Similar to April's Edgars Banquet, the 18th ITW Thriller Awards Banquet, held June 4 at the Sheraton Times Square, featured a challenge to the mystery-writing community from an honoree regarding diversity and inclusion. This time, the speaker was Walter Mosley, one of ITW's two 2023 ThrillerMasters, along with Charlaine Harris.
Mosley, who, as one of the founders of Crime Writers of Color in 2018, was honored at the Edgars with the Raven Award, expressed some exasperation at being routinely referred to as the first Black writer to garner certain achievements, such as being the first Black MWA Grand Master, and the first Black recipient of the National Book Foundation's Lifetime Achievement Award. After Mosley had been notified of the MWA plaudit, he researched the demographics of his predecessors as Grand Master, and found that for a long time, only one female Grand Master was named for every three or four male ones. He shared that that pattern only changed following the formation of Sisters In Crime in 1986, with a mission to "represent and advocate for women crime writers." After that, women were so-honored about every other year. Mosley contrasted that MWA history with ITW's, which recently created the position of vice president of Diversity & Outreach; he asserted that ITW was "much further" along than MWA in terms of inclusion, pointing to its focus on the not-yet-successful author, and helping them to get representation, and make pitches.
ITW co-president Lisa Unger, whose career took her from publicity assistant at Avon/Morrow to bestselling author, also highlighted ITW's commitment to opening doors to new voices with new perspectives, while citing her 2022 PW Soapbox column to share the few things she knew "for sure about writing and publishing." Her remarks were interrupted by three pre-arranged walk-ons, most memorably from Daniel Palmer, whose amusing musical take on the things he knew for sure included the couplet, "Publishing is like a circus/Good luck getting a kind word from Kirkus."
One award-winner, Jennifer Hillier, a Filipina author whose seventh book, Things We Do In The Dark (Macmillan Audio), was named Best Audiobook, credited the ITW orientation that Mosley had referenced for her success. She recalled attending her first Thrillerfest in 2009, without an agent, and feeling too scared to even pitch any ideas. Hillier also gave a shout-out to her Minotaur editor, Keith Kahla.
Charlaine Harris credited her Minotaur editor, Kelley Ragland, in her remarks, which came after Minotaur Books was honored with the Thriller Legend Award for its lasting contributions to the genre. In prerecorded remarks, ITW co-president Gregg Hurwitz, a Minotaur author who was attending his daughter's high school graduation, noted that the Minotaur's motto - to publish and support books "that make the heart race"—was a perfect definition of the genre. Hurwitz cited his own experience with the publisher as exemplifying its commitment to building careers. In accepting the award, publisher Andrew Martin thanked two critical pools of talent—his authors, and his team, many of whom joined him on stage for the recognition, whom he jokingly-referred to as the Minotaur Choir.
Non-traditional publishing also had its moments; four of the five nominees for Best E-book Original were self-published, although the win went to Diane Jeffrey's The Couple at Causeway Cottage (HarperCollins).
As usual, the evening was punctuated with humor. MC Mark Greaney, who proudly touted ITW's impressive statistics—it has over 5,500 members, representing over 3.3 billion books sold—joked that the organization, which has members in over 53 countries, had its eyes on adding North Korean members. He also welcomed AI as "our new robot overlords," and categorized the tens of thousands of lines of prose generated by ITW members as "source material for Chat GPT," that he intended to claim credit for as the Milli Vanilli of thriller writers.