Awards


HERE COMES THE JUDGE: THE “NERO” AWARD, 1979
by Bill Crider

– Reprinted from The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 3, No. 6, Nov-Dec 1979.

Nero Award 1979

   The first annual “Nero” award, named for Nero Wolfe and given in honor of his creator, Rex Stout, was won by Lawrence Block for The Burglar Who Liked to Quote Kipling. The award, a replica of Wolfe’s famous gold bookmark, was presented at a Black Orchids Dinner, December 1, 1979, in New York City. The winner was chosen by a panel of judges named by the Stout fan club known as The Wolfe Pack.

   This award was of special interest to me because I was one of the judges. I have no real idea why I was selected to serve, as I am not a member of the Wolfe Pack and I am hardly so deluded as to think that my reputation for criminous knowledge has spread even unto the Wolfe Pack hierarchy. But I have been corresponding with John McAleer, Stout’s biographer, for a number of years, and I even helped him a tiny bit in his researches. Maybe he wanted to do me a favor.

   At any rate, I was told that I should try to judge the books I received by how well they carried on the tradition of Rex Stout. I took that to mean that I should look for a book that had some of the qualities of Stout’s work, rather than one that simply imitated the master. The catch was that publishers were asked to nominate books, and the judges could make their selections only from those books which the publishers nominated.

   In a way, this made my job easier. Many publishers obviously had no idea about the tradition of Rex Stout, and I had to read only a few pages of the books to see that they wouldn’t do at all. Some of them I finished; others, I didn’t.

Nero Award 1979

   For example, Doubleday submitted, among others, Domino, by Phyllis A. Whitney. Now, some of my best friends like Phyllis A. Whitney, but a gothic set in Colorado is not my idea of a book which is in any way like anything Rex Stout wrote.

   Lippincott sent The Green Ripper, which was not bad MacDonald but which wasn’t really even a mystery. (One of my criteria was that the book had to be a mystery, which eliminated not only MacDonald but such spy stories as Victor Canning’s Birdcage and Campbell Black’s Brainfire.)

   Some of the actual mysteries eliminated themselves, like Stephen Greenleaf’s Grave Error, which was too slow and too much like Ross Macdonald. Then there was The Reggis Arms Caper by Ross Spencer, not a bad joke, but the joke’s getting a little thin.

   What it boiled down to was that as far as I was concerned, there were only four real contenders in the group of books that I had to select from. I thought that since there were a number of other judges, there might have to a compromise. There might have been on the part of others, but my first choice was the winner, Block’s Burglar. Only the top prize was awarded, so my other choices weren’t really necessary.

Nero Award 1979

   I voted for Block’s book because I like the way he handles first person narration; while Bernie the burglar is no Archie, he’s pretty good. Besides, the book is a real mystery, in which the suspects are called together at the end. And the relationships among the characters are well done.

   My second choice, I have to admit, was more obviously based on the Wolfe books. It was William DeAndrea’s The Hog Murders, an Avon paperback original. As DeAndrea is a member of The Wolfe Pack, it’s just as well he didn’t win; as some might have thought that the judging was rigged.

   Other books that I considered in the running were Simon Brett’s A Comedian Dies and Marvin Kaye’s My Brother, the Druggist. These latter three, however, were my personal choices; I don’t know how the other judges felt about them.

   Judging the award was an interesting experience, and I got a huge stack of free books for my shelves. Apparently the Wolfe Pack was satisfied with the work of all the judges and may be using the same panel again for the 1980 award. That will be fine with me. I just can’t turn down a free copy of a good mystery. Or even a bad one.

   The one thing I learned from my experience is that there is no one to replace Rex Stout. Nero and Archie are unique. We’ll never see their like again.

Coming soon to this blog:
    Bill reviews The Hog Murders and My Brother, the Druggist.

