It would be hard not to connect the record attendance at ThrillerFest XIII, including at its packed International Thriller Writers Awards banquet held Saturday night at New York’s Grand Hyatt Hotel, with the appearance of 2018 ThrillerMaster George R.R. Martin. The mega-best-selling author, who is more commonly feted at fantasy and science fiction gatherings, expressed pleasant surprise at finally attending a convention not featuring at least one participant who was dressed as Slave Girl Princess Leia.
Martin was also gratified to be recognized by the ITW as itsThrillerMaster, as the honor validated one of his core beliefs - that good writing is good writing, whatever label is affixed to it (“In essence, we’re all storytellers, the rest is furniture,” he said). He provided a moving tribute to his friend, author and editor Gardner Dozois, who passed away in May. It was Dozois who, in 1971, retrieved a Martin submission to Galaxy Magazine from the slush pile and persuaded his editor to buy “The Hero” - Martin’s first professionally published story. Martin and Dozois had coedited a series of anthologies (Warriors, Down These Strange Streets), for which they’d invited authors to write outside of their genre comfort zone, and which led readers to further explore types of stories they’d not done so before, validating their belief that genre designations are too limiting.
Lee Child, Martin’s immediate predecessor as ThrillerMaster, made a passing allusion to the long-anticipated next installment in Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, The Winds of Winter, commenting that Martin was an “entertaining, compelling, addictive, intelligent, complex and unafraid writer, who does things his own way - and, some would say, in his own time.”
But, as usual, the comic highlight of the evening was provided by authors Daniel Palmer and Brad Parks, who delighted the audience - and Martin - by appearing at the podium garbed as Game of Thrones characters Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen. After Jon mournfully noted that he was “completely lost” because he didn’t understand what was happening in his own show, Daenerys handed him Martin’s novels, leading Jon to wish he’d read them first - and the pair then broke into a musical homage to Martin, and The Wizard of Oz. (“I would know who I was killin’/And why their blood was spillin’/At spoilers I would look/I’d get depth from the monologues/A preview of the dialogue/If I’d only read the book.”)
ThrillerFest executive director Kimberley Howe transitioned from event coordinator to honoree when her book, The Freedom Broker (Quercus), was named Best First Novel. She thanked Quercus for believing in a “female action hero with type 1 diabetes,” whom she hoped would help reader awareness that people with chronic illnesses can still live full and productive lives.
Robert and Patricia Gussin were given the Thriller Legend Award for their contributions to ITW; 95% of the books their Oceanview Publishing have published have been by ITW members. James Rollins’ charitable work founding Authors United for Veterans, bestselling authors dedicated to raising funds to help soldiers and their families, led to his being named the Silver Bullet Literary Award recipient. The other winning authors were Riley Sager, for Best Hardcover Novel, Final Girls (Dutton); Christine Bell, for Best Paperback Original, Grievance (Lake Union); Zoë Z. Dean, for Best Short Story “Charcoal and Cherry,” (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine); Sean Black, for Best E-Book Original, Second Chance (self-published); and Gregg Hurwitz, for Best Young Adult Novel, The Rains (TOR Teen).
James Rollins’ charitable work founding Authors United for Veterans, which focuses on bestselling authors dedicated to raising funds to help soldiers and their families, led to his being named the Silver Bullet Literary Award recipient.