Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The 2015 Edgar Award Winners

The Mystery Writers of America announced the 2015 winners of the prestigious Edgar Allan Poe Awards tonight at their annual banquet in New York City. These awards honor "the best in mystery fiction, nonfiction and television published or produced in 2014."

The 2015 nominees, with the winners announced tonight in red, are shown below. For more information about the history of the Edgars, the honorary awards, the category rules, and a searchable data base for past nominees and winners, see here.

Best Novel (hardbound only)

Wiley Cash: This Dark Road to Mercy (William Morrow)
Mo Hayder: Wolf (Grove/Atlantic)
Stephen King: Mr. Mercedes (Scribner)
Stuart Neville: The Final Silence (Soho Press)
Ian Rankin: Saints of the Shadow Bible (Little, Brown)
Karin Slaughter: Coptown (Delacorte Press)

Best First Novel by an American Author (hardbound, paperback or e-book original)

Tom Bouman: Dry Bones in the Valley (W. W. Norton)
Julia Dahl: Invisible City (Minotaur Books)
Allen Eskens: The Life We Bury (Seventh Street Books)
C. B. McKenzie: Bad Country (Minotaur Books/Thomas Dunne)
Adam Sternbergh: Shovel Ready (Crown Publishers)
Ashley Weaver: Murder at the Brightwell (Minotaur Books/Thomas Dunne)

Best Paperback or E-Book Original

Chris Abani: The Secret History of Las Vegas (Penguin Books)
Alison Gaylin: Stay With Me (William Morrow)
William Lashner: The Barkeep (Amazon/Thomas and Mercer)
Catriona McPherson: The Day She Died (Midnight Ink)
Lisa Turner: The Gone Dead Train (William Morrow)
Ben H. Winters: World of Trouble (Quirk Books)

Best Fact Crime (hardbound, paperback or e-book nonfiction)

Kevin Cook: Kitty Genovese: The Murder, the Bystanders, the Crime that Changed America (W.W. Norton)
Carl Hoffman: The Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller's Tragic Quest for Primitive Art (William Morrow)
Lacy M. Johnson: The Other Side: A Memoir (Tin House Books)
William Mann: Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood (Harper)
Harold Schechter: The Mad Sculptor: The Maniac, the Model, and the Murder that Shook the Nation (Amazon/New Harvest)

Best Critical/Biographical (hardbound, paperback or e-book)

Charles Brownson: The Figure of the Detective: A Literary History and Analysis (McFarland & Company)
Jim Mancall: James Ellroy: A Companion to the Mystery Fiction (McFarland)
Robert Miklitsch: Kiss the Blood Off My Hands: Classic Film Noir (University of Illinois Press)
Francis M. Nevins: Judges & Justice & Lawyers & Law: Exploring the Legal Dimensions of Fiction and Film (Perfect Crime Books)
J. W. Ocker: Poe-Land: The Hallowed Haunts of Edgar Allan Poe (W. W. Norton)

Best Short Story (from magazines, periodicals, e-zines, or book-length anthologies, 1,000 to 22,000 words)

Doug Allyn: "The Snow Angel," Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine (Dell Magazines)
John Floyd: "200 Feet," Strand Magazine (The Strand)
Gillian Flynn: "What Do You Do?," Rogues, anthology edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois (Bantam Books)
Dennis Lehane vs. Michael Connelly: "Red Eye," FaceOff, anthology edited by David Baldacci  (Simon & Schuster)
Brian Tobin: "Teddy," Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine (Dell Magazines)

Best Juvenile Mystery (hardbound or paperback, for ages 5-11)

Heather Vogel Frederick: Absolutely Truly (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)
Stuart Gibbs: Space Case (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)
Kate Milford: Greenglass House (Clarion Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers)
"Science Bob" Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith: Nick and Tesla's Super-Cyborg Gadget Glove (Quirk Books)
N. H. Senzai: Saving Kabul Corner (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books)
Marcia Wells: Eddie Red, Undercover: Mystery on Museum Mile (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers)

Best Young Adult Mystery (hardbound or paperback, for ages 12 -18)

Paolo Bacigulupi: The Doubt Factory (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
Elle Cosimano: Nearly Gone (Penguin Young Readers Group/Kathy Dawson Books)
Lamar Giles: Fake ID (HarperCollins Children's Books/Amistad)
James Klise: The Art of Secrets (Algonquin Young Readers)
Blake Nelson: The Prince of Venice Beach (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)

Best TV Episode Teleplay

"The Empty Hearse," Sherlock, teleplay by Mark Gatiss (Hartswood Films/Masterpiece)
"Unfinished Business," Blue Bloods, teleplay by Siobhan Byrne O'Connor (CBS)
"Episode 1," Happy Valley, teleplay by Sally Wainwright (Netflix)
"Dream Baby Dream," The Killing, teleplay by Sean Whitesell (Netflix)
"Episode 6," The Game, teleplay by Toby Whithouse (BBC America)

Mary Higgins Clark Award (The winner is selected by a special Mystery Writers of America committee for the book "most closely written in the Mary Higgins Clark tradition." See Note below.)

Sharon Bolton: A Dark and Twisted Tide (Minotaur Books)
Jane Casey: The Stranger You Know (Minotaur Books)
Julia Dahl: Invisible City (Minotaur Books)
Julia Keller: Summer of the Dead (Minotaur Books)
Lori Rader-Day: The Black Hour (Prometheus Books/Seventh Street Books)

Robert L. Fish Memorial Award
"Getaway Girl," by Zoë Z. Dean, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine (Dell Magazines)

Grand Masters
Lois Duncan
James Ellroy

Raven Recipients
Jon and Ruth Jordan
Kathryn Kennison

Ellery Queen Award
Charles Ardai

Congratulations to the nominees and winners!

