!

Hilary Davidson, Me, Michael Wiley

Here are two of my favorite ladies who I grabbed for a quick photo op. Molly was in town to accept the Raven (which is given to great friends of the genre). I was treated to some wonderful Southern hospitality by Molly when I went to North Carolina on the Unarmed and Dangerous tour.
Me, Molly Weston, Rosemary Harris
And last, but not least, I got my photo taken with Lee Child, because who wouldn't want their picture taken with such a charming guy?

Me, Lee Child, Dana Kaye Litoff
So that's my Edgar week. Hope you enjoyed the photos!
Apr 172012
 

Homeless. ParisIn “River Secret,” a man called Baptiste plays his music setup at the entrance to the Tuileries Garden in Paris. He’s fictional, but a real-life one-man band plays there as well. I see him almost every day when I jog across the footbridge over the Seine to the park entrance. The melancholy wail of his saxophone echoes off the ceiling of the concrete passageway leading to the garden. Tourists stop and listen, and drop a few coins in his upturned hat.

But do they know who he is? Where he comes from? Where he sleeps at night?

Paris is filled with people like that man. Invisible people who struggle to get by. You don’t see them sipping tiny cups of coffee in the brightly lit cafés around Saint-Germain des Près, perusing designer stores on the Rue Saint- Honoré or strolling along the Champs- Elysées. You don’t hear them complain. They don’t seek revenge for the cards fate has dealt them.

I’ve come across a lot of Parisians like that in my 15 years here.

They include Piotr, the homeless guy who works the corner of the Rue de Sèze and the Boulevard des Capucines. I give him an apple on my way to work. Or Véronique, a manicurist who labors over fingers and toes 10 hours a day — so much for the 35-hour workweek. Or Farida, age 45, who’s never held a computer mouse or typed on a keyboard. She comes to a community center in Le Blanc Mesnil, a grim apartment-block suburb in the north, to learn technology skills in hopes she can get a job.

These folks have little to do with the place I call Woody Allen’s Paris: a beacon of monuments and museums bathed in golden light, devoid of crowds and traffic jams and filled with beautifully dressed French people who speak perfect English. Travel articles as well give the impression that my adopted city is populated by residents who do little but slip into small art galleries in the Marais of a rainy afternoon, or suck up duck confit with carrots at an outdoor café on the Rue Mouffetard.

You can do that when you visit Paris, and I hope you come here often. Make a point of stopping by the Tuileries entrance by the river and see the musician. He’s not invisible. He has a name. It’s Bernard. Drop a few coins in his hat. That’s his best revenge.

Check out “River Secret” in Mystery Writers of America Presents Vengeance, now available in bookstores everywhere.

Anne Swardson is an editor-at-large with Bloomberg News in Paris and a former European economic correspondent for the Washington Post. “River Secret” is her first published work of fiction. She is also the author of an unpublished mystery novel. Like “River Secret,” it is set in Paris, where Swardson has lived with her husband and two children for fifteen years.

Apr 132012
 

EncostoEvery story, long or short, is a series of fictional beads threaded onto a fictional necklace to make up the finished article. As readers, we’re all interested where an author gets the ideas for their beads from and the more we like a work of fiction, the more interested we are.

In the case of “The Hotline” the beads were readily available: many years ago I worked with a Muslim colleague who was progressively eased out of her job solely on the grounds that her face just didn’t fit. I’ve seen plenty of promotions and demotions in workplaces that had rather more to do with personal motivations than professional ones. We’ve all read in the newspapers about malicious hoax calls to the police that are made for one reason or another. My dad, who came from Grenada, was a cricket fanatic and there was no point in talking to him while a cricket match was on the TV. In 1990s London, my partner was once forced to leave his home in the middle of the night while the police staged a massive raid on a group of terrorist suspects in a nearby house. The backdrop to the story is the assumptions we make about people and who they are. And as a black woman, I’ve become very familiar over the years about the assumptions people make about others based on the grounds of ethnicity, class, gender and religion.

So these made up the beads of the story and these are what I worked with. But of course then you have to ‘thread them on’ and (although some readers find this difficult to believe) you have to make things up. In the case of the story based on ‘vengeance’ this is actually a very attractive proposition. The desire for revenge is deeply rooted in human nature but every shrink and therapist will say how negative that desire is for us and that we should ‘let things go’. Then there are the practical constraints on the lust for a zinger – practical, ethical and of course legal. But what if all those limitations are removed? What would we do then?

