Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, September 23, 2016

FORGOTTEN AND NOT REALLY FORGOTTEN BOOKS: SEVENTY-PLUS YEARS OF EDGAR-WINNING NOVELS

I haven't finished the book I had planned to write about for today's Friday's Forgotten Books post.

What to do?  What to do?

Then a brilliant idea came to me.  It happens that the very first Edgars Awards were given in 1946 -- 70 years ago.  When you include this year's winners, that's 71 years of prize winning mystery novels.  A lot of them are from forgotten (or never really remembered) authors.  CAVEAT:  Not all prize winners really seserve to be prize winners.  To be honest, there are some here I feel are real clunkers, but I'm not going to point them out because I am often wrong and because your mileage may vary.

Over the years, the Edgar Awards have presented three main awards for novels:  Best First Novel, Best Novel, and Best Paperback Original Novel.  There are a lot of other catagories, but I'll just concerns myself with these three.

The Mystery Writers of America was formed in 1945 with the credo "Crime Doesn't Pay -- Enough!"  The 1946 Edgars (named for Edgar Allan Poe, natch) were in four catagories for work published in 1945:  Best First Novel by an American Author, Best Motion Picture Screenplay, Best Radio Drama, and Outstanding Mystery Criticism.  In addition, the first MWA Grandmaster was announced -- Agatha Christie.

So let's start with the Best First Novel awards.
  • 1946 - Julius Fast, Watchful at Night
  • 1947 - Helen Eustis, The Horizontal Man
  • 1948 - Fredric Brown, The Fabulous Clipjoint
  • 1949 - Mildred Davis, The Room Upstairs
  • 1950 - Alan Green, What a Body!
  • 1951 - Thomas Walsh, Nightmare in Manhattan
  • 1952 - Mary McMullen, Strangle Hold
  • 1953 - William Campbell Gault, Don't Cry for Me
  • 1954 - Ira Levin, A Kiss Before Dying
  • 1955 - Jean Potts, Go Lovely Rose
  • 1956 - Lane Kauffman, The Perfectionist
  • 1957 - Charlotte Armstrong, A Dram of Poison
  • 1958 - William Rawle Weeks, Knock and Wait a While
  • 1959 - Richard Martin Stern, The Bright Road to Fear
  • 1960 - Henry Slesar, The Grey Flannel Shroud
  • 1961 - John Holbrook Vance, The Man in a Cage
  • 1962 - Suzanne Blanc, The Green Stone
  • 1963 - Robert L. Fish, The Fugitive
  • 1964 - Cornelius Hirschberg, Florentine Finish
  • 1965 - Harry Kemelman, Friday the Rabbi Slept late
  • 1966 - John Ball, In the Heat of the Night
  • 1967 - Ross Thomas, The Cold War Swap
  • 1968 - Michael Collins, Act of Fear
  • 1969 - Dorothy Unak, The Bait and E. Richard Johnson, The Silver Street [tie]
  • 1970 - Joe Gores, A Time for Predators
  • 1971 - Lawrence Sanders, The Anderson Tapes
  • 1972 - A. Z. H. Carr, Finding Maubee
  • 1973 - R. H. Shimer, Squaw Point
  • 1974 - Paul E. Erdman, The Billion Dollar Sure Thing
  • 1975 - Gregory McDonald, Fletch
  • 1976 - Rex Burns, The Alvarez Journal
  • 1977 - James Patterson, The Thomas Berryman Number
  • 1978 - Robert Ross, A French Finish
  • 1979 - William L. DeAndrea, Killed in the Ratings
  • 1980 - Richard North Patterson, The Lasko Tangent
  • 1981 - K. Nolte Smith, The Watcher
  • 1982 - Stuart Woods, Chiefs
  • 1983 - Thomas Perry, The Butcher's Boy
  • 1984 - Will Harriss, The Bay Psalm Book Murder
  • 1985 - R. D. Rosen, Strike Three, You're Dead
  • 1986 - Jonathan Kellerman, When the Bough Breaks
  • 1987 - Larry Beinhart, No One Rides for Free
  • 1988 - Dierdre S. Laiken, Death Among Strangers
  • 1989 - David Stout, Carolina Skeletons
  • 1990 - Susan Wolfe, The Last Billable Hour
  • 1991 - Patricia D. Cornwell, Postmortem
  • 1992 - Peter Blauner, Slow Motion Riot
  • 1993 - Michael Connolly, The Black Echo
  • 1994 - Laurie R. King, A Grave Talent
  • 1995 - George Dawes Green, The Caveman's Valentine
  • 1996 - David Housewright, Penance
  • 1997 - John Morgan Wilson, Simple Justice
  • 1998 - Joseph Kanon, Los Alamos
  • 1999 - Steve Hamilton, A Cold Day in Paradise
  • 2000 - Eliot Pattison, The Skull Mantra
  • 2001 - David Liss, Conspiracy of Lies
  • 2002 - David Ellis, Line of Vision
  • 2003 - Jonathon King, The Blue Edge of Midnight
  • 2004 - Rebecca Pawel, Death of a Nationalist
  • 2005 - Don Lee, Country of Origin
  • 2006 - Therea Shweigal, Officer Down
  • 2007 - Alex Berenson, The Faithful Spy
  • 2008 - Tana French, In the Woods
  • 2009 - Francie Lin, The Foreigner
  • 2010 - Stefanie Pintoff, In the Shadow of Gotham
  • 2011 - Bruce DeSilva, Rogue Island
  • 2012 - Lori Roy, Bent Road
  • 2013 - Chris Pavone, The Expats
  • 2014 - Jason Matthews, Red Sparrow
  • 2015 - Tom Bowman, Dry Bones in the Valley
  • 2016 - Viet Thanh Nguyen, The Sympathizer
What's impressive is the high number of first novelists who have gone to maintain a solid career.  Jonathan Kellerman, Stuart Woods, James Patterson. Richard North Patterson, Tana French, Patricia Cornwell, Michael Connolly, Joe Gores, Ross Thomas, Fredric Brown, Robert L. Fish, Henry Slesar, Lawrence Sanders, Gregory McDonald, Henry Kemelman, Michael Collins, Ira Levin, Charlotte Armstrong, and many others.  Also impressive is the wide variety of sub-genres and range of writing that is represented here.  Some of the authors have faded into the past and some are yet to forfill the promise of their first novels but, for the most part, these books are worth your time.

