Thursday, June 22, 2006

Thriller Awards Draw Controversy

With little over a week to go before ThrillerFest, the first convention to be hosted by the not-quite-two-year-old International Thriller Writers, a controversy has erupted around the first-ever set of ITW awards, The Thrillers, due to be given out during the convocation.

The furor began--at least in public--at the group blog The Lipstick Chronicles, where author Elaine Viets said:
It’s tough to define an award-winning thriller, but the new International Thriller Writers has succeeded:

It’s anything written by a man.
Viets said other things, as well, but it was all boiled down pretty well in those 22 words.

Unsurprisingly, Viets’ post--which was published under the heading “For Men Only” and has, at the time of this writing, generated more than 70 comments--has started a firestorm in the blogosphere, drawing the attention of everyone from Sarah Weinman--whose posting came with the clever label “The Gender Divide, Rinse and Repeat”--to author Lee Goldberg who, ever the shrinking violet, said, “The judges were men and women. So was it sexism ... or did men simply write the best work this year? You tell me. I didn’t check, but how many Jews were nominated? Jews write lots of crackling thrillers. Hmm.”

Sandra Ruttan’s Sandrablabber was one of the first blogs to publish ITW co-president Gayle Lynds’ public response to allegations of sexism on the part of International Thriller Writers. Lynds, speaking as an individual and not in an official capacity with ITW, says, in part:

As an author (not as a woman who has spent her life battling sexism), I could complain that no women were nominated. At the same time, I could also complain that no people of color were. I’m not sure whether any Muslims or religions other than Christian or Jewish were nominated, but I think they weren’t either. There also might be a preponderance of nominees from one section of the United States, which could be taken as a prejudice favoring that area.

As long as awards are given in whatever field, there are always going to be those who say, “I wish it were otherwise. And because it isn’t, it’s prejudice.”

The only time there’s really an institutional problem, at least in my mind, is when there is a history of one group of people being disenfranchised.

Since this is ITW’s first year, the organization can have no track record of institutional prejudice. ITW has worked diligently to avoid prejudice. The judges by their actions have indicated they have also been diligent in trying to create a level playing field.
The “World’s First International Festival of Thrillers” runs June 29 to July 2 at the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa in Phoenix, Arizona. The first annual ThrillerFest Awards banquet takes place in the Biltmore ballroom on Saturday, July 1, at 7 p.m.

If these things can be judged by an opening act, it seems quite possible that the awards presentation may be thrilling, indeed.

READ MORE:Responsible Blogging,” by J.A. Konrath (A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing).


Sandra Ruttan said...

Thanks for the link and for posting this, Linda. Fantastic, balanced assessment.

Anonymous said...


I have kept my comments out of the public domain UNTIL NOW, due to being one of the ITW Judges who has been publicly accused with my colleagues at ITW of sexism and bigotry by a stranger.

But I wish to say something in my defense and that of my colleagues at ITW who work with integrity and passion.

If this stranger had wished to have done a little checking of facts before making accusations, perhaps they would have discovered the following details [which are all in the public domain and very easy to find] and I quote -

"Ali is an associate member of the International Thriller Writers Association and an associate member of the Crime Writers Association (CWA) of Great Britain as well as a [male] member of the UK ‘Mystery Women’ group who promote the work of female crime / mystery / thriller writers."

Full Bio is available :-

I would like to add that as I come from an ethnic minority [non-white / Asian], and very proud to be British [IMHO - The home of the golden age thriller] - I have fought prejudice and bigotry [in all its ugly forms] throughout my life, and will continue to do so with my last breath. That is why these allegations are particularly hurtful to me.

I was honoured to be asked to be one of the judges for the inaugural ITW awards, [and being a non-American and a non-white judge, surely this should indicate ITW’s International and un-prejudiced ethos]. Despite the hard work involved in the judging process, I firmly believe in the ITW and its goals to help thriller writers internationally.

So how has this public humiliation by a stranger affected me as literary judge because you all know I feel privileged to work with you and your team at DP on the Barry Awards, as well as The CWA on the Daggers?

My response to the stranger who accused me and my colleagues at ITW of Sexism and Bigotry?

If the ITW want me to sit again?

I say 'Bring It On!' - I refuse to be intimidated by anyone – I hate bullying and bigots, and will fight them with my dying breath.

I love Thriller Novels and enthusing people to read them, and I am a person of integrity.

I am looking forward to attending Thrillerfest and let's allow this unpleasantness to pass with our dignity in place.

Ali Karim

Also my Editor Mike Stotter at will be issuing a formal statement on my behalf tonight together with Gayle Lynds’ letter at our website, which you will see is heavily populated by Female writers in interviews, reviews and articles.

This is a photograph [link] with me and Lizzie Hayes of The Mystery Women Group who I work with.

If you want to get involved and support women mystery writers details are at :-