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January 18, 2008

Comments

JDRhoades

Women, shwomen. WHAT THE DEAD KNOW was one of the best books of ANY kind by ANYONE released in 2007. Its omission here is baffling.

Charles Ardai

Russell Hill published the novels LUCY BOOMER in 1992 and THE EDGE OF THE EARTH in 1986, and the poetry collection LETTERS FROM THE MINES in 1978, as well as eight or nine other books.

Agreed that it's a very strong category. I can't argue with any of the picks.

Sandra Scoppettone

No, I don't think we can call it "the luck of the draw" because it isn't. I agree that Lippman's book should've been there as well as other women. What John Hart is doing there I'll never understand. So I'm being specific...I don't care. Five men. Some things never change.

David J. Montgomery

Couldn't disagree with you more, Sandra. John Hart's book is the one of the five that I would argue most belongs on there. I hope it wins. But Laura's book would certainly have been on my list as well.

I'm curious to see if the people who protested against the ITW's selections a few years back will be as vociferous in their opposition to this list.

Anon

If the Edgars list had no women nominees in any of the categories, I'm sure you would hear some protests.

Ali

Hmmmmmmmm 'No Comment' on the books

On the Screenplays - gotta give a ClapClapClapClap! for seeing EASTERN PROMISES on the list -

Excellent film because of an excellent script

Ali

Sandra Ruttan

"I'm curious to see if the people who protested against the ITW's selections a few years back will be as vociferous in their opposition to this list."

I doubt it.

And I don't believe women should be nominated just to have women nominated... but I did expect Laura Lippman to be nominated. Then again, I'm also surprised James Lee Burke wasn't nominated for Tin Roof Blowdown.

Which just goes to show that when it comes to the awards, what do I know? No Sakey for best first, or Chercover... We'll never all agree.

Marcus Sakey

I wish Laura had been nominated. But I gotta disagree with you on John Hart. He's great writer, and deserves the nom.

Donna

David wrote: "I'm curious to see if the people who protested against the ITW's selections a few years back will be as vociferous in their opposition to this list."

Oh I DO hope not - because all that does is to take away from what is a very worthy group of nominees, and a very hardworking group of judges. Every time THIS group of judges thought THESE particular books were the best of the year. It's silly saying that someone's book should have been there or should not have been there. It's personal preference. I doubt if you took 100 people that they would all come up with the same top 5 in any category. I love Laura's writing, and I am sure she wouldn't want to be included on any list because she's female. Everyone on the list of nominees - male and female - was chosen because a specific group of judges loved their books/stories. And huge congratulations to ALL of them.

David J. Montgomery

Nicely put, Donna.

Andi

I've NEVER been so baffled in all the years I've followed this stuff. The Edgars never make sense to me and I admit that 2007 was NOT a good reading year for me, but I honesttoGODS don't know a good many of the nominees in most of the fiction categories. Wonder where i've been or why not.

And any list that does not have the Lippman book on it loses all credibility from me. I just don't get how this happens, or I do and don't want to. I DID have a problem with the ITW nominations and I DO have a problem here. I donm't think it's deliberate but I do think it should be looked at - same as I said back then.

And I think Chabon is an amazing writer but that book was the biggest disappointment to me - SUCH a mess. Well, that's why I don't end up on nominating juries.

I'll take comfort in the Grand Master for my buddy Mr. Bill Pronzini and the Raven for Kate Mattes.

Dan

Goodness. When you harshly criticize the choices in one breath and then admit in the next that you "honest to God don't know many of the nominees," you're essentially arguing against yourself.

Having been on just about every side of the prize racket -- judge, winner, loser, and non-nominee (the one i'm best at) -- I can say with limited authority that there really is no substitute for becoming acquainted with each and every one of the hundreds of entries.

So, while the uproar over the exclusion of a much-loved book is quite understandable (hey, I loved it, too), it's unseemly to call for an inquiry, and plain silly to take it as an affront to the author. The list of nominees in each category is the result of the personal tastes of a mere five people. Nothing more, nothing less. That's a good thing to bear in mind whether you win or you're left off.

(And, no, I wasn't on any of this year's judging panels, so don't throw anything at me!)

