On the 29th of April, the Edgar Awards banquet will take place at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City. The “Edgar” is actually short for the Edgar Allan Poe Awards, honoring “the best in mystery fiction, nonfiction and television”, now in its 64th year. It has been 201 years since E.A. Poe came to visit Planet Earth for an all-too-brief stay (he died at age 40). He left behind some of the early classics of suspense fiction: The Purloined Letter; The Murders in the Rue Morgue; and The Tell-Tale Heart, to name but a few of many.
It should come as no surprise, then, that his namesake awards have honored the best and the brightest in the world of suspense fiction for the last six decades and more; past Grand Masters include: Robert B. Parker, Joseph Wambaugh, P.D. James, Ruth Rendell, Ed McBain, Daphne du Maurier, Ross Macdonald, John D. MacDonald, Alfred Hitchcock, Rex Stout, and Agatha Christie (and I am just scratching the surface here).
Each year, an Edgar is given for Best First Novel, and once again, it is a star-studded list. Past winners include: The Black Echo, Michael Connelly; Postmortem, Patricia Cornwell; When the Bough Breaks, Jonathan Kellerman; Fletch, Gregory McDonald; The Anderson Tapes, Lawrence Sanders; Friday the Rabbi Slept Late, Harry Kemelman; A Time for Predators, Joe Gores; and A Kiss Before Dying, Ira Levin (and, as noted above, once again I am just touching on the highlights).
For 2010, the nominees for Best Novel are: The Missing, Tim Gautreaux; The Odds, Kathleen George; The Last Child, John Hart; Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death, Charlie Huston; Nemesis, Jo Nesbo; and A Beautiful Place to Die, Malla Nunn.
For Best First Novel by an American Author: The Girl She Used to Be, David Cristofano; Starvation Lake, Bryan Gruley; The Weight of Silence, Heather Gudenkauf; A Bad Day for Sorry, Sophie Littlefield; In the Shadow of Gotham, Stephanie Pintoff; and Black Water Rising, Attica Locke.
In all fairness, I have not read all of these, but three among them were, in my opinion, absolutely first-tier, and I wish their authors all the best: Nemesis, A Beautiful Place to Die, and Black Water Rising. Nemesis, by Norwegian author Jo Nesbo: for its complex and beleaguered protagonist, the unforgettably named Harry Hole. A Beautiful Place to Die, by Swaziland native Malla Nunn: for its atmospheric portrayal of South Africa in the early days of apartheid, and the grief wreaked on black and white families alike as a result of its often brutal implementation. Black Water Rising, by Los Angeles screenwriter and author Attica Locke: for its relentless pace and multifaceted look at race relations in the post-Martin Luther King, Jr. South.