Welcome to Monday Murder Mystery where we gather each week to talk about mysteries.  The series is open to discussion of all mysteries, and all genres of mysteries are welcome, be they the coziest of the cozy style or the most cold blooded of the police procedurals.

Diarists are invited to share their thoughts on any book, series, author or mystery genre.  If you would like to contribute, please include your subject and date in the comments, or send a private message to Susan from 29.

Because it is hard to discuss a mystery without revealing the ending, please use the comment section for that discussion, with the word "Spoiler" prominent in the topic line.  Those who don't want to know the ending can set their Comment Preference to SHRINK and individually expand those comments without the warning.

While browsing in a bookstore, you pick up a book with a bright orange, yellow or white circle on the cover that says “New York Times Bestseller,” and you know immediately what that means.  It means that a lot of people have purchased this book.  It does not mean that it has any particular merit other than sales, as shown by the regular appearance of Glenn Beck on the list.  

But what about the blurbs that say: "Edgar Nominated" or "Winner of 2011 Agatha Award?" Most of us know that an Agatha is awarded to books that are similar in style to those written by the queen of the cozies, Agatha Christie.  But what about the Dilys, or the Lefty?  Or the Barry?  And who decides which book gets which award?

As I have been exploring the mystery world this year, I have increasingly noted the plethora of mystery awards and wondered how seriously to take each one.  Since that would be a function of why they were given and who gave them, I started researching online.  This diary is a result of my education, and a big debt of grattitude has to go to the Anthony Award winning website (yes, they even give awards to websites) "Stop, You're Killing Me!," which includes a list of all of the major awards, nominees and winners.

It seems that anyone can give awards to mystery novels and short stories.  But the best known awards break down into a few categories.  Awards are given by type of mystery - cozy or hard boiled.  Fiction or non-fiction.  And they are awarded by three different demographics: writers, fans or readers, and publishers, sellers or critics.  Some are awarded by a combination of all three and there seems to always be some crossover.

Awards sponsored by organizations of writers include the Arthur Ellis Awards, the Dagger Awards, the Edgar Awards, the Hammett Prize, the Shamus Awards and the Thriller Awards.

The Arthur Ellis Awards are for Excellence in Canadian Crime Writing.  They are presented by the Crime Writers of Canada, a non-profit organization of “Canadian mystery and crime writers, associated professionals, and others with a serious interest in Canadian crime writing.”  

They have been sponsoring the Arthur Ellis Awards since 1984 and cover a broad category which includes “crime, detective, espionage, mystery, suspense, and thriller writing, as well as fictional or factual accounts of criminal doings and crime-themed literary works."

Judges are drawn from "award-winning writers, reviewers, booksellers, librarians, and academics across Canada."

2011 Arthur Ellis Award Winners

Best Novel
Bury Your Dead by Louis Penny
Best First Crime Novel
The Debba by Avner Mandelman
Best Crime Short Story
“So Much in Common” by Mary Jane Maffini - Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine

The Dagger Awards are sponsored by the Crime Writers Association which is “open to writers of crime fiction or non-fiction resident in Great Britain who are published by a bona fide publisher, but, at the discretion of the committee, overseas members are welcomed.”  Associate membership is available for editors, agents & booksellers.

“The CWA Dagger Awards celebrate the best in crime writing: the Gold Dagger is awarded for crime fiction in its broadest definition, but other Daggers recognize excellence in a range of categories: the John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger for first novels, the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger for thrillers, the International Dagger for translated works, the Ellis Peters Award for historical mysteries, the Gold Dagger for non-fiction, the Dagger in the Library– the library readers’ choice – and finally the Short Story Dagger, which acknowledges the best in short fiction.”

Each Dagger Award, other than the Dagger in the Library, is judged by its own panel consisting of professionals in the field of publishing and book-selling, academics, critics and journalists, other writers and readers. The Dagger in the Library is determined by a panel of librarians and goes to a writer rather than an individual work.

2011 Dagger Award Winners

Gold Dagger
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin*
International Dagger
Three Seconds by Anders Roslund & Borge Hellstrom
Ian Fleming Steel Dagger
The Lock Artist by Steve Hamilton
John Creasey New Blood Dagger
Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson
Dagger in the Library
Mo Hayder
Short Story
“Homework” by Phil Lovesey - The Mammoth Book of Best British Crime Volume 8
Ellis Peters Historical Dagger
The Somme Stations by Andrew Martin

* e-book currently on sale at Amazon for $2.99

The Edgar Awards are named in honor of Edgar Allen Poe and are awarded by the Mystery Writers of America, whose membership includes “mystery and crime writers, professionals allied to the crime writing field, aspiring crime writers, and folks who just love to read crime fiction.”  Although membership is open to all, only Active Members, those who are published writers, are allowed to judge the entries for the Edgar Awards.