Jon Jordan

I'm familiar with every author nominated in the fiction catagories. I also thought that 2008 had a lot of great books and I know I'm glad I wasn't a judge. It would have been a lot of work and a real stressfull job to winnow this down to 5.

Is it the same list I would have come up with? Of course not. Is it a good list? I think so.

No women in the best novel catagory? It happens. Hardly a plot or a conspiracy.

I am pleased to see some people on here who are not "the usual Suspects"

Cudos to the judges for a job well done, and cudos to everyone nominated as well.

Nathan Cain

I think it's a very strong list of nominations. I will say I think its a shame the new rules disqualify Point Blank Press books from consideration because James Reasoner's Dust Devils deserved a nomination for best PBO.

Elaine Flinn

How, Andi, can you be 'baffled' by the list if you don't know many of the nominees? But it's reassuring to know that you don't think the absence of women is deliberate. I'm sure the judges will rest easy now. And 'looked at'? What's to 'look at'??

And Sandra's comment baffle's ME. 'Some things never change?' Oh, come on. I mean, really.

Sandra Parshall

WHAT THE DEAD KNOW was by far the best of the dozens of crime novels I read in 2007, and I finished it with the certainty that this book would win every award in sight. Well, there are still some awards coming up -- awards given by READERS -- and Laura will walk away with more than one. I was also sorry that Chelsea Cain's stunning HEARTSICK wasn't nominated, but I don't feel the personal attachment to that one that I feel to Laura's book.

JT Ellison

Many, many congratulations to all the nominees! Especially Derek Nikitas for best first, and Ken Bruen for best novel. Such an exciting day for Killer Year & Murderati!!!

Sandra Ruttan

Nathan, I wholeheartedly agree with you about Reasoner's DUST DEVILS. Fantastic read.

Cornelia Read

Many, many congratulations to all the nominees! I, too, expected to see WHAT THE DEAD KNOW here, as I adored it--but I, too, wasn't a judge.

And I think it will be a great day when everyone's bitching because all the best novel noms are for women, with only one guy in the best first list. Maybe after Hillary gets in, you know? :>)

Again, huge and sincere congratulations to all the nominees, and a great big thank you to the judges for their hard work.

Andi

I'm baffled becausei haven't heard any discussion of a number of these titles AND because I say that every year. I'm baffled because i haven't seen these books or hear much about several of htem. I haven't heard "buzz" about most of them, i havene't seen them on people's lists. i nmany cases both author and book are new to me. THAT's what I mean and i base my comments on that. I AM NOT SAYING THAY THEY ARE BAD BOOkS - point to where i said that or was harsh. I just am very surprised, as i am every year when books that I excpet to be listed aren't and books i've never heard of are. I spend a lot of time reading about mystery and the books that are out, and assume i am familiar with the genre and the field.

Will I read them? Some of them, yeah, I have several sitting waiting to be read. I don't and can't vote, so I don't feel any pressure to read up. I know that at least in 1 category I really like an author but find his work unreadable. I tried several of those nominated and never got far.

I don't assume that my opinion keeps the judges awake at night and wonder why you feel the need to take such a tone. I defended you and the ITW judges when a similar situation came up that first year of those awards and found that baffling TOO, since apparently many very good books were out that year. I KNOW it's about taste and as Sandra says we'll never all agree, but for at least 10 years i've found the Edgars "baffling" because so often so many excellent books are not nominated. It's a hard job, yeah, I know that too, but year after year, i find it baffling when FOR ME this pattern continues. Okay? Can we perhaps agree that makes sense? Probably not. Oh well.

And it's not so much that it was a "much-loved book" but simply that it was an excellent book. There's a difference.

As for looing at this, I'm not part of the organization hosting these awards. If I were, maybe there would be a way to discuss this. I DON'T KNOW. I don't have a clue how these books are chosen, though I have heard stories from several former judges.

This will not be resolved here, or indeed at all. It wasn't resolved the last time, as i recall, but rather resulted in ugly and name-calling and at times ad hominem attacks and at times ridiculously illogical arguments. I don't think anything has changed.

Elaine Flinn

Tone? What tone? Did I use a 'tone'? Hmmm.

