A real-life health scare unexpectedly interrupted the proceedings at the 71st annual Edgars banquet, held Thursday night at New York's Grand Hyatt Hotel.
Incoming Mystery Writers of America president Jeffery Deaver, who had entertained the audience with a Seussian exploration of whether reading was dead, passed out in the middle of his preamble to the awarding of the Edgar for Best Young Adult Novel. After some anxious moments, and the arrival of an EMS team, Deaver was able to walk out of the room on his own. A subsequent update from the hospital provided the welcome news that the medical tests were all normal. With calm restored to the gathering, MWA executive v-p president Donna Andrews presided over the rest of the evening.
Predictably, several presenters employed humor at the expense of President Trump (outgoing MWA president Jeff Abbott attributed the success of his administration to his “Russian publishers,” and there were multiple references to “alternate facts”. Andrews’ own introduction to the festivities noted the mystery genre’s necessary transformation to “look more like the society we’re living in.”
That development was exemplified by one of the Grand Masters, Ellen Hart, who noted that her choice to have a gay series lead was not one that led to increased sales, and movingly stated that the “audience of one” she wrote for was her partner of almost 40 years, Kathy Kruger.And the increased sophistication of the mystery novel was noted in prepared remarks from the winner of the Best Novel Edgar - Noah Hawley, for Before the Fall (Grand Central Publishing). Hawley stated that the best mysteries explore why people commit crimes, and leave readers with more questions than answers.
Mary Higgins Clark observed that the award ceremony had come a long way from the first ones she had attended, which consisted of “two tables in a small bar,” before she presented the eponymous honor “for the book most closely written in the Mary Higgins Clark Tradition,” to Caroline and Charles Todd, for The Shattered Tree (William Morrow).
The Ellery Queen Award, honoring “outstanding writing teams and outstanding people in the mystery-publishing industry,” was accepted by Neil Nyren, the executive v-p, associate publisher and editor in chief for Putnam, who dated his love for the genre back to encountering The Secret of Skull Mountain, a Hardy Boys mystery he was given to distract him when he was home sick from school. Monica Hesse, who won Best Young Adult Novel for Girl in the Blue Coat (Little Brown Books for Young Readers), garnered laughs when she gave a shout-out to her husband for his steadfast support, while noting that she herself would never want to be married to a writer. Kate Summerscale’s The Wicked Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child Murderer (Putnam) was the Best Fact Crime book, Flynn Berry’s Under the Harrow (Penguin) won Best First Novel, and Adrian McKinty’s Rain Dogs (Seventh Street Books) was named Best Paperback Original.