MWA’s 2021 Grand Masters Are Charlaine Harris and Jeffery Deaver

Mystery Writers of America (MWA) announced the recipients of two special awards on November 23. Charlaine Harris and Jeffery Deaver are the 2021 Grand Masters, and the 2020 Raven Award recipient is Malice Domestic, a mystery convention. The awards will be presented at the 75th Annual Edgar Awards Ceremony on April 29, 2021.

One of the new grand masters is of sff interest as well, because Charlaine Harris has written a lot of paranormal mysteries, most notably the Sookie Stackhouse series.

MWA Grand Master Award

MWA President Meg Gardiner said —

Mystery Writers of America is thrilled to honor Jeffery Deaver and Charlaine Harris as MWA’s 2021 Grand Masters. Over the course of decades, Deaver and Harris have gripped tens of millions of readers while broadening the reach of the genre with transformative books—notably, Deaver’s Lincoln Rhyme series, and Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse novels—and while generously encouraging and supporting fellow writers and the reading public. We’re delighted to recognize their achievements.

MWA’s Grand Master Award “represents the pinnacle of achievement in mystery writing and was established to acknowledge important contributions to this genre, as well as for a body of work that is both significant and of consistent high quality. “

Jeffery Deaver has published more than forty novels since the early 1990’s, including two series besides the Lincoln Rhyme novels, numerous stand-alone and short story collections.  

Crime author Jeffery Deaver in 2012. By Garry Knight – Flickr: Jeffery Deaver, CC BY-SA 2.0,

On being notified of the honor, Deaver said:

When I was a (relatively) young writer new to this business of penning novels, many years ago, the first professional organization I joined was Mystery Writers of America. Signing on felt to me like coming home—being welcomed into a community of fellow authors willing to share their expertise and offer support in a profession that was largely, well, a ‘mystery’ to me. Besides, how could I not join? MWA was the real deal; for proof, one had only to look at those in the ranks of the Grand Masters: Agatha Christie, Rex Stout, Ellery Queen, James M. Cain . . . and so many others whose works populated my bookshelves. Yet it never once occurred to me, in all my years as a member and my two terms as president, that I might be invited into those very ranks. I wish to express by boundless gratitude to MWA for this honor, which stands, without question, as the highpoint of my career.

Charlaine Harris has published 13 novels in the Southern Vampire series (adapted into the popular HBO series True Blood), which proved so popular that at one point her novels took half of the top ten slots on New York Times’ bestseller list. Her other series include the Aurora Teagarden novels, the Lily Bard (Shakespeare) books, the Midnight Texas trilogy (adapted for television) and numerous others, as well as several standalones.

Charlaine Harris. Photo by Omaha Star. Public Domain,

Harris said of her selection:

This is like winning the lottery and the Pulitzer Prize in one day. I am so honored and thrilled to join the ranks of revered writers who are Grand Masters. I thank the MWA Board from the bottom of my heart.

The Raven Award

Malice Domestic mystery conference, founded in 1989 and held every spring since, will receive the 2021 Raven Award, which recognizes outstanding achievement in the mystery field outside the realm of creative writing. 

Malice Domestic focuses primarily on traditional mysteries, their authors and fans, and also presents the Agatha Awards, with six categories.

[Thanks to Cora Buhlert for the story.]

MWA’s 2020 Grand Master Is Barbara Neely

Barbara Neely

Mystery Writers of America (MWA) announced the recipients of three special awards on December 13. Barbara Neely has been named the 2020 Grand Master; the 2020 Raven Award recipient is Left Coast Crime, an annual convention; and Kelley Ragland will receive the Ellery Queen Award at the Edgar Awards Banquet in New York City on April 30, 2020.

MWA Grand Master

MWA board president Meg Gardiner said:

Neely is a groundbreaking author, and MWA is delighted to recognize her work, in which she tackles tough social issues with an unflinching eye and a wry sense of humor.

MWA’s Grand Master Award acknowledges important contributions to the mystery genre, as well as for a body of work that is both significant and of consistent high quality. Barbara Neely is best known for her Blanche White mystery series, and her debut, Blanche on the Lam, received the Agatha Award, Anthony Award, and the Macavity Award for best first novel, as well as the Go on Girl! Award from Black Women’s Reading Club. Neely published her first short story, “Passing the Word” (1981) in the magazine Essence.

Her Blanche White novels, which featured the first black female series sleuth in mainstream American publishing, followed a decade later beginning with Blanche on the Lam (1992), followed by Blanche Among the Talented Tenth (1994), Blanche Cleans Up (1998), and Blanche Passes Go (2000) and are beloved by fans in part because of her unique heroine—an amateur detective and domestic worker who uses the invisibility inherent to her position to her advantage in her pursuit of the truth.

“MWA Grand Master! I hope this doesn’t mean I have to relinquish my position as Empress Regnant of the Multiverse,” Neely said on learning of the award.

Neely’s nomination cited the stories of Blanche White for containing themes and issues that extends beyond mystery and into political and social commentary:

Blanche allows Neely to explore the female beauty. There are other issues that Neely is able to tackle through her writing—such as violence against women, racism, class boundaries, and sexism. Barbara Neely is quoted as saying, ‘That as a feminist mystery writer it is not enough to create strong women, and that maybe the term ‘feminist mystery writer’ is being used too loosely.’

Neely attended the University of Pittsburgh where she earned her master’s degree in Urban and Regional planning before beginning a career in the public sector. Neely served as director of Women for Economic Justice, worked in the Philadelphia Tutorial Project, became the director of a YWCA, and headed a consultant firm for nonprofits. In addition, she became a radio producer for Africa News Service, and later, a staff member at Southern Exposure magazine.

The Raven Award

Left Coast Crime will receive the 2020 Raven Award for outstanding achievement in the mystery field outside the realm of creative writing.. Left Coast Crime is an annual mystery convention sponsored by mystery fans, both readers and authors, first held in San Francisco in 1991.

The all-volunteer organization raises money each year to support a local literacy organization with funds collected through silent and live auctions, and the annual Quilt Raffle. The Left Coast Crime Permanent Committee is Bill and Toby Gottfried, Noemi Levine, Janet Rudolph, Lucinda Surber, and Stan Ulrich.

The Ellery Queen Award

The award, established in 1983, honors “outstanding writing teams and outstanding people in the mystery-publishing industry.” This year the Board chose to honor Kelley Ragland, associate publisher and editorial director of Minotaur Books. Ragland came to Minotaur Books in 1993.

On learning she would receive the Ellery Queen Award, Ragland said:

I’m honored and not a little bit stunned to have been recognized by MWA with the Ellery Queen Award. To be added to a list that includes such inspiring professionals in our community, especially St. Martin’s own Ruth Cavin, is truly humbling. My work with mystery authors at Minotaur Books, which celebrated its 20th anniversary this year, and within the mystery community—what I have always found to be the most supportive, generous, and dedicated slice of the publishing world—is a source of great joy to me. Thanks to MWA for this recognition, and their support of all facets of the mystery community, including publishers, writers—especially new writers—and readers.