And by the way - if memory serves, Andi - you didn't defend me or the other ITW judges. You were quite visibly on the other side - and here, on Confessions.

And as for how books are selected in any contest with a committee of judges - it's quite simple, and after all your years hanging around the biz, I'm surprised you never knew how it was done. The best of the lot are offered, and then a vote is taken. Quite democratic, quite above board, quite non-gender biased - and with only one goal in mind - the best story, voice and excecution.

Sandra Scoppettone

Elaine...quite non-gender based? I now could say, oh, come on to you. Of course there's no one saying "don't put any women on the list'" but it's deep in the marrow, and that's why I said "some things never change." Gender is always there, lurking.

BTW, I've been on many judging committees. I know how it's done.

I certainly don't believe a woman should be nominated because she's a woman. But by most of the comments here one can see that Laura's book should've been there. Down River is a better book than What The Dead Know? Not on your life.

Elaine Flinn

Well, Sandra - and with respect - I don't know what committees you've been on, but I've been a judge several times now - and I've NEVER EVER seen, felt, or even read-between-the-lines any gender bias whatsoever.

'Deep in the marrow'? Oh, my God! That's the damndest sexist-gender-biased thing I've heard yet! You do many fine and considerate - and yes - objective male judges a sad injustice just uttering that.

Andi

I was not "visibly on the other side" and I have the quotes to prove it but do not believe it's the right thing to do here. You folks go back to discussing and I'll get out of here. No point in staying.

Oh so, "I'm sure the judges will rest easy now" was said without malice or sarcasm?

krimileser

As far as I remember, no one was grumping and calling it a conspiracy when last years nomination list for the Anthony, Best Book was all female. Seems to me, that it is still a long way to go.

"[...] Maybe after Hillary gets in, you know? :>)"
And if Obama wins ?

krimileser

As far as I remember, no one was grumping and calling it a conspiracy when last years nomination list for the Anthony, Best Book was all female. Seems to me, that it is still a long way to go.

"[...] Maybe after Hillary gets in, you know? :>)"
And if Obama wins ?

David J. Montgomery

This has gotten kinda nasty, but there was something I wanted to say anyway... It's a mistake, I believe, to focus on any particular book's inclusion or exclusion and use it as evidence of how the awards are irrelevant, corrupt, biased, poopyheaded or just plain stupid.

Look at the examples cited above. Several people think WHAT THE DEAD KNOW should have been nominated. I agree. But I know some intelligent, well-read, sincere people who didn't care for it. Someone thinks DOWN RIVER wasn't worthy of being nominated. I, on the other hand, thought it was wonderful; one of the best books I read all year. Another person thinks HEARTSICK should have been nominated. I would rather gargle with broken glass than read that book again. Others think the choices excellent; I found some of them mind-boggling (and some of them right on).

What does this all show? Only the obvious: tastes differ; excellence is to at least some degree (perhaps a large one) subjective; and reasonable people can differ on what represents excellence -- hopefully without people who disagree calling them idiots or bigots.

I think I've looked at every awards shortlist ever created and thought that a significant number of the choices were misguided. Does this mean the judges are fools or just that we disagree? (Probably the latter.) Hasn't each of us done this? Has there ever been an Edgar Awards shortlist that you haven't looked at and thought to yourself, "How the hell could they leave off X?!" How can anyone still be surprised that it happens?

This whole discussion reminds me -- as it does every year -- of Kissinger's quip about academic politics. It's fun to discuss the books. It's GOOD to discuss the books. What could be more inspiring than people actually caring about books for a change? But it's not worth getting upset about.

Sandra Ruttan

Actually Andi, while I take your point as an interesting one, I'm actually relieved to see non-buzz books on the list.

What it means is (I hope) the awards are about quality writing and not popularity contests.

We all know that some authors get lots of buzz because they're already established and popular, but buzz or talk certainly isn't the end-all and be-all, which can be proven in simply: Dan Brown.

What this says to me is that, regardless of the name on the cover, the judges are going to put quality writing first. And that is a VERY GOOD thing because there are a lot of talented authors who don't get that mega promotional push, who actually do deserve to reach a wider audience.

