Just two days after Mystery Writers of America announced that it would honor author Linda Fairstein as one of two of its Grand Masters for 2019, the organization withdrew the award following a public outcry over the bestselling crime novelist's role overseeing the prosecution of the Central Park Five when she was the head of the sex crimes unit of the Manhattan district attorney's office. The convictions were ultimately overturned.
Among critics of the decision to give Fairstein the award, established to "acknowledge important contributions" to the mystery genre as well as "a body of work that is both significant and of consistent high quality," were MWA members and honorees, including the writer Attica Locke. In a statement explaining the withdrawal, the MWA's board of directors said it "cannot move forward with an award that lacks the support of such a large percentage of our members."
.@EdgarAwards As a member and 2018 Edgar winner, I am begging you to reconsider having Linda Fairstein serve as a Grand Master in next year’s awards ceremony. She is almost singlehandedly responsible for the wrongful incarceration of the Central Park Five. 1/— attica locke (@atticalocke) November 27, 2018
The board continued: "When the MWA Board made its selection, it was unaware of Ms. Fairstein's role in the controversy." It added: "MWA will be reevaluating and significantly revising its procedures for selecting honorary awards in the future."
Martin Cruz Smith, the other honoree, will still be named Grand Master for 2019. Previous Grand Masters include William Link, Peter Lovesey, Jane Langton, Max Allan Collins, Ellen Hart, Walter Mosley, Lois Duncan, James Ellroy, Robert Crais, Carolyn Hart, Ken Follett, Margaret Maron, Martha Grimes, Sara Paretsky, James Lee Burke, Sue Grafton, Bill Pronzini, Stephen King, Marcia Muller, Dick Francis, Mary Higgins Clark, Lawrence Block, P.D. James, Ellery Queen, Daphne du Maurier, Alfred Hitchcock, Graham Greene, and Agatha Christie.
Fairstein, who responded to some of her critics via her Twitter account, has yet to issue her own statement.