Friday, January 18, 2008

Good Old Ed Poe

I spent some time with Ed Al Poe last night. Reread his review of Hawthorne's "Twice-Told Tales," in which he famously argues for the single effect in the prose tale. Everything in the story must orbit around this one thing, whatever it may be. By extention, he argues that poetry is the highest form of literary art (as long as it ain't epic). Followed by the short story. Followed by the lowly novel, which to Ed is crap because it's too long and too unfocused. As the author of a novel, some stories and precious little poetry, I think he's dead right. About the ranking, not about novels being crap.

My friend and mentor Wendy thinks we writers are watched over by dead author spirit guides. Kind of like muses and guardian angels rolled into one. I like that idea, even if I'm a raving skeptic about all things supernatural. My spirit guide is Ingmar Bergman, now that he's gone. Wendy decided this, and I'm for it. Only, this morning I got some news that makes me think I've got it all wrong.

Maybe good old creepy Ed Poe is my spirit guide.

Because, you see, I've learned that one of the nominees for this year's Edgar Awards is me. Best First Novel category. And by "me" I don't mean a "medical examiner" or someone with the initials "m.e." I mean "me," the first-person objective personal pronoun. Your host.

First off, I can't fucking believe it. The Edgars are the big kahuna of mystery writing awards. This kind of stuff doesn't happen to me, but I'm sure as hell glad it did. And I got to feel that maybe something passed between Ed and me last night while I read his work, some communion. And here we are.

Ed nominated me for best first novel! All right, not Ed himself--but those folks over at Mystery Writers of America. Those kind and generous, charismatic, athletic, beautiful, genius, hilarious, affluent, sexually potent people over at Mystery Writers of America.

And my friends at Killer Year, all of whom share exactly those same superhuman characteristics as the people at MWA, have been so supportive and just as excited as me. Some of them even more excited.

I don't know if Eddie would've liked Pyres. I like to think he would've been grudgingly amused, though he would've complained that it couldn't be read in one sitting and there were too many subplots. If I could've written you a poem, Mr. Poe, I would've. But thank you, sir, thank you. You have humbled me deeply, completely.

Here's the run-down of book nominees:

Best Novel Nominees
Christine Falls by Benjamin Black (Henry Holt and Company)
Priest by Ken Bruen (St. Martin's Minotaur)
The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon (HarperCollins)
Soul Patch by Reed Farrel Coleman (Bleak House Books)
Down River by John Hart (St. Martin's Minotaur)

Best First Novel By An American Author Nominees
Missing Witness by Gordon Campbell (HarperCollins - William Morrow)
In the Woods by Tana French (Penguin Group - Viking)
Snitch Jacket by Christopher Goffard (The Rookery Press)
Head Games by Craig McDonald (Bleak House Books)
Pyres by Derek Nikitas (St. Martin's Minotaur)

Best Paperback Original
Queenpin by Megan Abbott (Simon & Schuster)
Blood of Paradise by David Corbett (Random House - Mortalis)
Cruel Poetry by Vicki Hendricks (Serpent's Tail)
Robbie's Wife by Russell Hill (Hard Case Crime)
Who is Conrad Hirst? by Kevin Wignall (Simon & Schuster)

Best Critical/Biographical

The Triumph of the Thriller: How Cops, Crooks and Cannibals Captured Popular Fiction by Patrick Anderson (Random House)
A Counter-History of Crime Fiction: Supernatural, Gothic, Sensational by Maurizio Ascari (Palgrave Macmillan)
Deviance in Contemporary Crime Fiction by Christiana Gregoriou (Palgrave Macmillan)
Arthur Conan Doyle: A Life in Letters by Jon Lellenberg, Daniel Stashower and Charles Foley (The Penguin Press)
Chester Gould: A Daughter's Biography of the Creator of Dick Tracy by Jean Gould O'Connell (McFarland & Company)

The awards will be announced at the MWA's 62nd Annual Edgar Awards banquet on Thursday May 1, 2008 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City.

At that banquet, Bill Pronzini, author of the "Nameless Detective" series will be honored with the 2008 Grand Master Award.


Steve Malley said...


My copy of Pyres is somewhere on a boat between Amazon's warehouses and here, and I can't wait...

Laura said...

Congratulations, Derek! I'm totally thrilled for you!

S. Craig Renfroe, Jr. said...

Congratulations, again!

Derek Nikitas said...

Thanks guys! I still can't believe it myself. And, Steve, I think I read somewhere that it takes a month for Amazon to ship a book down under, so I hope you'll still remember why you ordered it when it finally gets there!