Getting The Raven Award
I can’t pinpoint exactly when I went from being just a reader and fan of the mystery genre to being a cheerleader and vocal supporter. I do know the details though, it was the first half of the 90s, I had been reading for years and had discovered a book store here in Milwaukee that carried JUST mysteries.
I started going to Mystery One on a regular basis and Richard Katz started putting more and more authors in my hands. The turning point came when he asked me if I was coming to a book signing the following week. I said that sounds like fun and picked up 2 books by Sparkle Hayter to read before she came. They were loads of fun and great books. The following Saturday I went to the store and met an author. She was really funny and charming and I really enjoyed myself. I started to go to more signings; I was hooked after seeing Sparkle. Soon I met other fans at the store. Ted Hertel and Gary Niehbur were among them.
In 1996, after a long night of drinking and driving to Illinois, I spent a few hours with a very patient officer of the Buffalo Grove police dept. Which included me getting a DUI and me telling him all about these great books by Ed McBain. I stopped drinking that night. At the court date the officer thanked me for the book recommendation. Instead of hanging out at bars I started hanging out at Mystery One Books after work. Saturday mornings Richard and I would meet at the store at 10:00 to watch re-runs of The Adventures of Brisco County Jr.
I also took another step past to being an enabler of books. I started to go to dinner with Richard and the authors after signings. It was really cool and a great way to learn more about the genre I already loved. At one of the signings Ted and Gary mentioned Bouchercon and that they were doing one in Milwaukee.
This is also around the time I discovered Rec.Arts.Mystery newsgroup. Like a chat room of old, a place I could go 24 hours a day and talk books. I made a lot of friends there, most of whom I am still friends with. RAM (what we called Rec.Arts.Mystery newsgroup) was all a buzz about Bouchercon. So in 1999 I went. I helped Richard with his Mystery One booth and met a lot of authors.
I also met my wife. Ian Ranking introduced us and we spent the night hanging out with Ian and Val McDermid and Charles Todd.
By the end of the weekend I decided I wanted to try and help some of them reach more fans so I decided maybe I could interview them. My first interviews were with Katy Munger, Ian Rankin and Karin Slaughter. Karin asked me to wait a year and a half to put hers up so it would time with her first book.
The year 2000 was crazy. I started dating Ruth and did a LOT of interviews. Post drinking I don’t sleep much so I used the time for book stuff. Ruth and I married in October by which time my interviews were also going up on a site called BooksnBytes run by a wonderful woman named Vicki Ball. She asked if Ruth and I would like to do some reviews, this lead to doing an occasional column. At this point there was no turning back. It was also around the time I first had contact with a woman I adore named Maggie Griffin. She worked for a number of authors and like my reviews but also explained to me she needed “blurbable” lines. It changed the way I review. It also was the beginning of a friendship that continues to this day.
In the next few years Ruth and I would start Crimespree. We would make more and more friends in the community. More and more our lives were touched by the people of this genre.
This all built up to this past Wednesday night when we were at the Edgar awards. Winning the Raven Award is one of the coolest things to happen to me. Other than a few key moments like meeting and Marrying Ruth, this was one of the best nights of my life. What made it even more awesome was it was a great night to be at the Edgars. A huge shout out to Daniel Stashower and all the Edgar judges. Kris Montee and Kelly Nichols (PJ Parrish) kicked ass with Marjory Flax in putting the night together. The short film on the Grand Masters was terrific. The star power on that stage was amazing, Brad Meltzer introducing Sara Paretsky. RL Stine, Lois Duncan, Charles Ardai, James Ellroy, Kathryn Kennison, Stephen King, and on and on. We spent a night cheering our friends and celebrating the genre because that is truly what the Edgar Awards are all about. Being up on that stage and trying to talk to a room full of people after Reed Coleman started tearing up during the intro was hard, I have no idea what I said, but as it turns out there was a quote pulled and put on Twitter: “This is the family I’ve chosen. My tribe.” I’ve felt this way for a long time and feel it even more now.
So to all the people who write, read, publish, edit, publicize, sell, or anything else having to do with these wonderful books: THANK YOU
And thank you to the MWA for making us feel like we are walking on air all the time.