On the gender front, is it not possible that we allow our own prejudices to colour our interpretation of the results? We believe women are discriminated against (and maybe sometimes they are) so every time women seem to be getting the shaft it MUST be discrimination - not that it may just be that the five best books in the opinion of the judges were written by men.

If we see the day when affirmative action has to come to the awards, so that a token woman (or in the case of the Agathas, maybe a token man) is bumped ahead to fifth spot just to silence the critics, then we've all lost. It's no longer about the best books. It truly IS about the gender of the author.

If that day must come, split them in two like the Oscars and give us Best Male and Best Female. But as long as we all compete for the same awards, there will be times they favour a gender.

I don't see anyone crying because there are no African-Americans, Asian-Americans or Indo-Americans on the list. (I mean, as far as I know, because I don't know all these authors.) So if we're going to throw a sexist allegation out there without justification, can't we at least throw out the racist charge?

The accusations against the ITW a few years ago were completely unsubstantiated, unfounded and reckless. Frankly, I think it takes something away from the awards, and the achievement of every deserving nominee, to bicker about it. WHAT THE DEAD KNOW wasn't nominated. Am I surprised? Yes. Does that mean my opinion has more weight than the judges?

No.

Sandra Ruttan

"there will be times they favour a gender" - I mean in terms of the nominees, with more being men or more being women - when there are five in a category that's inevitable.

And an FYI on what I learned doing the Spinetingler Awards: Either male writers network better online, or they're simply more popular. Of 18 nominees, three by women. Since it was primarily based off of popular nomination, when I started to tally the results I had this sinking feeling, because I knew the inevitable conclusions some would jump to. But then, they just aren't important enough for people to care enough to attack us over them, so I didn't have to worry that much.

David Thayer

I feel very guilty about Laura Lippman's WHAT THE DEAD KNOW. I should have liked it more than I did. This is probably my failing: I spent three years in a Benedictine Seminary where silence is observed 20 hours a day. I only mention this to establish my bona fides in the guilt department. The Benedictines devoted six centuries to a discussion about pillows and blankets; it's okay, go ahead and use them!
I was pleased to see Mr. Wignall get some love and I thought DOWN RIVER was well done, channeling Pat Conroy in an over the top way. I would have liked to see Walter Moseley, Theresa Schwegel, and Jenny Siler nominated in their respective categories.

David Thayer

I feel very guilty about Laura Lippman's WHAT THE DEAD KNOW. I should have liked it more than I did. This is probably my failing: I spent three years in a Benedictine Seminary where silence is observed 20 hours a day. I only mention this to establish my bona fides in the guilt department. The Benedictines devoted six centuries to a discussion about pillows and blankets; it's okay, go ahead and use them!
I was pleased to see Mr. Wignall get some love and I thought DOWN RIVER was well done, channeling Pat Conroy in an over the top way. I would have liked to see Walter Moseley, Theresa Schwegel, and Jenny Siler nominated in their respective categories.

Sandra Scoppettone

Elaine
"'Deep in the marrow'? Oh, my God! That's the damndest sexist-gender-biased thing I've heard yet! You do many fine and considerate - and yes - objective male judges a sad injustice just uttering that."

Did I say anything about male judges? This shows me that you don't understand sexism. Many women are sexist. And many of both sexes don't know it about themselves.

You can have the last word, should you want it.

Steve Allan

At what point should you be ashamed of yourself for enjoying flame wars so much? I haven't reached that level and I'm beginning to wonder if I should start questioning what type of human being I am? :)

In all seriousness, as heated as these discussions can get thank god they're taking place. I don't know about the rest of you but such opportunities are few and far between outside in the real world. I'm just glad everyone appreciates writing, even if they don't agree.

And on a controversial note, I'm happy Pushing Daisies was nominated. The show is just so damn cute.

B.G. Ritts

"...the five best books in the opinion of the judges..."

Without knowing how many judges or how they chose, it wouldn't surprise me to learn each judge had a favorite that’s not on the list either.

(And I think Sandra Ruttan has, once again, made as much sense as anyone posting since Sarah said: "And before the argument about the lack of women on the list, as there inevitably will be, can we chalk it up to the luck of the draw?")

ed

Many in the literary community are fond of sneering down at genre. So why can't genre do the same to these literary upstarts?