      THE NERO AWARD WINNERS:

* 1979 – The Burglar Who Liked to Quote Kipling by Lawrence Block
* 1980 – Burn This by Helen McCloy
* 1981 – Death in a Tenured Position by Amanda Cross
* 1982 – Past, Present and Murder by Hugh Pentecost
* 1983 – The Anodyne Necklace by Martha Grimes
* 1984 – Emily Dickinson is Dead by Jane Langton
* 1985 – Sleeping Dog by Dick Lochte
* 1986 – Murder in E Minor by Robert Goldsborough
* 1987 – The Corpse in Oozak’s Pond by Charlotte MacLeod
* 1988 – no award presented
* 1989 – no award presented
* 1990 – no award presented
* 1991 – Coyote Waits by Tony Hillerman
* 1992 – A Scandal in Belgravia by Robert Barnard
* 1993 – Booked To Die by John Dunning
* 1994 – Old Scores by Aaron Elkins
* 1995 – She Walks These Hills by Sharyn McCrumb
* 1996 – A Monstrous Regiment of Women by Laurie R. King
* 1997 – The Poet by Michael Connelly
* 1998 – Sacred by Dennis Lehane
* 1999 – The Bone Collector by Jeffery Deaver
* 2000 – Coyote Revenge by Fred Harris
* 2001 – Sugar House by Laura Lippman
* 2002 – The Deadhouse by Linda Fairstein
* 2003 – Winter and Night by S.J. Rozan
* 2004 – Fear Itself by Walter Mosley
* 2005 – The Enemy by Lee Child
* 2006 – Vanish by Tess Gerritsen
* 2007 – All Mortal Flesh by Julia Spencer-Fleming
* 2008 – Anatomy of Fear by Jonathan Santlofer
* 2009 – The Tenth Case by Joseph Teller
* 2010 – Faces of the Gone by Brad Parks

A REVIEW BY MARYELL CLEARY:
   

DOROTHY GILMAN Mrs. Pollifox on the China Station

DOROTHY GILMAN – Mrs. Pollifax on the China Station. Doubleday, hardcover, 1983. Paperback reprint: Fawcett Crest, 1984.

   CIA operative Mrs. Pollifax is off to China to rescue an incarcerated Chinese who knows all the whereabouts of the Chinese defenses on its Russian border. She is with a small group of tourists, one of whom she knows to be a fellow operative.

   When the op is revealed, she’s amazed, but they work well together. There is danger and suspense; there is also a lot of China sightseeing, and there are encounters with individual Chinese people.

   Being Mrs. P., things happen that no other tourist in China should expect. We all know that Mrs. P. and friends will get home safely, but it’s exciting reading all the same.

   Gilman just about always gives us a good read, and this one definitely is.

Reprinted from The Poisoned Pen, Vol. 6, No. 4, Fall 1986


Editorial Comments:   A bit of good news is that Dorothy Gilman has been announced as the recipient of this year’s Grand Master Award by the Mystery Writers of America.

   With a career as long as hers, and with her long list of fine crime and mystery fiction to serve as credentials, the honor and the congratulations that go with it are certainly more than due!

   Dorothy Gilman’s first book, Enchanted Caravan (not a mystery), was published in 1949. Since then she’s written three dozen or so other novels, including 14 in the Mrs. Pollifax series, the most recent being Mrs. Pollifax Unveiled (2000).

   The first book in the series, The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax, was filmed (United Artists, 1970) as Mrs. Pollifax — Spy, starring the perfectly cast Rosalind Russell. It was filmed a second time as a made-for-TV movie in 1999, this time having the same title as the book. This second outing starred Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Pollifax, perhaps an obvious choice as one of the “coziest” spies in the business.

   Dorothy Gilman’s other series character, Madame Karitska, has appeared in two novels, separated by what may be a record number of years: The Clairvoyant Countess (1975) and Kaleidoscope (2002).

DOROTHY GILMAN Mrs. Pollifox on the China Station

   According my daily stat monitor, yesterday was the first day this blog has gone over 500 visitors and 900 pages viewed. Each of two numbers have been topped on one or two occasions before, but this the first time that both heights have been attained on the same day.

   The post that’s gained the most attention over this past week, which may have had something to do with it, has been Mike Nevins’ column on Margery Alllingham’s “Mr Campion” short stories. I don’t know if the number of people who’ve read that post will attract the attention of a publisher, but it would be nice if it happened.

