Remembering Sue Grafton, Honoring Mystery’s Best | In the Bookroom

The Mystery Writers of America's annual "Edgar Week" in New York City began with a memorial service honoring the late mystery author Sue Grafton at the New York Public Library and ended with the 72nd Annual Edgar Allen Poe Awards Dinner at the Grand Hyatt Hotel.

The two days preceding the announcement of the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Awards is traditionally known as “Edgar Week” and includes a Tuesday evening cocktail party at the Mysterious Bookshop in lower Manhattan and a Wednesday all-day symposium on the state of the mystery genre before culminating on Thursday with the gala awards banquet at the Grand Hyatt Hotel.

The mystery community gathered at the New York Public Library’s Celeste Bartos Forum to celebrate the life and legacy of Sue Grafton.

But Tuesday, April 24, 2018, also marked what would have been Mystery Grand Master Sue Grafton’s 78th birthday, and a memorial service organized by Grafton’s publisher, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, was held at the New York Public Library’s Celeste Bartos Forum to honor the memory and legacy of the writer, who died December 28, 2017. Attending the event was a who’s who of the mystery world, from Karen Slaughter and Alafair Burke, who wore a black dress in honor of Grafton’s iconic sleuth Kinsey Millhone, to speakers Michael Connolly and Harlan Coben, who shared a hilarious story about Grafton discovering the world’s best wine bar in Indianapolis; it featured an automated wine dispenser.

Other speakers included Marian Wood, Grafton’s longtime publisher and editor, who recalled how impressed she was by the first 50 pages of A Is for Alibi, which launched Grafton’s alphabetically themed mysteries. While her boss acknowledged that he didn’t quite grasp the manuscript, he trusted Wood’s judgment and allowed her to buy the book. While early reviews were tepid, mystery fans recognized the quality of Grafton’s work, and Wood noted proudly that none of her titles have ever been out of print.

Jamie Clark, Grafton’s daughter, offered a lovely remembrance of her mother typing into the night after she had put her children to bed. Clark would go to sleep, listening to the clacking of the typewriter. And Grafton’s husband, Steve Humphrey, shared a heartfelt story of their early romance, when Grafton was his older upstairs neighbor (her 34 to his 23) at an L.A. apartment complex, where their cats played together in the courtyard. The event ended with a toast featuring Grafton’s favorite peanut butter and pickle sandwiches and California chardonnay.

At the Mystery Writers of America’s 72nd annual Edgar Awards banquet, held Thursday, April 26, emcee Jeffery Deaver got the evening off to a touching start with a mystery writers abecedarian poem paying tribute to Grafton. It began, “A Is for Advance, which we pray to pay back,” concluding, “Z Is for Zenith, where Sue absolutely is.” Grafton was later recognized in the “In Memoriam” slide show presentation.

Attica Locke, winner of the Edgar Award for Best Novel. Photo by Aslan Chalom.

Diversity in terms of author voices, characters, and subject matter was a key theme connecting most of the evening’s winners. Taking the Edgar for Best Novel, Attica Locke’s Bluebird, Bluebird  (Mulholland: Little, Brown) features an African American Texas Ranger investigating a possibly racially motivated double homicide in a small Texas town. In accepting the award, Locke said that she’d hoped that her books—and the mystery genre—could help readers understand how people navigate shared space.

Killers of the Flower Moon (Knopf), David Grann’s shattering exposé of the greed and racism that played in the systematic murders of members of the Osage Nation, was named Best Fact Crime (also an LJ Top Ten Best Book of 2017). The Edgar Award for Best Critical/Biographical went to Lawrence P. Jackson’s Chester A. Himes: A Biography (Norton) the definitive take on the African American novelist best known for his mysteries set in Harlem, NY. Jason Reynold’s Long Way Down (Atheneum: S. & S.), named a 2018 Newbery Honor Book and a Coretta Scott King Honor Book for its exploration of teenage gun violence, took top honors in the Best Young Adult category.

The winners and honorees of the 2018 Edgar Awards. Photo by Aslan Chalom

Other winners included Jordan Harper’s gritty She Rides Shotgun (Ecco: HarperCollins) for Best First Novel by an American, Anna Mazzola’s The Unseeing (Sourcebooks Landmark), for Best Paperback Original, and Carol Goodman’s The Widow’s House (Morrow), presented with the Simon & Schuster Mary Higgins Clark Award. For a full list of winners and nominees, go to the Edgars.com.

 

 

 

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