Thriller writers aren’t obvious candidates for the mantle of philanthropist, but as the International Thriller Writers’ 11th annual Thrillerfest banquet demonstrated, mystery writers can be full of surprises.
At the event, held Saturday night at Manhattan’s Grand Hyatt Hotel, the ITW awarded its 2016 Silver Bullet Literary Award, for outstanding charitable work, to John Lescroart, author of the bestselling Ditmas Hardy legal thriller series. As past award recipient Steve Berry noted, Lescroart’s efforts had not been widely known, but clearly merited acclaim. They began with a call to the author from the executive director of the Sacramento library that led to Lescroart’s recruitment of 100 local writers to make appearances throughout the library system, which helped to raise over $2 million for the city’s libraries.
His generosity next extended to the local court-appointed special advocates program, which ensures consistency and support for children in the foster care system through the use of volunteers advancing the best interests of each child. Lescroart helped support the program by auctioning off character names in future books. And students at UC Davis are eligible for a prize named after his father, Maurice, for the best student essay, endowed with a $100,000 of Lescroart’s own money. 2016 Thrillermaster Heather Graham, apart from being lauded by R.L. Stine for her 200+ book output, was also recognized for her participation in a recent USO Tour that took her to war zones, and Walter Reade hospitals, and her support of post-Katrina New Orleans.
When it came time to award prizes, one winner was self-published, the author of Best E-Book Original The Prisoner’s Gold, Chris Kuzneski, who declared that his book was the first action/adventure story honored with an ITW award. Without an American publisher at present, Kuzneski invited any “editors who have been drinking” to seek him out at the after-party to sign up someone with both #1 Amazon bestseller status, and a movie deal. Best Hardcover Novel winner Ian Caldwell, for The Fifth Gospel, also cited his bumpy road to the podium and his peers’ approbation; his award-winning book took 10 years to write, a duration that cost him his first publisher, and which explained his intense gratitude to Simon & Schuster, for taking a chance on a book that was still only half-written after seven years.
The other winners were Brian Panowich, Best First Novel, Bull Mountain (Putnam), Joyce Carol Oates, Best Short Story for “Gun Accident: An Investigation,” (EQMM), John Gilstrap, Best Paperback Original for Against All Enemies (Pinnacle), and Michelle Painchaud, Best Young Adult Novel for Pretending To Be Erica (Viking Books for Young Readers).
The ITW continued its tradition of self-mockery with a musical number, Daniel Palmer and Brad Parks’ reimagining of Michael Jackson’s classic “Thriller,” with Palmer transforming from a writer of “real literature” into a genre writer, who confessed, “I plug away . . . I need the cash!” while wistfully noting that “for 99 cents, readers can download my life’s work to their Nooks.” Graham joined the fun with the evening’s best Vincent Price imitation.