2011 Edgar Award Winners

Best Novel
The Lock Artist by Steve Hamilton
Best First Novel by an American Author
Rogue Island by Bruce DeSilva
Best Paperback Original
Long Time Coming by Robert Goddard
Best Fact Crime
Scoreboard, Baby: A Story of College Football, Crime and Complicity by Ken Armstrong and Nick Perry
Best Critical/Biographical
Charlie Chan: The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and his Rendezvous with American History by Yunte Huang
Best Short Story
"The Scent of Lilacs" by Doug Allyn – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine
Best Juvenile
The Buddy Files: The Case of the Lost Boy by Dori Hillestad Butler
Best Young Adult
Interrogation of Gabriel James by Charlie Price
Mary Higgins Clark Award
The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths

The Hammett Prize is presented annually by the North American Branch of the International Association of Crime Writers for literary excellence in the field of crime-writing in a book published in English in the US and/or Canada.  “‘Crime-writing’ is defined as any published work of adult fiction or narrative nonfiction that encompasses such areas as ‘crime,’ ‘suspense,’ ‘thriller,’ ‘mystery,’ or ‘espionge’ as those terms are normally understood in the writing and publishing fields.”

Although nominations are open to all for submission, they are screened by active members of the Association.  The screened nominations are then sent to "a panel of three outside (ie, non-member) judges to select the winner. One of these judges will be a distinguished US or Canadian author working outside the crime writing field; one a distinguished editor or publisher; the third a distinguished critic or bookseller, again, not working primarily in the crime field."

2010 Hammett Prize Winner

The Nearest Exit by Olen Steinhauer

The Shamus Awards are awarded by the Private Eye Writers of America. Membership is open to fans, writers, and publishing professionals.

A private eye is defined as “as any mystery protagonist who is a professional investigator, but not a police officer or government agent.” So, “private investigators (licensed and unlicensed), lawyers and reporters who do their own legwork, and other hired agents are eligible; works centering on law enforcement officers or amateur sleuths are not.”

Judging is done by "committee members of PWA [who] select nominees and winners, much in the same way as the Edgars are chosen."

2011 Shamus Award Winners

The Eye
Ed Gorman
The Hammer Award (Best P.I. Series Character)
V.I. Warshawski by Sara Paretsky
Best Hardcover Novel
No Mercy by Lori Armstrong
Best First Novel
In Search of Mercy by Michael Ayoob
Best Paperback Original Novel
Asia Hand by Christopher G. Moore
Best Short Story
“The Lamb Was Sure to Go” by Gar Anthony Haywood - Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine

The Thriller Awards are presented by the International Thriller Writers which was formed in 2004.  Here is where you will find the novels of Robert Crais, Lee Child, and Stuart Woods (all members).

"The International Thriller Writers is an honorary society of authors, both fiction and nonfiction, who write books broadly classified as 'thrillers.' This would include (but isn’t limited to) such subjects as murder mystery, detective, suspense, horror, supernatural, action, espionage, true crime, war, adventure, and myriad similar subject areas."

Once a year “it brings together almost a thousand writers, readers, publishers, editors and agents at its annual conference, ThrillerFest, as well as at CraftFest, a writing workshop program, and AgentFest, where aspiring authors can meet and pitch top literary agents.”  This year it is being held at the Grand Hyatt ($206 special rate) in New York City and makes me very sorry I live on the West Coast.

Although I haven't been able to find a description of the judging process on their website, the members of the Award Committee are all writers.

2011 Thriller Award Winners

Best Novel
Bad Blood by John Sanford
Best Paperback Original
The Cold Room by J.T. Ellison
Best First Novel
Still Missing by Chevy Stevens
Best Short Story
“The Gods for Vengeance Cry” by Richard Helms - Dell Magazine

Fans, readers, writers, publishers, sellers and a combination of these determine the Agatha, Anthony, Barry, Dilys, Lambda Literary, Lefty, Macavity and Nero awards.

The Agatha Awards are voted on by the attendees at the Malice Domestic, an annual “fun fan” convention in Washington DC.  The awards are given to traditional mysteries that are best typified by the works of Agatha Christie.  

“The genre is loosely defined as mysteries that:
contain no explicit sex
contain no excessive gore or gratuitous violence
Materials generally classified as ‘hard boiled' are not appropriate.”