   The other honor that M*F the blog has recently been given is being included in the Court Reporter‘s list of “50 Best Blogs for Crime & Mystery Book Lovers.” You now know what one of them is. Follow the link to learn what the other 49 are. Some of the others I go to every day myself, and some of those I haven’t been, I will from now on.

Bouchercon 2009 Lifetime Achievement Award:
ALLEN J. HUBIN


— Reprinted from the BOUCHERCON 2009 website:

   Editor, reviewer, anthologist, bibliographer, and crime fiction scholar extraordinaire, Allen Hubin’s extensive contribution to the field began over forty-years ago. In 1967, working out of his basement, he founded the legendary fanzine, The Armchair Detective (TAD).

ALLEN J. HUBIN

   Then, with just one review under his belt, Hubin was asked to review for the New York Times Book Review, taking over for Anthony Boucher. In his column, “Criminals at Large,” Hubin reviewed six books a week for almost three years. He hadn’t given anthologies a thought until Dutton called and asked if he’d carry on for Anthony Boucher and edit the Best Detective Stories of the Year.

   Hubin’s involvement in crime fiction bibliography began innocently enough, as well. He was asked to write the introduction to the world’s first crime fiction bibliography compiled by North Dakota librarian Ordean Hagen: Who Done It, (published by Bowker in 1969). During the compilation, Hubin opened his home and extensive library to Hagen and offered to help with the research. Unfortunately, Hagen passed away before the book was released.

   When corrections and additions to Hagen’s published work began to accumulate, Hubin decided to publish them in the pages of TAD, but they were rather extensive and a bit too random, and he had some ideas on how the information could be better organized. So, with the six-book-a-week reviews having wound down, he decided he could manage a “little” bibliographic work.

   That work mushroomed into a massive and seemingly never-ending project laboriously begun during the typewriter era, and in 1979, The Bibliography of Crime Fiction, 1740-1975 was published. Hubin could have left it at that, but he had in mind to add another five years of coverage and a new feature or two. Crime Fiction, 1749-1980: A Comprehensive Bibliography appeared in 1984.

   And that was not the end. Others followed, and by the year 2000, the end of the 20th century seemed to Hubin a more fitting climax to what would be more than thirty years of bibliographic effort, bringing him to the current Crime Fiction IV: A Comprehensive Bibliography 1749-2000! This impressive work contains author and title indexes to over 106,000 books, the contents of more than 6,600 collections, and identification of over 4,500 movies.

   A 2008 revised edition of the bibliography has been published on CDROM (by Locus Press). In addition, given that hundred of pages of new/corrected material has since accumulated, a 2009 edition (still with the 12/31/2000 cutoff date for new publications) is contemplated (again on CDROM by Locus Press). Much of this material for the 2009 edition can be found (with linkages and enhancements that won’t appear in the CDROM) at www.crimefictioniv.com.

[UPDATE / EDITORIAL COMMENT]. 11-02-09. Bouchercon 2009 has come and gone. I’d have loved to have been there, but the closest I got was my annual Columbus Day weekend trip to see my brother and sister back in Michigan something close to the same time.

   I certainly don’t know who deserved the award more. If you look at Al’s resume and all of those numbers, his accomplishments are staggering. (And all the more so when you consider that he began when typewriters were all the rage.)

   The updated version of the Revised Crime Fiction IV is now available on CD-Rom from Locus Press. I don’t have my copy yet, but it was on sale at Bouchercon. It incorporates all of the online Addenda included through Part 34. I uploaded Part 35 this morning, and I have some material to send Al later today that will appear in Part 36.

   Bill Pronzini, author of the long-running Nameless PI series, has been chosen by the Mystery Writers of America to receive their 2008 Grand Master Award.

Bill Pronzini- The Snatch

   To make this personal, although he and I have met only once, at a Pulpcon where he was a Guest of Honor several years ago, Bill and I have corresponded since the 1970s. Our common interests have always been detective pulp magazines and collecting obscure mystery fiction, both hardcover and paperback, and facts and information about their authors. Bill’s been a solid supporter of Mystery*File in all of its many shapes and forms, first as a print zine, then the web site, and now the blog.

