Thursday, May 19, 2022


 It has been my good fortune of late to have several friends nominated for – and sometimes win – significant awards. (Or maybe it’s their good fortune. None of these folks won dick before they knew me. Coincidence? You decide.) I was also a judge for a national award this year, so awards have been on my mind.


Last week The Beloved Spouse™ and I watched the classic movie The Hustler. (More on that to come.) In looking at the trivia in IMDB, I saw that George C. Scott declined his nomination for Best Supporting Actor, saying that actors should not be in competition with each other except when auditioning for the same part. I knew Scott refused his Oscar for Patton, but was unaware he had already established his opposition to the entire idea of awards.


What does George C. Scott have to do with writing awards? Bear with me. I promise to be brief.


Working with the other members of the committee I served on was a pleasure. I knew them at least a little before we began, and I now feel closer to all of them. It was also supremely flattering to have been asked to serve.


I requested the Best First Novel committee, to avoid having to pass judgment on friend’s books. I figured the odds of me knowing a first timer were slim, and I was right. I recognized a couple of names, but no one I knew entered the competition.


I still found the process to be unpleasant, at least as far as making my decisions went. This is no reflection on the books submitted. I was a lot more uncomfortable than I thought I’d be in passing judgment on the books of strangers.


I should have known. I stopped doing anything other than positive reviews years ago. Once I understood how much goes into completing a novel, then the challenges of finding a publisher, marketing, getting reviews, and all the other things that exist in the penumbra of a book, I wasn’t about to make things harder for anyone.


I’m not against the concept of awards. I have two Shamus nominations myself, so I appreciate the sense of validation that comes through public recognition by one’s peers. I’ll always be grateful to PWA for the nominations. Should I ever win one, I will accept graciously and gratefully.


That doesn’t mean I’m any less uncomfortable with making the evaluation myself. I understand someone has to do it, and I applaud those who carve out the time and energy to make fair and reasoned decisions. It takes a special kind of care, skill, and mindset to be a good and conscientious award judge. I just don’t appear to be one of them.


Congratulations to everyone who makes a short list. It’s harder every year to rise above the crowd as more books get published and online marketing becomes more sophisticated. Enjoy the moment, whether you win or not. I have nothing but fond memories of the Shamus dinners I’ve attended, and I lost both years I received nominations. No one will applaud louder than I for this year’s winners.