Saturday, December 14, 2019

Recognizing Contributions to the Field

This is what happens when I decide to spend a rare few days away from my office for the purposes of rest and recuperation. Not only did I return earlier this evening to discover 417 unwanted messages in my e-mail box (not a new record, believe it or not), but I learned that I had missed a major crime-fiction prize announcement: On Friday, the Mystery Writers of America (MWA) revealed the names of its 2020 Grand Master, Raven, and Ellery Queen award recipients.

Barbara Neely, the 78-year-old, Pennsylvania-born author of Blanche on the Lam (1992) and three sequels starring Blanche White, an African-American domestic worker, mother, and amateur sleuth, has been named as the winner of next year’s Grand Master Award. That honor, explains an MWA press release, “represents the pinnacle of achievement in mystery writing and was established to acknowledge important contributions to this genre, as well as for a body of work that is both significant and of consistent high quality.” The same bulletin applauds Neely’s series for including political and social commentary: “Blanche allows Neely to explore the female beauty. There are other issues that Neely is able to tackle through her writing—such as violence against women, racism, class boundaries, and sexism.”

Previous MWA Grand Masters include Sara Paretsky, Robert Crais, Jane Langton, Max Allan Collins, and—in 2019—Martin Cruz Smith.

Also yesterday, the MWA declared that its Raven Award (recognizing “outstanding achievement in the mystery field outside the realm of creative writing”) will go to Left Coast Crime, “an annual mystery convention sponsored by mystery fans, both readers and authors, first held in San Francisco in 1991.” LCC is an all-volunteer organization with a Permanent Committee that comprises Bill and Toby Gottfried, Noemi Levine, Janet Rudolph, Lucinda Surber, and Stan Ulrich.

Among past Raven winners are New York Times crime columnist Marilyn Stasio, the Raven Bookstore in Lawrence, Kansas, the organization Sisters in Crime, Florida mystery-fiction columnist Oline Cogdill, San Diego’s Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore, and former President Bill Clinton (as Reader of the Year in 1993).

Finally, the MWA has let it be known that its 2020 Ellery Queen Award (“established in 1983 to honor ‘outstanding writing teams and outstanding people in the mystery-publishing industry’”) will be given to Kelley Ragland, associate publisher and editorial director of Minotaur Books (for which she has worked since 1993). In years past, the Ellery Queen Award has gone to Hard Case Crime editor Charles Ardai, Mystery Writers International director Janet Rudolph, Barbara Peters and Robert Rosenwald of Poisoned Pen Press, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine editor Janet Hutchings, and Otto Penzler of New York City’s Mysterious Bookshop.

All of the aforementioned commendations will be presented this coming April 30 during the MWA’s 74th Annual Edgar Awards Banquet, to be held at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City.

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