   We’ve collaborated on several mystery-oriented projects together in recent years, most notably the annotated checklists we did with Victor Berch of the Guilt Edged mystery series from Dutton and the Ziff Davis Fingerprint series. I’m now assisting him in supplementing Bill Deeck’s book Murder at 3 Cents a Day (see the sidebar on the right) by uploading cover images of almost all of the mystery fiction that’s included in it.

   Word of this honor came in a news release from the MWA:

**********************************************************************
And the 2008 Grand Master is…

**********************************************************************

   Author Bill Pronzini has been selected to receive the coveted title of Grand Master, Mystery Writers of America’s (MWA’s) highest honor bestowed on an individual. He will be honored at the 62ndAnnual Edgar Awards banquet on Thursday May 1, 2008 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City. The “Edgars,” as they are commonly known, are named after Mystery Writers of America’s patron saint Edgar Allan Poe and are awarded to authors of distinguished works in more than a dozen categories.

   The Grand Master Award represents the supreme level of achievement in the mystery field and was established to acknowledge important contributions to the genre, as well as significant output of consistently high-quality material.

    Bill Pronzini is not only a passionate author and reader of crime fiction–he is also one of the most ardent proponents of the genre, said Daniel J. Hale, Executive Vice President of Mystery Writers of America. For forty years he has distinguished himself with consistently high-quality writing and editing in all areas of the field, including creating one of the longest lasting detective series ever.

   Bill Pronzini started down his path toward the Grand Master in 1969, when he embarked upon his professional writing career. Since then, Pronzini has experienced a prolific career, penning more than 70 novels and non-fiction books, including 32 novels in his popular Nameless Detective series and three novels written in collaboration with his wife Marcia Muller (MWAs 2005 Grand Master).

   Pronzini is no stranger to critical acclaim for his achievements. He is a six-time Edgar nominee, including a nomination in 1987 with his wife Marcia Muller for Best Critical Biographical Work, 1001 Midnights: The Aficionados Guide to Mystery Fiction. He is also a recipient of three Shamus awards and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Private Eye Writers of America. Pronzinis suspense novel, Snowbound, was the recipient of the Grand Prix de la Litterature Policire as the best crime novel published in France in 1988.


Bill Pronzini- Savages

    — Thanks to Ed Lynskey for sending the MWA announcement along. See also The Rap Sheet for the coverage there, the best source for mystery-related news around anywhere on the web.

   The link in the first line above will take you to Kevin Burton Smith’s article about Bill on his Thrilling Detective website, complete with a long, and I think complete bibliography of all of Bill’s mystery-related activities: novels, short stories, anthologies and reference works.

   On DorothyL someone wondered if “Nameless” is the longest-running series character still operating today. I’m not sure, not having researched it completely, but for the record, Nameless first appeared in “It’s a Lousy World” aka “Sometimes There Is Justice,” which appeared in the August 1968 issue of Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine). His first novel-length case was The Snatch, hardcover, Random House, 1971. Out earlier this year from Forge was the 31st in the series, Savages.

   Either way, it’s an honor well deserved, and to many of us, one that’s been too long in coming. Now is certainly a fine time, though. Congratulations, Bill!


UPDATE [11-16-07]. It all comes down to a matter of definition, as it almost always does. P. D. James’s Adam Dalgleish first saw the light of print in Cover Her Face, which came out in 1962, and most recently appeared in The Lighthouse, 2005. I’ve not read the latter. Is there anything in it to indicate that this was Dalgleish’s final performance? And even if so, there’s nothing to prevent an encore, is there?

   And there may be other characters with long careers whom I haven’t thought of yet. We may have to qualify “Nameless” as being the longest running PI series character who’s currently active. And it looks as though he’ll be around for a while yet. I sure damn hope so.

   As you may have noticed, I’ve recently completed Author and Book profiles for the 15 total nominees in each of the three categories for the 2007 Shamus awards. The easiest way to access them is to return to the first announcement page, where I’ve created links to each of the individual profiles.

   It took me longer to do this than I expected it would when I started, but I’m glad I did, because I learned quite a bit in getting it done. First of all, even though I think I keep up to date with new books as they come out, unless you spend all of your spare time in doing so, you’re bound to miss something. There are two or three books I didn’t know about before they were nominated, and I’m glad I do now.

