Thursday, May 8, 2014

Malice & Mr. Poe

For the last decade, since my first novel was accepted by a publisher, the last days in April and first days of May have been reserved for the Edgars and Malice Domestic.

The Edgar Awards — yes, named for Mr. Poe — are sponsored by the Mystery Writers of America, and are the Oscars of the mystery world. Each of 9 categories is judged by a separate committee of mystery writers. The awards are great fun in a laid-back and witty evening. And you don’t have to show cleavage and be under 40 to get your picture taken! 

Caroline Hart (center) was named a Grand Master this year (along with Robert Crais, far right). 

She gave me my first cover blurb, saying of A Good Knife’s Work “Sheila York combines glamour, humor and the late 1940s in a clever and challenging mystery.” I was a total newbie and she gave me a blurb. It was so kind of her. 

See the full list of this year’s nominees and winners here.

By happy accident, at my table were two of the staff of the Edgar Allan Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia: Jaime Fawcett, the executive director, and Chris Semtner, the curator. They're young, eager, and super enthusiastic about their jobs. I snapped a picture of them, but while it looked great in the darkened banquet room, I had cut off half of Chris’s face (a Poe-esque touch). A new cell phone. I hate learning curves. 

Then a group of us went to the after-party hosted by the legendary editor Otto Penzler, also owner of the famous Mysterious Bookshop, and after that, slid over to an Irish bar across the street. 

That's Reed Farrel Coleman at the left end of the table with his wife, Roseann. Reed will continue the Robert B Parker Jesse Stone series. The new book, Blind Spot, comes out in September. 

I collapsed into my hotel-room bed about 3:00am, then was back up at 7:00am to catch the train for Washington DC and Malice Domestic.

Malice Domestic is a writer/fan convention dedicated to traditional & cozy mysteries.  

Here’s a shot of me and my cohorts on the panel It’s Alive! Mysteries that Bring History to Life. I wish we’d had more time. I was just getting revved up on the subject of how much the Great Golden Age of Film might owe to the censorship of the Production Code when time ran out.

Congrats to my buds Charles Todd (actually Charles and Caroline Todd, who write as a team) and Chris Grabenstein for their Agatha Awards wins — respectively, Best Historical Novel and Best Children's/Young Adult Novel.  

The best moment for me might have been on a quiet ride up in a packed elevator. Just as she got out, a woman turned to me and said, “I just love your books.” And the doors closed. In unison, everybody else in the elevator turned to me and examined my name tag to see who the heck I was. 

Way too quickly, it was time to go home. Red Caps are the best-kept secret (and let’s keep it that way, all right?) in travel. You check in at the Red Cap station, then when the train is ready, you’re escorted (unencumbered by bags) to the train, boarded before the other passengers. Your bags are stowed in a convenient and empty space — no elbows, no fisticuffs — and then you get to pick your seat (mine’s always in the quiet car). You settle in, relax. Let the other people search, dragging their bags behind them, for the last empty seat on the train. All for a tip. I’m $5 a bag, unless it’s full of books that I’ve greedily acquired at an awards celebration and a convention, then the Red Cap gets hazardous duty pay. 

But may be best to avoid asking Amtrak's virtual chat lady for any help. Last month, when I was making my reservations, I typed in "Senior Discounts" and I got hits on how to get information in Spanish. Golly, I hope that was a tech glitch. 

Sheila York
Copyright 2014


  1. Fun and quick visit to the best of the best mystery conferences!! And thanks for the tip about the Red Caps.

    1. But we'll keep this among us, right? hahah. The times I have struggled with bags, and the pokes in the back when the long line starts to move, and standing all the way from Baltimore (where my brother used to live). No more!

  2. Charming and fun piece, Sheila. You make me feel I was right there with you, which I'd love to have been! Some of the best times of my whole life have been attending the Edgars - AND working for the various committees.. for the Edgars and the Symposium.. wouldn't change those moments for diamonds! Thelma

    1. I wish you could have been. It's dress-up without amp-up.

  3. Something I should mention is the dedication of those Edgar committee members who judge the Best Novel, Best First Novel, and Best Paperback Original categories. Hundreds and hundreds of entries. Over 500 for Best Novel this year. I served on two other committees in past years. I had to seriously re-org my life to give the books the attention they deserved. And the total number of entries did not come close to that.