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.

MWA’s 2019 Special Edgar Awards Include Protested Grand Master

Mystery Writers of America has named two new Grand Masters – Linda Fairstein and Martin Cruz Smith — plus the winners of several other awards: “MWA Announces 2019 Special Edgar Awards – Grand Master, Raven and Ellery Queen Award Recipients”. However, Fairstein’s selection is being protested by one of last year’s Edgar-winning writers.

2019 Grand Masters

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.

Martin Cruz Smith, the son of a jazz musician and a Native American chanteuse, is perhaps best known for his eight-novel series featuring Arkady Renko, who first appeared in Gorky Park. That book was turned into an award-winning motion picture starring William Hurt and Lee Marvin. Even before his breakout with the Arkady series, Smith had received two Edgar nominations for books in his Roman Gray series, Gypsy in Amber (1971) and Canto for a Gypsy (1972). Both books were originally published under his birth name, Martin Smith, but when he learned that there were six other Martin Smiths who wrote novels he adopted Cruz, his paternal grandmother’s surname, to differentiate himself. Smith also received an Edgar nomination in 1978 for Nightwing, a standalone that drew upon his own tribal ancestry, and has written more than thirty novels in a career that spans nearly five decades.

“When I was a mere strip of a ‘gunsel’, I attended the 1971 Mystery Writers Edgar Award dinner,” Smith said when informed of the honor. “I was overwhelmed to be in the presence of talents like Dick Francis, Donald Westlake and Ross McDonald. Once again, I find myself in the company of wonderful mystery writers at the height of their talent. I’m knocked out, floored and honored. Spasibo.”

Linda Fairstein became a sex-crimes prosecutor during a time when sex crimes were almost impossible to prosecute. In her 30-year tenure at the Manhattan DA’s Office, she was a pioneer in the war against rape, fighting for historic changes to the criminal justice system and for justice on behalf of victims of the most heinous crimes. When she left the District Attorney’s office in 2002, she became a novelist – writing about her alter-ego, Manhattan sex-crimes prosecutor Alexandra Cooper. Ms. Fairstein’s first novel, Final Jeopardy, was a New York Times bestseller and made into an ABC Movie of the Week starring Dana Delaney. Ms. Fairstein has since written twenty Alexandra Cooper mysteries, most of which have become instant New York Times bestsellers, and which have been translated into dozens of languages. Her novels draw on Ms. Fairstein’s legal expertise as well as her knowledge of and affection for the rich history of the city of New York.

Attica Locke, who won a 2018 Edgar Award for her novel Bluebird, Bluebird, a mystery featuring a black Texas Ranger as protagonist, is calling on MWA to withdraw Fairstein’s honors. Locke’s thread starts here.

MWA has responded, saying they are “Addressing concerns about a Grand Master recipient”

We are taking seriously the issues raised by Attica Locke. Our Board is going to discuss these concerns as soon as possible and make a further statement soon.

Paraphrasing the Wikipedia:

Linda Fairstein’s office supervised the prosecution in 1990 of the Central Park Jogger case, which ended in the conviction of five teenagers who were later exonerated of any part in the crime. In a settlement lawsuit it was claimed that Fairstein, with the assistance of the detectives at the 20th precinct, coerced false confessions from the five arrested teenagers following thirty straight hours of interrogation and intimidation, of both the youths and their supporting adults. …Fairstein’s behavior seemed so outrageous that in the 1993 appeals decision on Salaam’s case then appellate court judge Vito Titone specifically named her in his dissenting opinion and said in an interview, “I was concerned about a criminal justice system that would tolerate the conduct of the prosecutor, Linda Fairstein, who deliberately engineered the 15-year-old’s confession. … Fairstein wanted to make a name. She didn’t care. She wasn’t a human.” All five convictions were vacated in 2002 after convicted rapist Matias Reyes confessed to the crime…

Three of the defendants sued the city of New York for malicious prosecution, racial discrimination and emotional distress. A proposed settlement in the case was reached on June 19, 2014.

Ken Burns made a film about The Central Park Five (2012), and Ava DuVernay is producing a miniseries for Netflix, Central Park Five (2019).

Raven Award

The Raven Award recognizes outstanding achievement in the mystery field outside the realm of creative writing.

Marilyn Stasio will receive the 2019 Raven Award. Ms. Stasio has been the mystery critic for the New York Times Book Review (and other magazines) for thirty years—since 1988—with hundreds of books coming under her loving, unforgiving, eye.  Whether her judgment is elegiac or brutal, when it comes to the mystery genre, a Stasio review is a thing to be treasured or feared, but always learned from.

“Goodness, I feel like Sally Field.  (“Wow!  You like me!  You actually like me!”)  When I think of the great people the MWA has honored in the past — people like Edward Gorey and Vincent Price — I want to duck behind the door.  My only wish is that those great guys were still around to hand me the Raven, which I promise to treasure.”

Ellery Queen Award

The Ellery Queen Award was established in 1983 to honor “outstanding writing teams and outstanding people in the mystery-publishing industry.”

Linda Landrigan. Ms. Landrigan came to Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine in 1997 as an associate editor and has been its editor since 2002. Under her leadership, the magazine has not only continued to thrive but has also navigated dramatic changes in the publishing industry—she has overseen the introduction of AHHM in digital formats as well as the creation of a podcast series featuring audio recordings of stories from the magazine as well as interviews with authors.

The 73rd Annual Edgar Awards Banquet will be held at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City on April 25, 2019.