Is it really June 29th already? We’re halfway through 2016, and that means Deadly Ink is just over a month away. New Jersey’s great crime-fiction conference is scheduled for August 5-7 in New Brunswick (a short train ride away from New York, if you’ve never been). Reed Farrel Coleman will be Guest of Honor and I’ll be Toastmaster. Register before the end of the day on June 30th and you’ll automatically be entered in a draw for a $100 Amazon gift card or a Kindle. If you’re on Twitter follow @deadlyink for updates. Hope to see you there!
Yesterday, Lois Duncan passed away. I didn’t know her well, but she was one of my writing heroes. At the 2015 Edgar Awards ceremony, I had the honor of introducing her when she received her Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America. It wasn’t supposed to happen that way: her longtime agent was supposed to introduce her to the crowd at the Grand Hyatt’s ballroom, but he passed away two weeks before the ceremony. I was asked to step in because I’d spoken so passionately about Lois Duncan’s books when the the MWA’s national board discussed making her a Grand Master. I’d been surprised to find that some members of the board had never heard of her, because Lois Duncan’s thrilling, disturbing novels were such a big part of my life in elementary school and middle school.
Here’s an excerpt from my speech:
To call Lois Duncan a giant of the young adult genre would be an understatement. A giant of the genre might write some 50 books (many of them bestsellers), have her work translated into more than 20 languages, and win or be shortlisted for numerous awards along the way. All of that is certainly true in Lois Duncan’s case. But she hasn’t simply been successful in the young adult genre; she was one of the trailblazers who created a new category of YA literature. You don’t have to take the word of a rabid fangirl on this; no less of an authority than the New York Times just this month acknowledged Judy Blume, S.E. Hinton, and Lois Duncan as the three authors responsible for the rise of teenage-oriented publishing in the 1960s and 70s.
I suspect Lois Duncan had a particularly strong sense of what teenagers were interested in reading, because she was a teenager herself when she started writing professionally. She published her first story when she was 13 years old. By the time she was 16, she’d earned enough cash to buy herself a jeep. But if that sounds like the beginning of a charmed story, keep in mind that she was up against the censorship and strict moral code of the 1950s. Her first novel, Debutante Hill, was initially rejected because of a scene with a 19-year-old boy drinking a beer. (You can’t make this stuff up.)
Writing that introduction made me think about exactly why I’d connected so deeply with her work. There was a vein of darkness that ran through it, something pulsing and real. Her teenaged characters didn’t live sanitized Nancy Drew–like lives, solving mysteries between sock hops. They were flawed and struggling.
If there’s one thread that links all of Lois Duncan’s works, fiction and nonfiction alike, it’s the emotional honesty and intensity at their core. Whatever she writes — from Daughters of Eve’s view of sexism and violence or (my personal favorite) Stranger With My Face’s horror-infused vision of unbreakable family ties — Lois Duncan makes it feel real by grounding these stories in the raw vulnerability of teenagers’ lives. She understands the keen competition and fear of ostracism and the pressures on all sides. Her books stand up so well today because those things haven’t changed.
If you’d like to see the entire speech — and Lois Duncan’s own charming acceptance speech — you can watch it on YouTube:
As excited as I was to make that speech, that couldn’t compare to what happened afterwards, when Lois Duncan walked onstage and hugged me. It’s not every day that you learn one of your childhood idols is warm and witty, in addition to being brilliant. Rest in peace, Lois Duncan. And may your books live on forever.
Maybe you read “The Siege” when it first appeared in print, in the December 2015 issue of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. But if you missed it, it’s online now! The story is currently up for an Anthony Award and an Arthur Ellis Award. It’s a noir-infused tale about about a woman who seems to have everything… but her relationship with her husband began as an adulterous affair, and when she finds evidence that he’s up to his old tricks, her world starts to fall apart. My thanks to my friends at Ellery Queen for making the story available for free. I hope you’ll enjoy it!
