The hundreds of guests attending the Mystery Writers of America's 77th Edgar Awards Banquet at Manhattan's Marriott Marquis hotel last night rose to their feet twice to give standing ovations, honoring two authors with something else in common, despite being at very different stages of their career.
Michael Connelly, one of the two writers named a Grand Master, an honor given to those deemed to represent "the pinnacle of achievement in mystery writing," was expected to garner the cheers customarily given to a genre legend so-honored by MWA. When his selection was announced in January, MWA cited his LAPD protagonist Harry Bosch’s mantra from the first book in the long-running series, 1992's The Black Echo, “Everybody counts or nobody counts.” MWA noted that “[w]hat those five words have meant to the readers of mystery fiction in the past 37 years can’t be overstated.”
The primacy of treating people equally was at the heart of the moving remarks from one of the other honorees, recognized in a category that usually doesn't lead to those in attendance rising to their feet and applauding. Kellye Garrett, who was a nominee for Best Novel for Like a Sister (Mulholland), is one of the three founders of Crime Writers of Color, a recipient of the 2023 Raven Award, which recognizes "outstanding achievement in the mystery field outside the realm of creative writing."
CWOC was founded by Garrett five years ago, along with Gigi Pandian and Walter Mosley. That group, which now numbers over 400 members, was inspired in part by Garrett's much-less-warm experience when she'd first attended the Edgars in 2016, the year when Mosley became MWA's first Grand Master of color. Garrett stated that she was just "one of a handful of Blacks in a room full of white people," and was viewed warily by a best-selling white author, a situation she'd encountered at other crime fiction gatherings as well. She implored the attendees to be more sensitive and more inclusive, and, with a frankness and directness not usually found in Edgar acceptance speeches, Garrett called for the mystery writers community to no longer make excuses for bad behavior, and to not work with problematic people. She also listed positive actions that could make marginalized authors feel less so, including having them serve on panels that are not focused on diversity issues, noting that "marginalized authors can also talk about cosies, and pacing."
Prolific British author Anthony Horowitz won for Best Television Episode Teleplay for Episode 1 of his adaptation of his own novel, Magpie Murders, (Masterpiece/PBS), which impressively-translated the fair-play clues of the book into visuals, a challenge that had led the BBC to pass on the project, deeming it "too complicated." Horowitz said the plaudit should have been shared with his wife, the series' producer, Jill Green, who told him that his first script draft was "terrible," and the second one, "worse."
Several winners acknowledged their parents. Louisa Luna, who won the G.P. Putnam’s Sons Sue Grafton Memorial Award for Hideout (Doubleday), thanked her father for allowing her to use the protagonist of his decades-old unpublished novel in her book. Ellery Queen Award winner Andrew Gulli, the editor of the Strand Magazine, credited his parents for a lifetime in books for having convinced him that the cool thing for a kid to do on a Friday night was to read.
Best First Novel by an American Author winner Eli Cranor, for Don’t Know Tough (Soho Crime), expressed gratitude to 2018 Grand Master Peter Lovesey, whose own career as a published author began when he won a competition in 1969; Lovesey paid the success of his career forward by declining his publisher's suggestion for a gala in his honor when he'd reached the half-century mark as a writer, and advocated for a contest instead. Granor won the inaugural Peter Lovesey First Crime Novel Contest, which rescued his book, after it had been rejected by over 300 agents. Cranor joined those who'd thanked a parent, praising his mother for patiently listening to him read portions of his first draft out loud.
Other winners of the evening included Danya Kukafka, who took home the Best Novel award for Notes on an Execution (William Morrow); Martin Edwards, who won the Best Critical/Biographical award for The Life of Crime: Detecting the History of Mysteries and Their Creators (Collins Crime Club); and June Hua, who was awarded the Best Young Adult prize for The Red Palace (Feiwel & Friends).