I put forth this question: Were the Chabon and Banville books, as good as they were, truly the BEST mysteries last year? By what criteria were Chabon and Banville nominated? While I love the hell out of Banville's prose, I can think of a few other novels off the top of my head that had better mystery plots than CHRISTINE FALLS. Is the MWA now more concerned with dunning their noses for literary respectability or are they interested in honoring the best mysteries of the year?

If it's the former, then the Edgars may now resemble some upwardly mobile young man who only socializes with those who are "important," rather than those who do the best job.

Jon Jordan

Ed asks:
"Is the MWA now more concerned with dunning their noses for literary respectability or are they interested in honoring the best mysteries of the year?"

That's not the case. The MWA as an organization does not pick these. A small group of MWA mebers (5 or6) are on a comittee, they each pick 5 books, then they all compare notes and pick a group of 5 from that group. Sometimes compromises are made I'm sure. It ends up being a list of 5 that all the committee members are happy with.

Each year has a different flavor because each year it's a differnt group of people on the comittees. Plus they try to get a nice mix of people on the groups who judge, men, women, cozy, hard boiled etc. to keep it well rounded.

I've never been totally happy with any best of list I've seen anywhere ever, for anything, but this year's list looks pretty damn good and pretty responsive to what people are reading.

Another thing to think about is the fact that the average mystery fan/reader is a bit younger. There are a lot of new people involved in the community. People who were really up on everything going on in the 90's or 80's may not be as in touch now.

Keith

It's also worth noting that although this is an award for the best mystery, nobody knows what one is.

tod goldberg

Discussion aside about gender and worth, I think the very best news is that Barbara Seranella is up for the Mary Higgins Clark Award. Hopefully it will garner the book the attention it deserved and did not seem to get or, at the very least, introduce a few new readers to a talented writer and a wonderful friend who is terribly missed.

John

I don't think it's fair or accurate to implicate Michael Chabon as being a "literary upstart", considering that he has published several novels already and has even won the Pulitzer Prize. Of course, that has nothing to do with whether or not his current book is any good, but he's certainly not an upstart.

Also, I think women (and not all women) are the only ones who would even notice that there isn't a woman on the list. Everyone else is just going to be looking at the books themselves and saying "oh, that one was good", "never heard of that author" or "wtf is that book doing on there?" rather than going down the list looking for a female name.

Carol Baier

In the history of awards, has there ever been...

A writer who wasn't nominated who thought the judges were right?
A nominee who thought the award was irrelevant or the judges were wrong?
A losing nominee who thought the winner wrote a better book?
A reader whose choices weren't picked who didn't think the judges were wrong?

Of my top ten last year, eight were men. That's preference, not gender bias. Other years, the ratio been just the opposite. What the Dead Know, The Blade Itself, and The Tin Roof Blowdown were at the top of my list. I loved them madly, but can I say with any degree of certainty that I wouldn't have liked some of the books I didn't read even more? No.

Let's give a big hand to the weary judges who take time out of their own lives to keep the Edgars alive -- and all of us arguing.

Carol


Keith

I look for female names and notice when there aren't any.

I also don't think there's a conspiracy, conscious or otherwise.

I also don't think it's accurate to say these are the books the committee thought were the best. It would be more accurate to say they're the books the committee could agree to list. Almost certainly, at least one judge's absolute favorite doesn't appear.

Common-denominator thinking occurs even at uncommon altitudes.

David J. Montgomery

I have not been an Edgar judge so I can't tell you from personal experience exactly how they go about selecting the winners. But the reports I've heard from people who have been judges differ from what I have seen described on here.

Doug Riddle

Fan and Unpublished Writer's POV:

Awards....always an interesting subject for debate...but their relevance really ends right there.

I have not only read, but own copies of most of the books in the Best Novel and Best First Novel areas. As well as many others that did not make the list, but should have.

None were bought because they might win an award. Or because any of the authors had won awards in the past.

When we come right down to it, awards only matter to the people involved in producing the material being judged.

I don't know of any reader who buys a book because it won an Edgar, or any other award. And authors, if you believe it when your publisher tells you it will boost your sales, well then, there is a beer and a car also out there for you that will make much better looking and more popular too.

