The Last Policeman is Quirk's first-ever mystery novel, and previous Edgar winners include Elmore Leonard, Lawrence Block, John le Carré, Laura Lippman, S. J. Rozan, Donald Westlake, Lisa Scottoline--basically, every mystery writer you've ever heard of, dating back to Raymond Chandler himself (he won in 1955 for The Long Goodbye). So last night a bunch of us joined Ben at the Edgar Awards banquet at the Grand Hyatt Hotel--and let me tell you, it was pretty mind-blowing.
I've spent the last thirteen years working at a small indie press in Philadelphia, so I don't spend much time rubbing elbows with blockbuster authors. But you can't take two steps at the Edgar banquet without bumping into a crime/mystery legend. Holy cow, that's Dennis Lehane! OMG, there's Mary Higgins Clark! And Walter Mosley! And Ken Follett! And Gillian Flynn! The place was wall-to-wall awesome.
A literary agent approached me and complained that the awards ceremony was one long, interminable snoozefest, but I thought it was better than the Oscars. Emcee Charlaine Harris was certainly funnier than Seth MacFarlane. And Grandmaster Margaret Maron gave one of the sweetest & most gracious acceptance speeches I've heard in a long time.
As the show moved along, I sensed that Ben (seated to my left) was getting nervous. He sighed, he fidgeted, he didn't finish his dessert. He admitted he was facing some really tough competition; he'd read the other nominees and he felt they were all good, interesting books. He was especially in awe of Isaac Adamson's Complication, a twisty thriller replete with spies, magic, alchemy, and palindromes. And we'd both laughed out loud over Lou Bernay's Whiplash River, a terrific comic caper with a murderous drug lord named Baby Jesus.
But who am I kidding? I wanted my guy to win. I'd spent much of the past year championing The Last Policeman. I swore to anyone who listened that it was one of the best books Quirk had ever published. I'd witnessed all of the time & sweat & TLC that Ben put into the book. He interviewed cops, district attorneys, forensic pathologists, astrophysicists, and even (just to be thorough) a goddamn astronaut. He wrote nearly the entire manuscript in third person before starting over to rewrite it in first person because of course it was better in first person--why hadn't we realized that all along? And THEN he did a brilliant job of editing his own prose -- punching up dialogue, amplifying characters, trimming tangents, and basically whipping the whole manuscript into a weird, wonderful, one-of-a-kind mystery debut.
So imagine my delight when Rochelle Staab announced that Ben had won the award for Best Paperback Original:
That's not me shrieking with delight in the background (it's actually our publicity director, Nicole De Jackmo) but believe me, I was shrieking on the inside. Congrats to Ben and to all of the Edgar winners and nominees, and thanks to the MWA for a magical and memorable night!
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