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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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