As for this year's list....yeah, there were many good books that didn't make the list, and a few on the list to put it kindly are a joke being included. But every author on this list busted his/her butt to write the best book they could. So congrats to all of them.

So awards....don't sweat 'em, no one outside of those debating here really care.....surely not the readers who buy books.

Just the POV of a guy who spends his own money on books, and stays up too late at night writing his own.

p.s. where the hell was Charlie Huston's name.....lol

Carol Baier

"I don't know of any reader who buys a book because it won an Edgar,"

A friend got me Rupert Holmes' "SWING for Christmas a couple of years ago because "Edgar Award Winner" was plastered across the front cover. And while I wouldn't buy a book by an unknown author just because it won, or was nominated for, an Edgar, it's a strong inducement for me to check out the back cover and read part of the first chapter. While I certainly agree that in no way is it necessary for success, I don't agree it means nothing.

Karen Olson

"And authors, if you believe it when your publisher tells you it will boost your sales, well then, there is a beer and a car also out there for you that will make much better looking and more popular too."

It does make a difference to the publisher. It can decide whether an author gets a new contract. Or whether an author whose books have previously only been in paperback gets a hardcover deal. It can boost the publisher's investment in publicity and commitment to the author's work. Which can very much translate into sales.

The nominations are strong this year, and I congratulate all the nominees.

Keith

Doug: Actually, an Edgar sometimes does make a difference to sales, in that it sometimes gets the book into foreign markets it hadn't previously cracked.

Bob Levinson

Congratulations and good luck to all the nominees...and thank you to all the judges for the time and effort that went into making your choices.

Bob Levinson

Ali

Interesting debate [as ever] -

And contraversial especially as I am very concerned as to why no one is debating the main problem here - Who the hell is gonna win the best movie screenplay Edgar with 4 x standout movie scripts -

The issue for me, if I were on the Edgar panel is how I could possibly decide a winner from what I consider to be a four-horse race:-

Eastern Promises, screenplay by Steven Knight

Michael Clayton, screenplay by Tony Gilroy

No Country for Old Men, screenplay by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, based on the book by Cormac McCarthy (Miramax)

Zodiac, screenplay by James Vanderbilt, based on the book by Robert Graysmith

All four of these movies were standouts for me, but maybe the Cronenberg one will win as it has more Tattoos.......and the script was remarkable.

Great Thread Sarah, I'm enjoying it immensly as this time I'm on the other-side of the fence where belive me, the grass is always greener - being a judge is a thankless task.

The Edgar Judges have come up with a shortlist that is exactly that - a shortlist.

Well done all the nominated, and a huge thank you to the Edgar judges for the hard work you've done because trust me, it must have been a helluva job, and taken exceptional sacrifice to read so many works, with time that you have to steal from your own work, family -

Best and happy new year

Ali
www.shotsmag.co.uk
www.therapsheet.blogspot.com

PJ Parrish

Does the Edgar mean anything to sales? I have to side with Keith and Karen on this point. Even a nomination can cause a sales blip (which publishers notice) and it definitely influences foreign markets. And not just the Edgar. I got a recent sale in Germany of a backlist title because of the Thriller Award, which led to a sale of the newest titles. Nominations and awards are also prominent in publishers' sales catalogs. As for readers, I've found from talking to folks at signings and conventions that mystery readers are quite savvy about the various awards, as are booksellers, who often devote special displays in their stores to the nominees. The Edgar probably means nothing to your average Joe trolling for a good read at Walmart or the airport, so I'm guessing it doesn't make a huge impact on mass market appeal. But there is a large and very avid community of mystery readers and booksellers for whom the Edgar is a very real imprimatur of quality. And it is with them that the all-important word-of-mouth begins.

Congrats and good luck to all the nominees, and kudos to the small press publishers.

Rae

Congrats to all the nominees, and a shout out to "Burn Notice". I adore that show - it's Rockford Files meets Miami Vice with a hint of MacGyver, and full of snarky, intelligent fun. It was overshadowed a bit last year by the also-wonderful "Mad Men", so I'm really happy to see it be recognized by the Edgar judges.

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