   It also seems to me, without naming individual instances, that the concept of a character being a private eye has been stretched in a few cases. I’m not the judge of such things, but in my own mind, I did question at least more than one of the nominees as being true PI novels. This is not a complaint. It’s only an observation.

   The amount of violence described as being involved in again at least more than one of the nominees makes me, personally, less likely to track them down. That’s my own individual preference. I also don’t make a point of hunting down cozy novels in which deaths are treated lightly.

   I’ve never been able to put into words at what point too much emphasis is put on violence in detective fiction, or when it’s too little, but believe me, I “know it when I see it.”

   Over the years I’ve also grown to more than mildly not care for detective fiction in which the supernatural or the paranormal is part of the telling. For what it’s worth, which may be very little, one of the nominees may have crossed whatever line in the sand I have constructed for myself in that direction.

   I wonder how many of the stories begin with a client coming into the PI’s office wanting to hire him (or her) for this, that or the other. Without going back right now to look, I’d hazard to say that it’s probably not very many, and for a couple of very good reasons. More than a couple of very good reasons, now that I think about it, but somewhere deep down inside, I sort of, just kind of, wish it weren’t so.

   Please note. In none of the cases I’m vaguely referring to above am I questioning the quality of the book or books involved. I don’t see any way I could. I’ve not read any of them.

   Yet.

GEORGE D. SHUMAN – 18 Seconds. Nominated for Best Private Eye First Novel of the Year, 2007.

Simon & Schuster, hardcover, March 2006. Pocket Star, paperback, March 2007.

   Book Description:

18 Seconds

Investigative consultant Sherry Moore is blind and stunningly beautiful, with the extraordinary ability to “see” the deceased’s last eighteen seconds of memory by touching the corpse. At age five, she was found near death on the steps of a city hospital. A head injury had left her without sight and prevented her from remembering her past. When Sherry discovers she does have sight — sight that transcends death — she learns to use her gift to help others solve mysteries that only she can tap into.

Serial killer Earl Sykes was never caught for his vicious murders. Instead, a deadly traffic accident landed him in prison. Now, almost thirty years later, he returns to the seaside town of Wildwood, New Jersey — and to abducting young female victims from desolate areas of the boardwalk for his gruesome games.

Wildwood police lieutenant Kelly O’Shaughnessy is stymied over the disappearance of young women from the boardwalk — crimes horrifyingly reminiscent of unsolved cases from the seventies. When an old man’s untimely death leads Sherry Moore to Wildwood, O’Shaughnessy’s desperation to stem the bloodshed forces her to accept Sherry’s help, but not without consequence. As the two women join forces to discover the killer’s identity, they unwittingly become the hunted, marching deeper with every step into the monster’s lair.

A law enforcement veteran himself, Shuman packs a realistic style and authentic investigative detail into this taut tale filled with pulse-pounding tension that will send readers right to the edge.

   About the Author:

George Shuman is a twenty-year veteran of the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police force. This is his first novel.

   Review excerpts:

Publishers Weekly: Beautiful, blind Sherry Moore is matter-of-fact when telling two police detectives about her agonizing gift the ability to see the last 18 seconds of a dead person’s life. It’s not supernatural, in her telling; it’s science imperfectly understood. [...] Narrative relief from a litany of horrific crimes comes when the scene shifts to Sherry’s tender relationship with a married police detective, and to police lieutenant Kelly Lynch-O’Shaughnessy’s marital struggles. While the large number of characters and cross-cutting of their perspectives leads to occasional confusion, the vividly drawn central figures and authoritative voice keep the reader grimly committed.

Booklist: Here’s a high-concept thriller that, in places, could almost sink under the weight of its own premise. Sherry Moore is beautiful, blind, and psychic. But she doesn’t read minds; Sherry’s gift — although some might say it’s more of a curse — is this: if she touches a dead person, she can see the last 18 seconds of that person’s life. [...] Unfortunately, Shuman, a veteran police officer, spends so much time justifying his premise that he tends to sound like he doesn’t quite believe it himself. Sometimes you just have to let readers suspend their own disbelief.”

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