Friday, April 27, 2007


Stephen King honoured as "Grand Master"

Dick Donahue -- Publishers Weekly, 4/27/2007 5:44:00 AM

The Mystery Writers of America’s 61st annual Edgar Awards were held last night at New York City’s Grand Hyatt Hotel. Among the winners were The Janissary Tree by Jason Goodwin (FSG/Sarah Crichton Books) for Best Novel; The Faithful Spy (Random) by Alex Berenson for Best First Novel by an American Author; Snakeskin Shamisen (Delta) by Naomi Hirahara for Best Paperback Original; and Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer (Morrow) by James L. Swanson for Best Fact Crime. In addition to the awards, Stephen King was inducted as Grand Master.

The evening was not only one of the most pleasantly (some might say mercifully) briefest ceremonies in recent years, it was perhaps the most colorful, as well. Outgoing MWA president Janet Evanovich, sporting a snazzy titian hairdo, told the capacity crowd how excited she was about the evening’s theme, "Black, White and Read All Over"—because "I finally got to dye my hair this color." The invitations had requested "black tie with a touch of red," and a majority obeyed with a vengeance—red vests, bow ties, baseball caps, lavish gowns, a handsome red watchband and a spiffy red-sequined evening bag. Evanovich introduced new president Nelson DeMille, who proudly noted his 31 years as an MWA member and said that the evening’s assemblage "represented some of the finest authors in the English-speaking world."

The one-liners batted out by emcee Al Roker elicited well-deserved laughter, and many attendees praised his brisk pace. "Of course it was fast," said Grand Central’s Susan Richman, "he has to get up at four in the morning." Another audience favorite was Dave Barry, who presented two awards and missed no opportunity to display his customarily dry wit. (When one winner was slow approaching the podium, Barry broke into a chorus of "Feelings.")

The evening’s high point was the induction of Stephen King as Grand Master—one speaker wondered why this choice "didn’t happen 20 years ago." Barry and Ridley Pearson, introducing King, riffed on his "murderous" style: "Many critics were dismissive of his early work," said Pearson, "but those who are still alive have come to recognize his talents." King received two standing ovations—the first when he bounded to the stage prematurely, seemingly unaware that Donald Westlake was to present the award itself. Taking the podium, Westlake good-naturedly told the crowd, "I wasn’t born to be the forgotten man." King seemed amused by the many labels that have been bestowed on him (thrillermeister, et al.), saying, "I never called myself anything except somebody who wanted to be a writer."

Another of the evening’s stars, albeit an inadvertent one, was publisher Sarah Crichton, whose author Jason Goodwin won the Best Novel Edgar for The Janissary Tree (FSG/Sarah Crichton Books). Crichton accepted the award for Goodwin, explaining that "his publisher was too cheap to fly him over from Sussex, England, and now she deeply regrets it." She added, "I mean, this book is about a eunuch in the sultan’s court in the 1830s—who would’ve thought it could win?"

Alex Berenson, winner of Best First Novel by an American Author for The Faithful Spy, said that he would have been happy "even if the book hadn’t sold a single copy." In Boston while on his book tour, he explained, he met his girlfriend, who was staying at the same hotel—"so I want to thank Random House for choosing the Hotel Commonwealth." On a serious note, he spoke about his stint as a journalist in Iraq and noted the number of troops and reporters still there. "So please give them a thought and a prayer tonight," he said.

Best Paperback Original was won by Naomi Hirahara for Snakeskin Shamisen (Delta), who said that her mother was staying in the hotel, but "she didn’t want to come to the banquet unless I won. Maybe I better call her." The phone theme also surfaced in the letter sent by Matthew Graham, winner of Best Television Episode Teleplay for the BBC’s Life on Mars, Episode 1. "When I wrote this letter I hoped that someone would phone or email to tell me I’ve won. Hurry, do it now." After Graham’s letter was read, Roker quipped, "That was some long-ass note." The next presenter, author Alafair Burke, repeated gleefully, "Al Roker said ‘ass.’ Al Roker said ‘ass.’ "

Best Fact Crime winner was James L. Swanson for Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer (Morrow), a national bestseller that spent 12 weeks on PW’s nonfiction list. Swanson told the audience that he was born on Lincoln’s birthday, and noted that last night’s ceremony occurred on the same date as the capture of John Wilkes Booth 132 years earlier. The Edgar for Best Short Story was won by Charles Ardai for "The Home Front" from Death Do Us Part (Little, Brown/Back Bay). Ardai thanked three important women in his life, the late editors of Ellery Queen Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock Magazine, and his wife, "a better writer than I’ll ever be."

The Best Critical/Biographical winner was E.J. Wagner for The Science of Sherlock Holmes: From Baskerville Hall to the Valley of Fear (Wiley). The Best Juvenile Edgar went to Room One: A Mystery or Two by Andrew Clements (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers), and Best Young Adult was won by Robin Merrow MacCready for Buried (Penguin YR/Dutton Children’s Books)

Other winners:

Best Play Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure by Steven Dietz (Arizona Theatre Company)

Best Television Feature/Mini-Series Teleplay: The Wire, Season 4, teleplays by Ed Burns, Kia Corthron, Dennis Lehane, David Mills, Eric Overmyer, George Pelecanos, Richard Price, David Simon and William F. Zorzi (HBO).

Best Motion Picture Screenplay: The Departed, screenplay by William Monahan (Warner Bros. Pictures).

The Robert L. Fish Memorial Award: William Dylan Powell for "Evening Gold"—EQMM November 2006 (Dell Magazines).

The Simon & Schuster Mary Higgins Clark Award: Bloodline by Fiona Mountain (St. Martin’s Minotaur)

The Raven Awards: Books & Books, Miami, Fla. (Mitchell Kaplan, owner) and Mystery Loves Company Bookstore, Baltimore, Md. (Kathy and Tom Harig, owners)

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