Note: The guidelines set forth by Mary Higgins Clark for the Mary Higgins Clark Award are as follows:

"The protagonist is a nice young woman whose life is suddenly invaded.
She’s self-made and independent, with primarily good family relationships.
She has an interesting job.
She is not looking for trouble–-she is doing exactly what she should be doing and something cuts across her bow.
She solves her problem by her own courage and intelligence.
The story has no on-scene violence.
The story has no strong four-letter words or explicit sex scenes."

I'll Take Genre Benders for Wednesday, Alex

Today, we're going to talk about benders. We'll skip our wild drinking sprees and car accidents and look at a couple of recent books that bend the boundaries of historical fiction. Later this week, I'll show you some other genre straddlers.

Let's start with Hermione Eyre's first novel, Viper Wine (Hogarth/Random House, April 14, 2015). The UK cover on the right features van Dyck's portrait of Venetia, Lady Digby, a real woman so famed for her beauty during the reign of Charles I, she inspired Ben Jonson's poetry and caused common folks to run alongside her carriage in the hopes of glimpsing her. If you look closely at the book's cover, you can see that a cellphone has been slipped into Venetia's hand. Some other modern products (I am not kidding when I tell you Spam––the pink, edible variety, not the annoying email––is one of them), famous people (i.e., Groucho Marx and Naomi Campbell), and discoveries show up in Eyre's book. Occasionally, these appearances are somewhat jarring or confusing, but I found most of them amusing. Elements of fantasy, magical realism, and time travel feature in this witty book of historical fiction. The writer herself even steps into the pages.

The US cover
Eyre gives us her take on the lives of Venetia and her husband, the unconventional Sir Kenelm Digby. Kenelm was an alchemist, explorer, and intellectual who collected books and corresponded widely. He was besotted with his wife and crushed by her mysterious death at age 32. In Viper Wine, Kenelm receives messages from the future through a blipping obelisk. While the wheels in Kenelm's head are whirling madly, Venetia spends her time on a hell-bent quest to regain the youthful freshness of her beauty. Kenelm's protestations that she is still beautiful (still!) only make things worse. Maybe I should have been more understanding, but my patience wore thin. I wanted to yank Venetia out of the book and shake her til her teeth rattled. Instead, I gawked as Venetia visited charlatan physicians in Eastcheap, I learned pre-Botox beauty recipes that made me very glad my drugstore stocks Neutrogena, and I witnessed events such as an early submarine excursion under the Thames. This original novel is not for everyone, but is written for readers who appreciate well-researched historical fiction and are looking for something different. I'll be interested to see what Eyre does next.

The death of the beauteous Venetia opens Viper Wine. Benjamin Percy's The Dead Lands (Grand Central Publishing, April 14, 2015) opens this way: "She knows there is something wrong with the baby."

Thus begins a post-apocalyptic tale set 150 years after an airborne flu (H3Ll) killed millions. The flu was so deadly, other countries launched nuclear weapons against the US in futile attempts to try to stop it. The resulting radiation accounts for the wasted Dead Lands inhabited by nightmarish beasts, such as hairless wolves and gigantic spiders, outside the Sanctuary created in what used to be St. Louis, Missouri. The 40,000 Sanctuary inhabitants believe they are the world's last human survivors. They are surrounded by a high wall of plaster, mortared stone, and metal cars.

One of the wall's sentries is Wilhelmina “Mina” Clark, a hot-headed young woman who feels not sheltered, but imprisoned in the Sanctuary. There, society has taken a backward turn, and water is running out. The new mayor, Thomas Lancer, and his sheriff, the genuinely creepy Rickett Slade, have created a society based on fear. One day, something happens to inspire Clark, oddball museum curator Lewis Meriwether, and their small band to escape and head for Oregon. It isn't clear how much the expedition members can trust each other. The Sanctuary's mayor schemes to stop them, but the Dead Lands could kill them first. Meanwhile, back at the Sanctuary, Lewis's museum assistant, Ella, and her friend, Simon, a thief, put their heads together.

All this is told in a very rich prose that you will eventually get caught up in, as I did, or find too much. Here's a sample:
"This morning, as the sun rises and reddens the world so that it appears it might catch flame, Clark stands at her sentry post atop the wall. Around it reaches a burn zone of some seventy yards. Beyond this grows a forest with many broken buildings rising from it, black-windowed, leaning messes of skeletal steel and shattered stone. The remains of the St. Louis Arch, collapsed in the middle, appear like a ragged set of mandibles rising out of the earth. In the near distance, where once the Mississippi flowed, stretches a blond wash of sand."
Then, too, if you've read a lot about Lewis and Clark, as I have (in the Pacific Northwest, references to the Expedition are everywhere), you might be taken aback by Percy's eccentric portraits of the Expedition members' namesakes. Along with tamping down these intrusive thoughts, I had to ignore the voice of my scientific knowledge reminding me Percy's Dead Lands creatures are very unlikely results of radiation-caused mutations. If you don't have fixed expectations and can get past the scientific implausibilities, the journey's logical inconsistencies, and the nature of Percy's re-imagined historical characters, you might enjoy this mashup of historical and dystopian fiction, horror, fantasy, sci fi, and adventure thriller. I did, and now I'm amusing myself by mentally casting characters for a potential movie. I can't get a handle on the actors yet, but the Coen brothers would have to direct.