A banquet celebrating authors who write about crime and violence isn’t the most obvious venue for a celebration of family ties. But the wrap-up event of the ninth annual ThrillerFest held July 12 at the Grand Hyatt in New York City, featured some unexpectedly moving presentations by the attendees, that emphasized the importance of their parents and children.
Daniel Palmer set the tone early on with a tribute to his father, Michael Palmer--the pair’s singing had become a tradition at the awards ceremony, hosted by the International Thriller Writers. The younger Palmer carried on the traditional alone this year, with a clever reworking of the Harry Chapin classic, Cat’s In The Cradle, that appropriately limned the very different relationship the Palmers enjoyed, as compared to the alienated father and son depicted in the original song.
That spirit continued with Silver Bullet Literary Award Recipient Brenda Novak, who was honored for her charitable efforts; Novak, whose For The Cure of Diabetes Annual Auction has raised over $2.5 million, was inspired by the diagnosis of her youngest son with the disease. Novak recalled when being a published author was just a dream, and she would lug her five kids to the local Barnes & Noble so she could check the shelves to figure out what authors she’d be placed next to if her wishes were ever realized.
Best Young Adult Novel winner Cristin Terrill (for All Our Yesterdays, Disney/Hyperion) joked that the honor might finally make her mother love her more. And Rebecca Cantrell, whose self-published The World Beneath took home the second Best E-book Original Novel prize, thanked her mother, who made watching any television contingent on her reading an entire chapter of a book. Twist Phelan’s “Footprints in the Water,” (Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine), with a lead haunted by the Rwandan genocide, won Best Short Story for the second time. And just two months after his Red Sparrow (Scribner) won the Edgar for Best First Novel, Jason Matthews pulled off the rare feat of getting ITW’s Best First Novel prize as well-in his remarks, Matthews became probably the first ITW or Edgar winner to thank Vladimir Putin, whom he described as an “endless, bottomless, cup of content.” The One I Left Behind by Jennifer McMahon (Morrow), which pitted its heroine against a serial killer named Neptune, was named Best Paperback Original.
With authors such as Stephen King, Lee Child and Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child his competition for Best Hardcover Novel, Andrew Pyper proclaimed himself as surprised as anyone that The Demonologist (Simon & Schuster) won the category. Despite that surprise, Pyper nimbly ranked the night as the fifth most exciting of his life (after his marriage, the births of his two children, and one whose details he could not share), before thanking ITW in the name of “paranormal thrillers and the entire demonic community.”
Scott Turow, the 2014 ThrillerMaster, was introduced by his 2013 predecessor, Anne Rice, who, coincidentally, wrote the review of his debut, Presumed Innocent, that appeared on the front page of the New York Times Book Review-she recalled that her draft went way over the word-count limit. That review, understandably, was a cherished highpoint for Turow, after many years of toil, and of rejection letters. Turow contrasted genre fiction, which his work helped legitimize, with 20th-century realism, which focused on the “middle range of experience,” and was exemplified by Saul Bellow; he lovingly summarized all of Bellow’s fiction as being about “a guy wandering around.” The large audience, representing ThrillerFest’s largest attendance to date, validated ITW Co-President Lee Child’s position that thrillers are “what real people read, buy and enjoy.”