The list of 2016 Anthony Award finalists is out, and I’m honored to say that I’m on it. My story “The Siege,” published by Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, is up for Best Short Story. If you’re thinking, Wait, I already heard this news a couple of weeks back, that’s because “The Siege” is also up for an Arthur Ellis Award for Best Short Story. It’s such a thrill to have people respond to a story in this way. My heartfelt thanks to all of the Bouchercon attendees who nominated “The Siege,” and congrats to all of the nominees. I’ll see you in New Orleans!
Last week was Edgar Week and Thursday was the awards banquet. So. Many. Highlights. A quick recap, in list form (because I do love lists):
- I met one of my writing heroes, Walter Mosley, who won MWA’s Grand Master Award this year. Not going to pretend I didn’t go full fangirl. He’s incredible, and his rousing, inspiring acceptance speech brought the house to its feet.
- This year, I served as a judge on the Best First Novel Committee. We chose our winner — THE SYMPATHIZER by Viet Tranh Nguyen — back in January, long before the book won a Pulitzer Prize. It’s an exceptional book, and it was hard to keep quiet about it for months! I’m also proud of the choice for another reason: before 2015, any author who wasn’t born in the US wasn’t eligible for Best First Edgar consideration. Literally, a naturalized US citizen like Viet Tranh Nguyen — who was born in Vietnam — couldn’t have entered a book in the category. While I served on MWA’s board, we changed the rules to finally fix that. So the choice of THE SYMPATHIZER thrills me on many levels. I’d also add that our Best First shortlist was filled with gems and I strongly encourage you to read them all.
- My friend Lou Berney won the Edgar for Best Paperback Original for THE LONG AND FARAWAY GONE. That was one of the best moments of the night. Great guy, great book.
- It was a thrill to watch Janet Rudolph win her Ellery Queen Award. Damn, girl. You were long overdue for that.
One of the best things about the Edgars every year is seeing out-of-town friends in New York. This year, that list includes Sara Paretsky, Jeff Abbott, Jon McGoran, Holly West, Erica Ruth Neubauer, Chantelle Aimee Osman, Joe Finder, and many more fabulous folks. I also love seeing so many of my New York friends gathered in one place. Thanks, Edgar, for a night to remember.
Late last year, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine published my story “The Siege.” It was a noir-infused tale about about a woman who seems to have everything… but her relationship with her husband began as an adulterous affair, and when she finds evidence that he’s up to his old tricks, her world starts to fall apart. I’m delighted to announce that “The Siege” is a finalist for the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Short Story from the Crime Writers of Canada. There are many great stories published every year, so it’s a true honor to have one of mine singled out for recognition. Here’s the complete list of nominees in all categories. Congrats to all!
PS to my non-Canadian friends: In case you’re thinking that you need to check out Arthur Ellis’s work, NO. “Arthur Ellis” was the hangman’s pseudonym back in the days when Canada still had capital punishment. If you’re wondering what the award looks like, that’s it on the left. My people have a wonderfully twisted sense of humor.
I’m thrilled to say that UNLOADED: CRIME WRITERS WRITING WITHOUT GUNS is out now from Down & Out Books. The official release:
Proceeds from the sales of UNLOADED will benefit the nonprofit States United To Prevent Gun Violence
For the first time, more than two dozen crime and mystery authors have joined together to use the strongest weapon at their disposal — words — in a call for reasonable gun control in the U.S.A. In this collection you get all the thrills and excitement you come to expect from a great crime story, but without any guns.
From best sellers and writing legends to the brightest stars of the next generation of crime writers, the twenty-five authors here have taken pen in hand to say enough is enough. Gun violence has got to stop and this is our way of speaking out — by showing that gun violence can be removed from the narrative, and maybe from our lives.
It’s not anti-gun, it’s pro-sanity. And above anything else, these are thrilling crime stories that will surprise and shock, thrill and chill — all without a gun in sight.
