That's All She Wrote
G. Miki Hayden
I could call Thursday night the "climax" of the week's events, but, truly, that would be an objective assessment of what the week is supposed to be. Everyone who has driven, flown, and trained it into town has done so for a very individual set of reasons, and may very well already have had that pinnacle moment before the Thursday evening event. In fact, some people only go to one or two of the parties and forego the dinner. Or vice versa, of course. The dinner, at the Grand Hyatt, a really nice hotel next to Grand Central, has, for the last several years, hosted about 500 to 600 at each of the Edgars awards ceremonies. The publishing houses usually buy a table or two and may invite their authors to attend on the imprints' dimes, a nice gesture as the dinner is $150 per seat-more per for a sponsor's table, of course.
My own day began well, thank you very much, when I heard that this column was mentioned in today's Publishers Lunch*, a daily netletter that is a sort of contemporary industry bible. I was bound to find out because everyone I know reads the thing every, ...well ...lunchtime. I collect the daily briefs and skim them eventually, always saving the weekly deals issue since we all want to know what's actually selling, who is representing the work, and for goodness sake, what publisher is buying. This is the news we think we will someday need to use.
Public service announcement: I admit I actually did some work today, critiquing students and interviewing executive director Robert Bernstein at the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law (Washington) about making a mental health advance directive-sort of an interesting and currently germane topic. What kind of medications might you refuse and/or want for any future mental incapacity? Who would you want to make mental health decisions for you? And, who might you want to talk to, in addition to or instead of medications, should you spin into a deep depression? Anyone making an advance directive in the wake of the sad Terri Schiavo case might want to add some mental health provisos to the document.
Then I was off to the Dell Magazines annual cocktail party at Columbia University's Rare Books and Manuscript Library to help celebrate Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine's centenary. This year the magazine had a wonderful educational program first, explaining Ellery Queen's origins. The May cover features the two men-cousins Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee-who together became Mr. Ellery Queen.
[EQMM and its sister publication Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine were once owned by Davis Publications, where I then worked on the home plan magazines (readers could see the home pictured and buy an architect's plans). As the magazines suffered cutback after cutback, I was assigned to help out on the fiction wing and so read submissions for the mystery magazines and for Isaac Asimov Science Fiction Magazine and for its companion, Analog. This was, admittedly, a lot more fun than what I was doing, and I got to know Janet/ Hutchings, editor of EQMM, and Cathleen Jordan, editor of AHMM (who died in 2002 yet who remains vivid in the memories of those who knew her). Cathleen is now succeeded by the inimitable and lovely Linda Landrigan-but, as a sidenote, these women run a tight ship and won't buy a story just because they know you.]
Seen this year at the Dell party (these two magazines have been owned by Penny Press for quite a while now), Ed Hoch, the short-storyest writing guy around, who was named an MWA Grand Master a few years back, while simultaneously, that year, guest of honor at Bouchercon. Ed is not only a really nice man, but he has made a living creating short stories, something no one else these days seems to be able to say.
The cook for the party was the revered Dorian Yeager. Why mention the cook? Well, first of all her food is fabulous, and second of all she's a mystery writer (Eviction by Death, et al.) who was heard muttering about writing again as she served the most delicious little what's it's and whosits. (Sorry, Dorian. I did recognize the baba ganoush.) Dorian runs a restaurant on the West Side and caters the most murderous events.
Of course I spoke to Doug Allyn who won the Ellery Queen Readers' award for the seventh time and who has a novel--The Burning of Rachel Hayes--out from Five Star this year. And I said hi to 1985 Grand Master Dorothy Salisbury Davis, whose first novel may have been published in 1949 and who is not only still all there, but still delightful and still writing.
And, yes, I did get to the Edgars itself, where I wandered around for a while and spoke to (among others) the nice Robert Rosenwald who with wife Barbara Peters runs Poisoned Pen Press. Since PPP has an Edgar nominee on its list, Robert seemed to be having a pretty good time. As my tablemate, Larry Karp, who is now publishing with this rather successful independent said, "If it's not quality writing, they won't release it." He was happy about his (First, Do No Harm) process with them.
Of course I had to gossip with Annette and Marty Meyers who write both separately and as Maan Meyers. Both love the historical mystery form and Annette's psychological suspense novel Repentances, set in New York's Jewish immigrant community in 1936, was published by Five Star Press in 2004 and went back for a second print run this year. Marty has been busy with short stories, one in an anthology from Signet and one in a recent issue of Argosy.
I caught Tom Savage (author of six suspense novels, including Valentine, which became a Hollywood movie) talking to the fabulous Donald Westlake. They were probably comparing movie notes as Donald's The Axe just finished filming in France. Tom is working on a new novel at last, a sexy suspense set in London, New York, and the Virgin Islands (where Tom is from). His protagonist is set on the path of revenge for a dreadful wrong done her, while the result will be another exceedingly good Tom Savage yarn. And, by the way, Tom has a story in the May Hitchcock mag that rated his name right there on the cover.
S. J. Rozan who couldn't quite think of any gossip about herself is now working with vice president and editor, Kate Miciak, at Bantam, which published S. J.'s Absent Friends and will next release her In This Rain, about which everyone seems to be quite excited.
I most enjoyed (aside from Lisa Scottoline's typically odd yet amusing speech about her editor, Carolyn Marino) Grand Master Marcia Muller's remarks. She said she had a call on her answering machine informing her she had been named the MWA Grand Master on a Friday night-too late to call back until Monday morning. So she spent the weekend wondering if someone had played a prank on her. "I suffer from low self-esteem," Mrs. Bill Pronzini (Ms. Muller) said. "It comes from years of Kirkus reviews." The knowing mystery crowd had a good laugh at that-Kirkus reviews are almost never kind to mysteries.
You can read the list of Edgar winners at the MWA site whenever it's posted. Congrats to all. There's something about a nomination... and, of course, a win is fun.
Thanks for your indulgence, readers, and thanks, MWA and Today in Literature's Steve King. I've enjoyed the week.
*Thanks to Sarah Weinman, who is the current blogging guru of the mystery genre: http://www.sarahweinman.com/
G. Miki Hayden
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