The day of the Edgar Awards banquet is a memory I’ll treasure for the rest of my life. In the morning, Janet Hutchings of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine invited Dawn and me to come to the Dell Publishing Office in the Tribeca area of Manhattan. We took the #5 Subway from Grand Central Station and got off at City Hall Park. It was only a long block, past the Tweed Courthouse, to reach the Dell Offices on Broadway.
Janet had explained that during Dell’s pre-Edgars party in the afternoon, as well as at the banquet itself, there was little time to talk. So we sat down that morning over coffee, tea, and croissants, and got to know each other. Along with Janet, Linda Landrigan, the editor of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine (another Dell publication), was there, as well as their assistants Jackie and Emily. Rounding out the group was author Doug Allyn and his wife, Eve. Doug is a past recipient of the Robert L. Fish Award and would be presenting the award to me that evening.
We sat in a meeting room and had a wonderful, wide-ranging conversation for three hours. Doug and I had connected before as he was part of the on-line synopsis class I’d taken earlier this year. Besides being an excellent writer, he’s also a full-time musician, playing gigs all over the Midwest. Eve told Dawn they’d stick together, since they were both “Fish wives.” Linda usually telecommutes from her home in New Hampshire, but she had come in to the city to attend the Edgars and then head south for the weekend mystery conference Malice Domestic in Baltimore. Linda and Dawn talked some shop, as Linda had served as the head elder for her Congregational Church when they were without a pastor.
During the conversation, Janet asked if I would do a podcast of my story for the EQMM website. I’ll be doing the recording later this week, with the help of a friend who has the proper digital recording equipment. In addition, I’m writing an original piece of mood music to accompany the recording.
Janet and Linda sent us off with a couple special edition Dell puzzle books. I’m a Suduko fanatic, so this was a perfect gift for me. We took the subway back to our hotel, where we had a brief rest and then got ready for the Edgars. The event is black-tie, though you can get away with a black suit and tie. That I could handle. Around 3 p.m., we caught a taxi to the Andrew Heiskell Braille Library on W 20th, where Dell Publishing had reserved a community room for their pre-Edgars party.
I mingled, talking with several authors in attendance, including Steve Hamilton, who won the Best Novel Edgar last year for his excellent book, “The Lock Artist,” and two-time Edgar winner S.J. Rozan, who I saw at Bouchercon last year as well as Wednesday’s Symposium Day, but to whom I’d never spoken one-on-one. Also present was Hilary Davidson, who’d also been at Bouchercon and the symposium, and who, like me, is a transplant from Ontario. Dawn struck up a conversation with Meredith Anthony, an author and the wife of MWA Executive Vice President Larry Light. Dawn mentioned that I was hoping to connect with an agent while in the city, and Meredith volunteered to introduce me to her agent, which she did that night just before the banquet
We headed back to the hotel, walking part of the way. We saw the Flatiron Building, the first skyscraper in New York City. It’s been featured in countless movies because of its unusual triangular design. There was a reception for all the Edgar nominees before the banquet. I met up with a couple of people from the Midwest branch of the MWA, including Tony Perona, the chapter’s past president whom I’d met at Love Is Murder in Chicago in January.
Then the doors of the banquet room opened and we all found our tables. EQMM and AHMM each had their own tables in the front right corner of the room. There were around 500 people in attendance, all dressed in their finery. After opening remarks by MWA president Sandra Brown and a video welcome from John Cusack, who stars as Edgar Allan Poe in the new movie “The Raven,” dinner was served. (See my review blog <www.omnivorouscinephile.wordpress.com/> if you want my impression of “The Raven.”)
The Robert L. Fish Award traditionally begins the night, so I didn’t have to wait long. After a very generous introduction by Doug Allyn, I received the award. The coordinators of the event had sent out an email to all the winners and nominees, asking that the acceptance speeches be limited to 45-60 seconds, though they did say they wouldn’t start playing music if you went over. I worked on my comments for a couple of days so they said what I wanted to say within that time. Last year the Edgar Awards were videotaped and posted on YouTube, but I don’t believe they did that this year – or, if they did, they hid the camera really well!
After I came off the platform, I had my picture taken, and then Doug and I walked around the room to get back to our table. At the back, Doug stopped me and said, “Just take a moment here to appreciate this.” It was wise advice. Assembled there were the very best in the mystery field, and they had applauded me. It was awesome, and humbling.
Some of the other winners that night were: Howard Gordon, Alex Gansa, & Gideon Raff, for the teleplay of the pilot episode of “Homeland” on Showtime; Lori Roy for “Bent Road,” the Best First Novel by an American author; and Mo Hayder, the Best Novel Edgar winner for “Gone.” Martha Grimes received the Grand Master award, and she was just as salty and funny in her acceptance speech as she had been the day before during the Symposium interview.
Afterward, they had all the winners gather for pictures. I talked briefly with Martha Grimes and Mo Hayder (I’d just finished her book) before we had to smile for the cameras. Sandra Brown thanked me for my acceptance speech, which she said got the night off to a good start. I can’t be sure if my feet ever touched the floor while I was there; I have a feeling they didn’t.
When I left the banquet room, I found that publishers had filled tables in the foyer with free books. Linda Landrigan brought one over to me that she recommended: “Death of the Mantis” by Michael Stanley. It’s set in Botswana, which was of special interest since Dawn and I had lived in South Africa, just south of Botswana. Dawn got first dibs on reading it, but that was all right. I loaded up with nine other books, including new novels by Mary Higgins Clark and Joseph Wambaugh along with a couple of the Edgar nominees.
The next morning, we caught the bus back to JFK where we picked up our car. There was a lot of buzz in the city that morning because the Space Shuttle Enterprise was arriving to become part of the aviation exhibit on the Aircraft Carrier Lexington in New York harbor. We left the parking lot and drove west on the Belt Highway toward the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. After about 5 minutes, we heard the roar of a jet flying low and then the Enterprise, on the back of a 747, flew right over us. It was a magical moment.
We began our trip home with a short detour to the Sandy Hook National Recreation area to see the ocean. After overnight stops in Hamilton, New Jersey and Cincinnati, Ohio to see friends, we arrived home on Sunday. The Robert L. Fish is a plaque award. It is now hanging above my desk, where it can inspire me as I pursue this career.