And that’s the wonderful thing about the literature of revenge – those constraints don’t matter all…

Check out “The Hotline” in Mystery Writers of America Presents Vengeance, now available in bookstores everywhere.

Dreda Say Mitchell is a novelist, broadcaster, journalist, and freelance education consultant who describes herself as a “complete busybody.” She is the author of five novels. Her debut novel, Running Hot, was awarded Britain’s 2005 CWA John Creasey Dagger for best frist crime novel. She has appeared on BBC television’s Newsnight and The Review Show and has presented BBC Radio 4′s Open Book. She was the 2011 shair of the Harrogate Crime Fiction Festival. Her commitment and passion for raising the life chances of working-class children through education has been called inspirational and life-changing. Visit her website at www.dredasaymitchell.com.

Apr 122012
 

 Empty Store Front (Dixon, IL)Decades ago, the mafia had a scam called the “bust-out.” They’d target a small business — the corner store, a machine shop, a soda distributor. After intimidating the owner into handing it over for a pittance, they’d order as much inventory as the suppliers would put on credit. They’d stop paying lenders, max out bank lines, demand customer pre-payments: in short, they’d extract as much cash as possible, as quickly as they could. Then one weekend they’d strip the premises of every last item that might be sold elsewhere — stock, fixtures, furniture, anything — and disappear.

The business was ruined, the owner penniless or bankrupt or worse, and the gang? They’d swept up all the cash … and were ready to do it again.
The comparison is not far-fetched. A private-equity group borrows a vast sum of money, buys a struggling company and squeezes operations as hard as they can. “Rationalizing” can involve layoffs, steep pension cuts, loan defaults, supplier hardball — anything to free up a dollar. When they’re done, the PE investors pay themselves a huge dividend, often financed by more borrowing. Then, like the mafiya, they sell off what’s left and disappear.Now that seems almost quaint. Today, it’s called a workout, not a bust-out, and the operators are private equity firms, not the Cosa Nostra. The amounts involved are hundreds of millions of dollars. And best of all, it’s completely legal.

Defenders, of course, argue that PE saves failing companies, improves efficiency and generally serves the free market’s inherent processes. Evidence is limited; studies have shown that PE-financed restructurings create fewer net jobs than if existing management struggles through on their own, and the companies ultimately fail about as often anyway. The difference is that the PE investors have extracted all the excess value for themselves, leaving behind shrunken, debt-laden businesses in no better shape to face future challenges.

Unlike past eras of plutocratic excess, the immiseration of today’s American worker has not drawn an energetic counter-reaction. A century ago strikers were put down with Federal troops and live ammunition, anarchists bombed Wall Street itself, and union organizers faced thugs armed with iron bars and guns. For whatever reason we don’t see the same kind of violence today. Perhaps the social-support nets, however tattered, are still enough to keep people from total desperation. Perhaps market ideology has triumphed. Perhaps the society we have today is what people really want.

Or maybe the anger just hasn’t bubbled over yet.

The protagonist in “Leverage” is a regular guy, a machine operator whose job is destroyed when his factory is asset-stripped by a PE “investment.” Unlike his fellow ex-workers, however, he decides that things must be made right … and that means confronting the financiers in person.

Check out “Leverage” in Mystery Writers of America Presents Vengeance, now available in bookstores everywhere.

Mike Cooper‘s latest novel CLAWBACK (Viking, March) centers on similar themes of bankster retribution. “Don’t bail them out, TAKE them out” — it’s a good tag line for a thriller, but Mike sincerely hopes it remains fiction.

Apr 102012
 

UnjustFrancis Bacon said that “revenge is a kind of wild justice, which the more man’s nature runs to, the more ought law to weed out . . . . In taking revenge, a man is but even with his enemy; but in passing it over, he is superior; for it is a prince’s part to pardon.”1

Fast forward two and a half centuries, to Abraham Lincoln. He thought vengeance had a time and place. During the American Revolution, he noted “the deep rooted principles of hate, and the powerful motive of revenge . . . were directed exclusively against the British nation. And thus, from the force of circumstances, the basest principles of our nature . . . [became] the active agents in the advancement of the noblest cause—that of establishing and maintaining civil and religious liberty. . . . But this state of feeling must fade, is fading, has faded, with the circumstances that produced it.”2 Lincoln gave this speech in response, in part, to a mob killing of a black man accused of murder. In Abe’s view, it was okay to take vengeance on the British but not anyone else.