2011 Agatha Award Winners

Best Novel
Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny
Best First Novel
The Long Quiche Goodbye by Avery Aames
Best Short Story
"So Much in Common" by Mary Jane Maffini - Ellery Queen Magazine, September/October 2010
Best Non-fiction
Agatha Christie's Secret Notebooks:  50 Years of Mysteries in the Making by John Curran
Best Children's/Young Adult
The Other Side of Dark by Sarah Smith

"The Anthony Awards are given at each annual Bouchercon World Mystery Convention with the winners selected by the attendees.  The award is named for the late Anthony Boucher (William Anthony Parker White), well-known writer and critic from the San Francisco Chronicle and the New York Times who helped found the Mystery Writers of America."

"Bouchercon is the world mystery convention and has been taking place annually since 1970. It is open to anyone and is a place for fans, authors and professionals to gather and celebrate their love of the mystery genre. It is named for a famed mystery critic Anthony Boucher. During the convention there are panels and discussions and interviews with authors and people from the mystery community covering all parts of the genre. There are signing events for people to meet their favorite authors face-to-face and get books signed."

2011 Anthony Award Winners

Best Mystery Novel
Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny
Best First Mystery
The Damage Done by Hillary Davidson
Best Paperback Original
Expiration Date by Duane Swierczynski
Best Short Story
"Swing Shift" by Dana Cameron, - Crimes By Moonlight
Best Graphic Novel
The Chill by Jason Starr & Mick Bertilorenzi
Best Critical/Non-Fiction
Agatha Christie's Secret Notebooks:  50 Years of Mysteries in the Making by John Curran

The Barry Awards are decided upon by the editorial staff of Deadly Pleasures and presented at the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention and named to honor Barry Gardner, a fan reviewer.

2011 Barry Award Winners

Best Novel
The Lock Artist by Steve Hamilton
Best First Novel
The Poacher's Son by Paul Doiron
Best British Crime Novel
The Woodcutter by Reginald Hill
Best Thriller
Thirteen Hours by Deon Meyer
Best Paperback Original
Fever of the Bone by Val McDermid
Best Short Story
"The List" by Loren D. Estleman - Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, May 2010

The members of the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association like to sell books.  A lot.  So much so that they blog about them, vote, and award Dilys to the ones they enjoy selling the most.  The Dilys is presented at the Left Coast Crime Convention each year, and is named after the first specialty bookseller of mysteries in the United States, Dilys Winn.

2011 Dilys Award Winner

Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny

Each year the Lambda Literary Foundation presents awards for literary achievement in multiple categories, including Gay and Lesbian mysteries. Although I was unable to determine for sure who judges them, it appears to be the Foundation itself or its editorial board.

23rd Annual Lambda Literary Award Winners

Gay Mystery
Echoes by David Lennon
Lesbian Mystery
Fever of the Bone by Val McDermid

Also presented at the Left Coast Crime Convention is the Lefty, an award given annually for the most humorous mystery novel of the year.  The Left Coast Crime Convention is "an event sponsored by fans of Mystery Literature, for fans of Mystery Literature."  The Lefty is voted upon by the attendees.  Up to three other awards can also be presented at the Convention.

2011 Left Coast Crime Award Winners

Lefty Award for Most Humorous Mystery
The Pot Thief Who Studied Einstein by J. Michael Orenduff

Bruce Alexander Memorial Mystery Award
(Historical Mystery covering events pre-1950)
The Mapping of Love and Death by Jacqueline Winspear

Hillerman Sky Award
(Best Captures the Landscape of the Southwest)
The Spider's Web by Margaret Coel

Watson Award
(Best Sidekick)
Junkyard Dogs by Craig Johnson

The Macavity Award, named for T.S. Eliot's Macavity: The Mystery Cat, are nominated and voted on by members of Mystery Readers International.  

"MRI is the largest mystery fan/reader organization in the world, is open to all readers, fans, critics, editors, publishers, and writers.  Started by Janet A Rudolph in Berkeley, California, it now has members in all 50 of the United States and 18 foreign countries."

2011 Macavity Award Winners

Best Mystery Novel
Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny
Best First Mystery Novel
Rogue Island by Bruce DeSilva
Best Mystery Related Nonfiction
Agatha Christie's Secret Notebooks:  50 Years of Mysteries in the Making by John Curran
Best Short Story
"Swing Shift" by Dana Cameron - Crimes by Moonlight
Sue Feder Historical Mystery Award
City of Dragons by Kelli Stanley

And finally, there is the Nero Award presented annually by the Wolfe Pack.

The Wolfe Pack is "a forum to discuss, explore and enjoy the 73 Nero Wolfe books and short stories. The organization promotes fellowship and extends friendship to those who enjoy these great literary works of mystery through a series of events, book discussions, and a journal devoted to study of the genius detective, Nero Wolfe, and his intrepid assistant, Archie Goodwin."

"The Nero Award is presented annually by The Wolfe Pack (the official Nero Wolfe Society) for the best American Mystery. Criteria include:

 - written in the tradition of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe stories
 - first published in the year preceding the award year
 - originally published in the United States
 - submitted directly by the publisher."

