One of the blogger’s most cherished prerogatives is that he can give his opinion even when no one is asking – especially when no one is asking. So, as the time nighs when the nominees for this year’s Edgar Awards are announced, I’d like to give the MWA some unrequited advice. Readers of this blog know I’ve long been interested in the most famous mystery award in the world (I even did a six–part series on the Best Novel prize some years ago) despite often scratching my heads at the comittees’s choices. My aim in making these suggestions is to make the Edgars more reflective of the scope and variety of the mystery field while correcting some glaring injustices in the current process. The MWA are free to ignore them (which they’ll probably do) or pick those they see fit or even the whole lot (I can dream, can’t I?)
So here we go.
1°) Shorter fiction matters. There are currently five competive awards for novels but only two (counting the Robert L. Fish award) for shorter works. Considering that the Edgars honour the memory of one of the greatest short-story writers of all time, that’s rather odd. Create distinct categories for proper short stories, novellas and novelettes would be a nice way to set the balance right and recognize the crucial importance past and present of short fiction to the genre.
2°) Stop discriminating against paperbacks. Why should a terrific novel be barred from competing for the Best Novel just because it was published as a paperback? It’s discrimination plain and simple and like all discriminations it has little basis in fact. Whatever shape a book takes is irrelevant to its quality.
3°) Internet is here to stay. Few would deny that some of the most knowledgeable and perceptive writing on the genre is now done online – and that’s why greater recognition in the form of a distinct category is badly needed. I realize it’s hard job to monitor all of the many great crime/mystery blogs and websites around and pick a year’s best; but it would definetely be worth it.
4°) Don’t forget translators. The past decade has seen the American market finally opening its gates to foreign (i.e., non-English-speaking) crime fiction and it’s a good thing. None of this would have happened without those admirable people who translate, and their work deserves recognition.
5°) What about critics? The Outstanding Mystery Criticism should be revived. With the genre being more and more popular, sound criticism is more needed than ever and must be recognized.
6°) Judge books by their covers. And give those who design them their due.