Saturday, April 28, 2007

Mean Streets and Memories

This is definitely the week for book honors. First came the Edgar Awards, and then last night the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes were handed out, with Michael Connelly’s Echo Park winning in the Mystery/Thriller category. Also nominated, though: City of Tiny Lights, by Patrick Neate (Riverhead); The Night Gardener, by George Pelecanos (Little, Brown); The Zero, by Jess Walter (HarperCollins); and The Winter of Frankie Machine, by Don Winslow (Knopf).

A complete rundown of book prize recipients can be found here.

In addition to congratulating Connelly on his win, I also want to tip my hat to Montana wordsmith William Kittredge (The Willow Field), who was honored during last evening’s ceremony with the Robert Kirsch Award for lifetime achievement. As the L.A. Times explains, “The Kirsch Award honors a living author with a substantial connection to the American West whose contribution to American letters deserves special recognition. William Kittredge is a master storyteller, essayist, and influential cultural voice known for his unflinching vision of the hardscrabble landscape of the West and the people who survive and die on it.” I’ve never met Kittredge, but he was kind enough to take a writing assignment from me many years ago, when I needed an essay about Nez Perce Indian Chief Joseph for the late, much-lamented Washington Magazine. Kittredge didn’t know me from a hole in the wall, but he kindly listened to me babble on the phone, as I sought to describe what exactly it was that I needed. He then went on to deliver one of the finest short pieces of prose I ever published in that magazine. In the years since, I’ve often thought that I didn’t do nearly enough to thank him for his contribution, and for the respect he paid to me as a still-wet-behind-the-ears young editor, humbled in the presence of greatness. So if you’re out there Mr. Kittredge, allow me to pass along my thanks to you once more. I only hope to be as generous to another young editor someday as you were to me so long ago.

READ MORE:Namedropping,” by Lee Goldberg (A Writer’s Life); “LAT Festival: Some Preliminary Photos,” by Brett Battles (A Writer’s Sphere).

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