The writers are from both sides of the political aisle and many of the authors are gun owners themselves. But everyone felt it was time to speak out. Featuring the talents of J.L. Abramo , Patricia Abbott, Trey R. Barker, Eric Beetner, Alec Cizak, Joe Clifford, Reed Farrel Coleman, Angel Luis Colón, Hilary Davidson, Paul J. Garth, Alison Gaylin, Kent Gowran, Rob Hart, Jeffery Hess, Grant Jerkins, Joe R. Lansdale, S.W. Lauden, Tim O’Mara, Joyce Carol Oates, Tom Pitts, Thomas Pluck, Keith Rawson, Kelli Stanley, Ryan Sayles, and Holly West.
UNLOADED is available in print and as an eBook; buy it from Amazon, Nook, Kobo, IndieBound, or at your favorite independent bookstore. If you’re in New York, come to the launch party at the Mysterious Bookshop on Wednesday, May 4th!
If you know me, you know that I don’t have a lot a gun violence in my books and short stories. That’s not to say there isn’t violence, but I like to come up with creative ways of killing people. When my friend Eric Beetner asked me to contribute a story to UNLOADED: CRIME WRITERS WRITING WITHOUT GUNS, I said yes immediately. The collection will be out next month, and Publishers Weekly has given it a terrific review. I’m excited that my piece was one of the stories singled out for praise in the review: “Hilary Davidson’s ‘Swan Song’ is filled with snappy dialogue and provides a disturbing look at the seamy side of the movie business.” Thanks to Eric and to Down & Out Books for doing such a great job with this collection!
Left Coast Crime is always a terrific conference, but this year’s promises to be spectacular. The Great Cactus Caper starts next Thursday in Phoenix, and the schedule is packed. Will you be there? Here’s where to find me:
Friday, February 26, 2016
9:30-10:30am: I’m on the panel “Plot Digging: The Challenge of Research” with Alan Russell, Jeri Westerson, Marty Wingate, and moderator Leslie Blatt. I’ve done some weird things in the name of research, so I’m excited to be able to talk about them. We’re in the Ellis East Room and we’ll be signing books afterwards in the Atrium from 10:30 to 11am.
5:30-6:30pm: The Crime Writers of Canada is having a cocktail party and I’m one of the hosts. Come by for the drinks and snacks, stay for the prizes! (Hint: we’re going to be playing a game where you may have to wrestle a secret out of me…)
Saturday, February 27, 2016
1:30-2:30pm: Heaven help me, I’m one of the
victims people featured at the event “Fan Guest of Honor Chantelle Aimée Osman Presents The Match Game” in the Regency Ballroom. I’m in good company, alongside S.W. Lauden, Glen Erik Hamilton, Lesa Holstine, and Janet Rudolph. I have a feeling we’re going to get pretty silly (though hopefully not as silly as we got last year at Gar Anthony Haywood’s Torture Fest… I mean the “Been There, Wrote That Game Show.” I’ll get you back one day, Gar!). I guarantee this will be a blast.
7pm-9pm: At the Left Coast Crime Banquet, I’ll be co-hosting a table with my close friend Chris Holm, who is up for a Lefty Award for THE KILLING KIND. You can sign up to hang out with us when you pick up your registration kit!
Four years ago this week, I joined the National Board of the Mystery Writers of America as an At-Large Director. (An aside: that’s the best title ever. I’ve never been able to hear it without thinking “criminal at large.”) Saturday marks the last day of my
reign tenure, with the new board being sworn in. (MWA bylaws have term limits, so even though some members serve on the board for years, you can never serve more than two consecutive two-year terms.) It’s been an incredible experience. Don’t get me wrong: this is a hard-working board, so there have been times I cursed the fact I had reports to write and votes to cast and debates about, well, everything. But, looking back, I can absolutely say it was worth it. If you’re not a member of MWA, I hope you’ll consider joining. And if they ask you the serve on the board… well, think about it! Thanks to everyone on the board for making the past four years such a pleasure.