In 1955, the MWA added the catagory of Best Novel, giving established writers a chance for recognition from their peers.  They started off with a novel that would become a classic.
  • 1955 - Raymond Chandler, The Long Goodbye
  • 1956 - Margaret Millar, Beast in View
  • 1957 - Donald McNutt Douglas, Rebecca's Pride
  • 1958 - Ed Lacy, Room to Swing
  • 1959 - Stanley Ellin, The Eighth Circle
  • 1960 - Celia Fremlin, The Hours Before Dawn
  • 1961 - Julian Symons, The Progress of a Crime
  • 1962 - J. J. Marric, Gideon's Fire
  • 1963 - Ellis Peters, Death and the Joyful Woman
  • 1964 - Eric Ambler, The Light of Day
  • 1965 - John LeCarre, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
  • 1966 - Adam Hall, The Quiller Memorandum
  • 1967 - Nicholas Freeling, The King of the Rainy Country
  • 1968 - Donald A. Westlake, God Save the Mark
  • 1969 - Jeffrey Hudson, A Case of Need
  • 1970 - Dick Francis, Forfeit
  • 1971 - Maj Sjowall & Per Wahloo, The Laughing Policeman
  • 1972 - Frederick Forsythe, The Day of the Jackal
  • 1973 - Warren Kiefer, The Lingala Code
  • 1974 - Tony Hillerman, Dance Hall of the Dead
  • 1975 - Jon Cleary, Peter's Pence
  • 1976 - Brian Garfield, Hopscotch
  • 1977 - Robert B. Parker, Promised Land 
  • 1978 - William H. Hallihan, Catch Me:  Kill Me
  • 1979 - Ken Follett, The Eye of the Needle
  • 1980 - Arthur Maling, The Reingold Route
  • 1981 - Dick Francis, Whip Hand
  • 1982 - William Bayer, Peregrine
  • 1983 - Rick Boyer, Billingsgate Shoal
  • 1984 - Elmore Leonard, La Brava
  • 1985 - Ross Thomas, Briarpatch
  • 1986 - L. A. Wright, The Suspect
  • 1987 - Barbara Vine, A Cold-Adapted Eye
  • 1988 - Aaron Elkins, Old Bones
  • 1989 - Stuart M. Kaminsky, A Cold Red Sunrise
  • 1990 - James Lee Burke, Black Cherry Blues
  • 1991 - Julie Smith, New Orleans Mourning
  • 1992 - Lawrence Bloch, A Dance to the Slaughterhouse
  • 1993 - Margaret Maron, The Bootlegger's Daughter
  • 1994 - Minette Walters, The Sculptress
  • 1995 - Mary Willis Walker, The Red Scream
  • 1996 - Dick Francis, Come to Grief
  • 1997 - Thomas H. Cook, The Chatham School Affair
  • 1998 - James Lee Burke, Cimarron Rose
  • 1999 - Robert Clark, Mrs. White's Confession
  • 2000 - Jan Burke, Bones
  • 2001 - Joe R. Lansdale, The Bottoms
  • 2002 - T. Jefferson Parker, Silent Joe
  • 2003 - S. J. Rozan, Winter and Night
  • 2004 - Ian Rankin, Resurrection Men
  • 2005 - T. Jefferson Parker, California Girl
  • 2006 - Jess Walter, Citizen Vince
  • 2007 - Jason Goodwin, The Janissary Tree
  • 2008 - John Hart, Black River
  • 2009 - C. J. Box, Blue Heaven
  • 2010 - John Hart, The Lost Child
  • 2011 - Steve Hamilton. The Lock Artist
  • 2012 - Mo Hayder, Gone
  • 2013 - Dennis Lehane, Live by Night
  • 2014 - William Kent Kreuger, Ordinary Grace
  • 2015 - Stephen King, Mr. Mercedes
  • 2016 - Lori Roy, Let Me Die in His Footsteps
Quite a list, huh?  A few people won this award twice and some who won for Best First Novel graduated to Best Novel.  Again, variety and style vary greatly among the winners.

