I’m not much for banquets, preferring smaller, more conversational dinners with a handful of friends. (Bouchercon Saturday’s dinner with The Beloved Spouse, Jacques Fillippi, John McFetridge, Peter Rozovsky, and Kenneth Wishnia was about as close to a perfect situation as I could ask for.) Still, I had been told the Private Eye Writers of America shindig was big fun, and, I’d been nominated for an award (free food!), so I figured, what the hell?
Good call, even though I didn’t win.
Bob Randisi was unable to attend due to recent surgery, so Max Allan Collins stood in for him as the Master of Ceremonies and did a rousing job. Not only was he entertaining as hell, it was touching to see his genuine emotion when a piece he co-wrote with Mickey Spillane won the short story award. I spoke with Max about working with Mickey several years ago, and the affection and admiration he feels is obvious. To see how he responded to this award would have been reason enough to go.
There was, of course, more. The presentations were handled with the right amount of fun and respect, and all the winners were gracious in their acceptances. The camaraderie among the group was obvious, a microcosm of Bouchercon: a group of writers who feel strongly about a chosen genre, aren’t bashful about expressing it, and were delighted to be in the company of other like-minded aficionados. Declan Hughes has said PI stories are the highest form of crime fiction, and, when well done, I agree with him. This gathering recaptured, for me, a bit of what I felt when I heard him make those comments in Baltimore, 2008: I was proud to write in the PI genre, and doubly so that one of my contributions had been recognized.
This brings us to the primary reason for this post. (Yeah, I know. I buried the lede.) PWA appreciates what many other organizations do not: there is independently published fiction that is worth not only reading, but celebrating. These books and authors may not have been deemed worthy by the traditional gatekeepers—A Small Sacrifice was passed over by all the major houses—possibly for reasons other than quality. (Too small a niche, not easily marketable, too much of a “guy’s book,” whatever. If I have learned one thing about this business, it’s that few editors or agents can tell you what will sell, but they can all tell you what won’t.) There is a fertile cadre of conscientious and talented writers who may never break into prominence, but who take their work as seriously as more renowned authors, and may, at times, produce books worthy of mention in the same breath with their more celebrated peers.
So, thank you to Bob Randisi and everyone connected with PWA for making me feel as though I was involved in something worthwhile. This is no small part of the reason I’ve decided to get the Nick Forte stories that have lingered on my hard drive for years out into the public over the next year. Last week’s release of The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of was a little rushed, as my enthusiasm got ahead of my logistics, but I’ll be sure to do the other two right, while I spend most of 2015 working on Forte’s fifth adventure. I’m as jazzed about this project as for anything I’ve ever worked on.