Fifty years later, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., admits the importance of vengeance within the legal system, going so far as to say, “the law does [and] ought to, make the gratification of revenge an object . . . correspond[ing] with the actual feelings and demands of the community, whether right or wrong.”3 Holmes saw this as a lesser evil to people perceiving the legal system as failing to satisfy and thus taking matters into their own hands. “If people would gratify the passion of revenge outside of the law, if the law did not help them, the law has no choice but to satisfy the craving itself, and thus avoid the greater evil of private retribution.” Id.4

As a trial lawyer I saw many examples of law and justice diverging, with the law “not helping” the wronged party. Writing the “The Fourteenth Juror” allowed me to inflict private retribution (even if only on the page) on one aspect of the legal system that often fell short in this regard. Gratifying indeed.

Check out “The Fourteenth Juror” in Mystery Writers of America Presents Vengeance, now available in bookstores everywhere.

A Stanford graduate and former (vengeful) plaintiff’s trial lawyer, Twist Phelan writes the critically acclaimed legal-themed Pinnacle Peak mystery series published by Poised Pen Press. Her short stories appear in anthologies and mystery magazines and have won or been nominated for the Thriller, Ellis, and Derringer awards. Twist’s current project is a suspense novel set in Santa Fe featuring a corporate spy. Visit her at www.twistphelan.com.

1 Sir Francis Bacon, Essays, Civil and Moral (1625). Yes, this is a footnote. As a former law review editor, I can’t resist.

2 Abraham Lincoln, Lyceum Address, Volume I, p. 108-115 (January 27, 1838). Uh oh; another one.

3 Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., The Common Law 46 (1881). I’m out of control.

4 “Id.” is the abbreviation for the Latin word “idem,” which means same. Lawyers and academics use it to reference the previously cited source. Everyone else just says “same as before.”

 

Apr 062012
 

Revenge has always been a human passion – as well as a problem for any civilized society. Early on, Jehovah reminded the Israelites that ‘vengeance is mine,’ while Aeschylus immortalized the blood feuds of the House of Atreus, which took a goddess to end, thus establishing the rule of law.

Dramas of revenge were popular enough in Renaissance England to spawn a distinct genre, the Revenge Tragedy, ironically most famous for that reluctant avenger, Hamlet, whose dithering raised the body count without ultimately sparing the king. Of course, Shakespeare knew a good thing when he saw it: revenge not only calls upon a variety of visceral and ancient emotions, it also offers excellent plot possibilities.

I’ve been rather fond of these, myself. Looking back over my short stories, I find revenge plots constructed around a variety of characters, ranging from a middle aged archeologist (male) to a restauranteur (female) with stops along they way for several wronged wives and husbands, an angry daughter, plus a disgruntled academic dean and a traumatized student. Most of these stories are told from the avenger’s point of view.

“The General” is different in just about every way. Most of my short mystery stories arise from police reports in the press. Looking back in my invaluable notebooks for the first glimmer of “The General,” I find neither a clipping nor a plot summary but the bare idea of a South American general haunted by his gardener.

I have no idea now where this notion came from, but most likely it evolved from an awareness the many dictators and dodgy strongmen, often rightist, who have fled Central and South American countries, as well as Asia, the Balkans, and Africa, to find refuge here.

A Nice DriveIn the story, I made the General Central American, probably because of the continuing troubles in Honduras and Guatemala, and because I knew a bit about the politics of the area. The first mention of the story was late in the notebook that ended in 2005, but the story was not completed until two years later, a delay not unusual for me. The initial four lines – I can hardly even call it a paragraph – indicates that I had no clear idea of what the General’s crimes involved or even if the gardener were real and not a projection of the General’s guilty mind.

Which brings us to the other unusual feature of this particular story of vengeance, it is told strictly from the General’s point of view. I don’t remember if I considered the more traditional approach, but I am convinced it would not have worked as well, considering the vast discrepancy in power, wealth, and influence of the two men and the presence of the boy, loved by both, whose inevitable suffering suggests why civilization is always, and rightly, hostile to personal vengeance.

Janice Law is a novelist who frequently commits short mystery stories. Her first, “The Big Payoff,” was nominated for an Edgar, and her stories have been reprinted in the Best American Mystery Stories, The World’s Finest Mystery and Crime Stories, Alfred Hitchcock’s Fifty Years of Crime and Suspense, Riptide, Still Waters, and the fabulist anthology ParaSpheres.

Check out “The General” in Mystery Writers of America Presents Vengeance, now available in bookstores everywhere.