When the Edgars were first awarded, the mystery field already had a ghetto:  the paperback original.  I suspect that many members of the organization felt like the red-headed stepchild.  Gothics, action adventure, and other subgenres seem to have been left out in the cold.  To remedy this, a new catagory -- the Paperback Original -- was added and the first was awarded in 1970.  As we shall see below, the Paperback Original grew in stature and, perhaps in some cases, were more inventive and stronger than their hardbound cousins.

  • 1970 - Scott C. S. Stone, The Dragon's Eye
  • 1971 - Dan J. Marlowe, Flashpoint
  • 1972 - Frank McAuliffe, For Murder I Charge More
  • 1973 - Richard Wormser, The Invader
  • 1974 - Will Perry, Death of an Informer
  • 1975 - Roy Winsor, The Corpse That Walked
  • 1976 - John R. Feegel, Autopsy
  • 1977 - Gregory McDonald, Confess, Fletch
  • 1978 - Michael Jahn, The Quark Maneuver
  • 1979 - Franklin Bandy, Deceit and Deadly Lies
  • 1980 - William L. DeAndrea, The Hog Murders
  • 1981 - Bill Granger, Public Murders
  • 1982 - L. A. Morse, The Old Dick
  • 1983 - Teri White, Triangle
  • 1984 - Margaret Tracy, Mrs. White
  • 1985 - Warren Murphy & Molly Cochran - Grandmaster
  • 1986 - Warren Murphy - Pigs Get Fat
  • 1987 - Robert Campbell, The Junkyard Dog
  • 1988 - Sharyn McCrumb, Bimbos of the Death Sun
  • 1989 - Timothy Findley, The Telling of Lies
  • 1990 - Keith Peterson, The Rain
  • 1991 - David Handler, The Man Who Was F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • 1992 - Thomas Adcock, Dark Maze
  • 1993 - Dana Stabenow, A Cold Day for Murder
  • 1994 - Steve Womack, Dead Folk's Blues
  • 1995 - Lisa Scottoline, Final Appeal
  • 1996 - William Heffernan, Tarnished Blue
  • 1997 - Harlan Coben, Fade Away
  • 1998 - Laura Lippman, Charm City
  • 1999 - Rick Riodan, The Widower's Two-Step
  • 2000 - Ruth Birmingham, Fulton County Blues
  • 2001 - Mark Graham, The Black Maria
  • 2002 - Daniel Chavarria, Adios Muchachos
  • 2003 - T. J. MacGregor, Out of Sight
  • 2004 - Sylvia Maultash Warsh, Find Me Again
  • 2005 - Dominic Stansberry. The Confession
  • 2006 - Jeffrey Ford, Girl in a Glass
  • 2007 - Naomi Hirahara, Snakeskin Shamisen
  • 2008 - Megan Abbott, Queenpin
  • 2009 - Meg Gardiner, China Lake
  • 2010 - Marc Strange, Body Blows
  • 2011 - Robert Goddard, Long Time Coming
  • 2012 - Robert Jackson Bennett, The Company Men
  • 2013 - Ben Winters, The Last Policeman:  A Novel
  • 2014 - Alex Marwood, The Wicked Girls
  • 2015 - Chris Albani, The Secret History of Las Vegas
  • 2016 - Lou Berney, The Long and Faraway
A healthy number of these authors have gone on to best-seller lists, some in other genres.  Jay Omega, the hero of Bimbos of the Death Sun, has (sadly) retired after two outings while Sharyn McCrumb (wisely) has gone on to explore Appalachian Virginia.  Rick Riodan has left the mystery field for the gold encrusted mythological fantasies for young adults and (as we learned this week) his own publishing line from Disney/Hyperion.  Dan J. Marlowe went on to paperback immortality.  Bill DeAndrea flared brightly and died much too young.  Megan Abbott continues to wow us with stronger and stronger novels.  Harlan Coben's thrillers can't help selling a gazillion copies.

Please note that I have not bothered to identify pen names or to attach the author's true names to them.  Most of them you know already and, if you are curious, you can look up the others.  As a matter of fact, look up all the authors in all the catagories.  And check out some of the 181 one books listed here.  Pick an author or two you have never heard of or you have never read.  And, yes, some of these books are now hard to get (or expensive to get) but there's a lot of great reading here.  It'll be worth your time and trouble.

Enjoy.

5 comments:

  1. Jerry, I have a question about the Edgars that has puzzled me for a long time. Is there some kind of rule that a first novel or a paperback original can only be nominated in that category? It seems to me that once in a while the best first novel, for example, should also be one of the five best novels as well, but that never happens. I think the only time I remember a book being nominated in more than one of these 3 categories was back in 1962, when The Green Stone by Suzanne Blanc won Best First Novel and was also nominated for Best Novel.

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