Edgars Recapped

Last night’s Edgar Awards were a very good time all round. A little longer than in previous years, but chalk that up more to having two Grandmasters, both of whom gave very eloquent speeches, and not to any fault on MC and new president Lee Child’s abilities – he kept things moving as quickly as possible. But now’s the time to take off the cloak of official micro-documenter and dig a bit deeper (and just representing myself) into the aforementioned tweets.

After a cocktail party that was not as crowded as last year, but still impossible to talk to everyone I wanted to, we were ushered into the main banquet hall to dine on mushroom bisque, chicken and chocolate mousse and throw any side bets out the window on potential winners. Harlan Coben quipped his way to passing the MWA president torch to Lee, who may have been even funnier (”we were looking for an idiot to work for nothing. So here i am”) with his anecdotes about securing a potential edgar awards MC.  Joe Guglielmelli, in accepting the Robert L. Fish award for his short story “Buckner’s Error”, pointed out that at his very first Edgars, the one author he made a point of finding and complimenting on his short stories was Doug Allyn – who presented the Fish award. I’ve said it before and I’ll say so once more, but it was fitting and lovely to see Joe, such a part of the mystery world as one-half of the Black Orchid Bookshop, get this for his writing (and now, please, finish the damn book!)

The Ravens, presented by Laura Lippman, went in succession to the Edgar Allan Poe Society and Poe House, while Best Critical/Biographical went to Harry Lee Poe for his illustrated companion to his ancestor’s stories more or less confirmed why we were here and what bicentennial we were celebrating. John Green’s YA Edgar win for PAPER TOWNS caused enough squeals online (especially on Twitter) that I could hear them from my mobile phone (I also made a point to grab one of the hardcover copies from the hall, and am really looking forward to reading it this weekend.) It was also cool to sit at the same table as Suzanne Brockmann (there to support her Edgar PBO-nominated husband, Ed Gaffney), whose work I read religiously in my romance-reading days a decade or so ago, and Francie Lin, whose Best First Novel win was the culmination of going through many, many drafts to produce THE FOREIGNER, which will surprise those who haven’t read it yet in a good way. (Lin’s next book plans to bend a different genre: science fiction.)

Meg Gardiner took the PBO Edgar home for CHINA LAKE – originally published in the UK way back in 2002 – and though it struck some as odd that she didn’t mention Stephen King during her speech, I think she’s covered that terrain pretty well. And to explain the cryptic comment about Otto Penzler’s introductory speech for Sue Grafton, which happened after a through-the-years montage set to young MIchael Jackson warbling “ABC” with his older brothers – humor gone flat, basically. But Grafton’s speech showed how much she fell hard for the mystery community upon her entry almost three decades ago, and how she’s come full circle in the last decade or so – “knowing the same 20 or 25 people I did back then”. Alafair Burke’s introductory speech for her father hit the required biographical notes but also recounted when she and her siblings were ushered out to low-cost early evening activities to give James Lee the space to write. If things were going well, they heard the clattering of the manual typewriter. Silence meant things weren’t great. And if things were really going badly, here came the sound of the x key hammering away so loud the entire house shook. Burke, Grandmaster kept his speech short, thanking his publisher, agent Phil Spitzer and especially his family.

And then came Best Novel, and Skye Moody didn’t do herself too many favors, unfortunately. No wardrobe malfunctions but lots of Leonard Cohen quotes, microphones in vise-like-grips and general incoherence as fellow presenter and short story award winner T. Jefferson Parker seemed to be frozen to the spot, not quite deciding whether to wrestle the mike away or do something more forceful at the audience’s behest. No wonder, when CJ Box won, he started his speech with “Thank you for staying.” Crisis averted and that was that, another Edgar Awards (plus afterparty at the Mercantile library for those who stayed even longer) in the books. Maybe by then I’ll have a real smartphone or e-reader combo to document things as they happen even more effectively…