The 2007 Mystery Writers of America Grand Master Stephen King added to his already lengthy list of honors (including a 2014 Edgar) at the 69th Annual Edgar Awards Banquet, held at the Grand Hyatt on Wednesday night. King, who won the best novel Edgar for Mr. Mercedes (Simon & Schuster/Scribner), described how the idea for the book, featuring a sicko who intentionally runs people over with his car, came to him during a peaceful morning walk. An inner voice cautioned him that he couldn’t write the book because the mystery plotline wasn’t the sort of thing he “did,” but King overcame that demon with the help of another inner voice, which warned him not to turn down a good idea.
William Mann’s convincing solution to a once-sensational unsolved crime landed him the best fact crime Edgar for Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood (HarperCollins), while J.W. Ocker won best critical/biographical for Poe-Land: The Hallowed Haunts of Edgar Allan Poe (Norton/Countryman Press). Gillian Flynn’s story ”What Do You Do?,” which appeared in Bantam’s anthology Rogues, took the best short story award.
As has been the MWA’s practice in recent years, two authors were honored as Grand Masters: Lois Duncan and James Ellroy.
Duncan began an acclaimed career as a YA author, when she was still a young adult herself, being first published at the age of 13. She now has almost 50 books to her credit. Presenter Hilary Davidson noted that Duncan revolutionized her genre by presenting flawed characters and messy resolutions.
Otto Penzler, of the Mysterious Press & the Mysterious Bookshop, labeled Duncan’s co-honoree as “the most influential American writer of the last quarter-century.” Penzler amusingly recounted his first meeting with Ellroy; the author confidently announced himself to the bookseller as "the next great one.” Ellroy was more modest in his remarks, tantalizing the audience with a reference to a 100-year-old talking dog that urged him to write--an animal he later identified as the Alfred Knopf borzoi (which is the imprint's logo).
As usual, writers weren’t the only honorees. Charles Ardai, of Hard Case Crime, received the Ellery Queen Award; in accepting, he championed the vital role of editors in the writing process. Kathryn Kennison was recognized for her organization of the Magna Cum Murder conferences with a Raven Award.
Perhaps the warmest and most sustained applause of the night was for the other Raven winners, Ruth and Jon Jordan of Crimespree Magazine. The couple were lauded not only for their love of mystery books, but for their deep and abiding love for those who write them. Ruth garnered chuckles with her comment that as a little girl she had never dreamed that the most satisfaction she would get in life was “thinking of murder all day.”
Amid the celebration, though, new MWA President Sara Paretsky did not downplay the challenges her constituents have faced, and will continue to face, in the years ahead. She observed that when the MWA was founded in 1945, there were 57 major trade publishers; today, that number that has dwindled to only five. But she rallied her troops with her observation that their work “sustains people’s spirits in times of need.”