In late April, the Mystery Writers of America announced the 2019 winners of its prestigious Edgar Awards. (You can find the press release at http://theedgars.com.) And I am now able to reveal that I played a part in the process this year: Yours Truly was a judge for the Best Fact Crime category.
There were five of us on the panel. Starting in March, 2019, we read dozens of wildly disparate titles sent to us by hopeful publishers. By my count, 60 or so contenders arrived on my doorstep. (Several were 600-plus pages!)
When you’re tapped to be an Edgars judge, you sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement that prevents you from telling anyone about your involvement until after winners have been made public. (Previously, this has always happened at the MWA’s annual formal gala, but because of the health crisis, this year’s Big Reveal took place via Twitter.) Also, you can never, ever discuss the deliberations. By the by, there’s no compensation – unless you consider the free books that piled up everywhere!
12 months of non-stop true crime sometimes felt a bit overwhelming. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that my dreams became very vivid, unsettling, and blood-spattered. Or that, as a result of spending so much time reading the works of others, my own writings languished! But I like to think I picked up a few ideas re: technique and delivery. And I’m honored to have played a part in the mystery-crime writing world’s equivalent of the Oscars! Congrats to the nominees and the winners.
The annual mystery convention Left Coast Crime 2020: Murder’s a Beach will get underway later this week in San Diego. Yours Truly will be among the attendees – and will be a panelist. I’ll join authors Rosemary Lord (who’ll moderate), Kellye Garrett, Lee Goldberg and Sherri Leigh James in discussing Hollywood as a setting for crime fiction.
I always look forward to Left Coast Crime, which brings together readers and writers (along with critics, librarians and publishers). But this year’s event, like so many others from coast to coast, has been overshadowed by the COVID-19 situation (understandably, some folks who were scheduled to attend have opted to cancel). My participation doesn’t require any airline travel, just a couple hours on the freeway. Hey, if there’s any group that can come up with an antidote to a mysterious virus, it’s a myriad of mystery writers.
Over the more than 20 years it’s been airing on British TV, “Midsomer Murders” has quietly become a genre classic – known for dainty teacups and lager-sodden pubs as much as for the subversive ways in which various victims are offed. (Consider: a butterfly collector was found pinned to a wall.) In the February issue of Mystery Scene, I examine the stalwart series: its origins, its turning points, its … weirdness. My sources include the prolific mystery writer-producer Anthony Horowitz, who was involved in production early on. The issue is on newsstands now.
A rock ‘n’ roll icon. A disgraced U.S. Figure Skating champ. A World War I hero. A populist Southern politician. “Real Lives” (some of them fictionalized) is the theme of my current Film as Literature class. Among the movies being screened: “The Buddy Holly Story,” “I, Tonya,” “Sergeant York” and “All the King’s Men.” As an adjunct professor for the Emeritus Institute of Saddleback College in South O.C., each semester I schedule a different slate. Given Hollywood’s continuing mania for biography (current examples: “Judy,” “Ford v. Ferrari”), there are lotsa lives — some well lived, some not — to choose from.
On Sunday, October 27, I’m leading the discussion group at the meeting of Orange County Sisters in Crime. The topic: “Spirited Away – Paranormal Elements in Mysteries.” It begins at 2 p.m.
At 3 p.m. we’ll hear from guest speaker Lisa Morton, authority on everyone’s favorite spooky holiday, Halloween (yeah!). The screenwriter and busy author (short stories, non-fiction, novels) will be talking her latest entry, the anthology Ghost Stories: Classic Tales of Horror and Suspense (co-edited with Leslie S. Klinger.) Publisher’s Weekly called it a “work of art.” Now, that’s a rave!
We meet in the Community Room of the Irvine Ranch Water District, at 15500 Sand Canyon Avenue.
The public is always welcome!