Given the genre's violent tendencies, inspiration and humor might not be the first things you would expect at a gathering of the Mystery Writers of America. But both were very much on display at the 66th Annual Edgar Awards Banquet, held last night at Manhattan's Grand Hyatt Hotel, and emceed by incoming MWA President Sandra Brown.
Two of the 2012 winners had had their work rescued from the slush pile, including new Grand Master Martha Grimes, whose first Richard Jury whodunit, The Man With A Load of Mischief, was plucked from the jaws of obscurity by chance. She joked that she thought attending the festivities made sense as she was in search of a new publisher. Grimes, who has written at least a book a year since 1981, also self-deprecatingly commented on her book tour experiences, noting that the size of her usual crowds was less than that of Stephen King's personal staff.
Chance also led to Dutton's decision to publish Lori Roy's debut, Bent Road, an American Gothic tale, a gamble that paid off in spades when it took home the gold for Best First Novel by an American Author. Best Novel honors went to Grove/Atlantic's Gone, by British writer Mo Hayder, about the aftermath of a carjacking. Best Fact Crime Presenter Linda Fairstein got laughs by observing that, in this category, the book titles often were longer than an entire chapter of a James Patterson novel; this year that trend was broken, albeit barely, by winner Candice Millard's Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President (Random House/Doubleday).
Robert Jackson Bennett, Best Paperback Original winner for The Company Man (Hachette Book Group/Orbit Books), was pleasantly surprised at his honor, given that he considered his book to be more science fiction or fantasy than crime. Best Critical/Biographical went to Michael Dirda for his On Conan Doyle, or the Whole Art of Storytelling (Princeton University Press). And Dandi Daley Mackall, winner for Best Young Adult for The Silence of Murder (Knopf BFYR), shared the pickup line her now husband wooed her with, upon their leaving a mystery-writing class: "What's your favorite way to kill people?" A half hour later, she found herself still talking about "windshield wipers and ink," suitably leaving a lot of the contents of those 30 minutes to the audience's imaginations.
Joe Meyers' reviews for the Connecticut Post garnered him the Ellery Queen Award, and the pilot for Showtime's drama Homeland landed Best Television Episode Teleplay for writers Alex Gansa, Howard Gordon and Gideon Raff. Best Juvenile went to Scholastic Press's Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby, Best Short Story to Peter Turnbull's "The Man Who Took His Hat Off to the Driver of the Train," (EQMM), and Best Play to Ken Ludwig's Sherlockian The Game's Afoot, which was produced by the Cleveland Playhouse.