2011 Nero Award Winner

Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny

In addition to all of these, there are other foreign awards.  (Actually there are a lot of other awards.)  Here are links to some of those that are highlighted by The Mystery Book Awards website:

Swedish Crime Novels
Le Prix Mystère de la Critique
The Riverton Prize, Norwegian
The Falcon Award, best hard-boiled mystery published in Japan
The Vuoden Johtolanka (Clue) Award, Finnish
The Glass Key Award,  "best crime novel written by a Danish, Finnish, Icelandic, Norwegian, or Swedish author."
The Ned Kelly Awards, Australian
The Davitt Award, Australian women writers
The Galaxy National Book Awards, British
The Harald Mogensen Award, Danish
The Ngaio Marsh Award, New Zealand

So, if you are looking for an award winning book in the style favored by, say Lee Child, check out the Thriller Awards.  If you are in the mood for a cozy, the Agathas or the Neros  should help fill out your list.  

I can't urge you enough to check out the short lists of all the awards, whether on their own websites or one like Stop, You're Killing Me!.  Not only will you discover that Bury Your Dead won five different awards, but also that many of the short listed books appear on multiple lists.  Depending on your interests and how you value the judgement of the different panels, you should be able to find plenty of material to see you through part of 2012.

For a look at the awards from a writer's perspective, which I found very helpful, here is  scilicet's comment

some of the awards matter more than others which is hardly news, heh. But here's my take, fwiw:

The Edgar is the biggest deal--it's the mystery genre's Hugo Award. The incoming president of Mystery Writers of America selects committee heads who then put together 5-writer committees to decide the nominees and the winner. I've been on a few of those committees. Publishers send every committee member every qualifying book--a couple of hundred, in the big categories. Committee members spend the year reading & winnowing and then decide as a group on nominees and winners. The winner tends to be everyone's 2nd or 3rd choice because consensus on #1 picks is rare. So if you're looking for recommendations, it's worth a glace at some non-winner nominees. (I feel funny saying this because I've been nominated twice, which I would not mention but a few people here already know that. So just want to say, I don't mean me, honest. I just mean, in general.)

The second biggest deal is the Anthony Award, equivalent to the Nebula Award. Everyone who signs up for the genre's biggest fan/writer convention of the year, Bouchercon, gets a ballot. Bouchercon is a very big con so a lot of ballots come in. As with the Edgars, the winners are announced at a banquet, in this case, after a couple of days of panels and events.

It used to be that there were only two other awards that mattered much to American readers and, to a lesser extent, publishers. One is the Macavity, also awarded by reader ballots available from a Mystery Readers group. It skews cozy because that's the dedicated voter base there. The other is the Shamus Award, given by Private Eye Writers of America. It's awarded by committees, same process as the Edgars. Winners tend to be harder boiled because PI fiction grew out of that tradition. Dedicated readers care about these awards, of course, but most haven't heard of them, and publishers don't really publicize it when their writers win. (More full disclosure, gulp. I've been nominated for a few Anthonys and Macavitys, and I won a Shamus for a short story.)

More recently, an international group of crime writers formed an organization that, by committee, awards the Hammett. This group is the best if you're a writer because it organizes trips to exotic places. (E.g. I got to go to Cuba with Ross Thomas, Lawrence Block, Don Westlake, Robert Campbell, Stewart Kaminsky, Paco Taibo and other very interesting folks.) The prize mostly flies under the radar in this country. Winning books have a predictably international bent and generally some social commentary.

At around the time that Sisters in Crime was formed (because back then, so few mystery books by women were getting reviewed), there was considerable annoyance that the big prizes kept going to men. It was attributed to systemic disregard for cozier books. A new convention, Malice Domestic, was created, with its own award, the Agatha. People who sign up for Malice Domestic, a smaller conference than Bouchercon but big enough to fill multi-track panels for a few days, are sent ballots first to nominate and then to vote for winners. This award matters to readers who enjoy this type of book but doesn't matter as much to readers with more generalized taste.

The thrillers group is newer and (sorry for the "inside baseball") is a source of some annoyance to writers who feel that the Edgars still heavily favor this type of book over cozies, and that Anthonys do too because thrillers tend to get heavily promoted & because more people read them, more people vote for them. There is grousing that too many new awards discount the value of existing awards. But that was what non-cozy lovers said about the Agathas, too.

The other awards really don't get much attention outside their countries/groups.

Originally posted to Readers and Book Lovers on Mon Jan 02, 2012 at 05:00 PM PST.

Also republished by Progressive Friends of the Library Newsletter and Community Spotlight.

Your Email has been sent.