The Mystery Writers of America announced the winners of this year’s Edgar Awards at a banquet in New York tonight.
The Edgar Awards, named of course for Edgar Allan Poe, honor writers of crime and suspense in a variety of fields. First, congratulations to William Kent Krueger, winner of best novel for “Ordinary Grace.”
The prize for best paperback original went to Alex Marwood for “The Wicked Girls” and best first novel to Jason Matthews for “Red Sparrow.” Meanwhile, Amy Timberlake took home the prize for best juvenile book with “One Came Home,” and Annabel Pitcher for best young adult for “Ketchup Clouds.”
Daniel Stashtower won the nonfiction category for “The Hour of Peril: The Secret Plot to Murder Lincoln Before the Civil War.”
(For the record, I’ve never won the award, though my Solomon & Lord novel, “The Deep Blue Alibi,” was nominated in 2007).
Edgar Awards for the Screen: Whither Film?
The best television script was deemed to be the pilot episode of “The Fall” by Alan Cubitt in a coup for newcomer Netflix.
The best screenplay for a feature film was….none.
It’s a pet peeve of mine. The MWA stopped giving the feature film category in 2009. (The last winner was the terrific British comedic thriller “In Bruges,” which proved Collin Farrell could act. We already knew Brendan Gleason could).
The film was written and directed by Martin McDonagh. The darkly funny film is about two Irish hitmen, hiding in the scenic Belgian city of Bruges, and contains a couple of terrific dramatic twists. It deserves to be ranked among the best of the Edgar Awards for screenwriting.
It’s just a shame the MWA dropped the feature film prize award after 65 years of giving Edgar Awards to screenwriters. But don’t blame the organization. It was Hollywood that simply stopped submitting scripts and DVD’s. Unlike television producers, feature filmmakers just don’t consider the Edgar Awards nearly as important as the Oscars or the Golden Globes. (It’s different in television. I’m a former member of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, and I can attest to the lengths the networks go to get their scripts, DVD’s, and promotional material in front of Emmy voters).
So, what are we missing now that feature films are missing from the Edgar Awards. Well, just consider the past winners:
Edgar Awards: “Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.”
The feature film winners cover a wide range from noir to satire, from corrupt cops to high school girls named Heather. Still, some themes span the decades:
Corruption: “Chinatown” (Robert Towne); “Witness” (William Kelley, Earl W. Wallace); and “L.A. Confidential” (Brian Helgeland, Curtis Hanson from James Ellroy’s novel).
“They call me Mister Tibbs.”
Socially Conscious Films: “In the Heat of the Night” (Sterling Silliphant from John Ball’s novel); “Twelve Angry Men” (Reginald Rose); and “The Defiant Ones” (Nathan E. Douglas, Harold J. Smith).
“That’s funny. That plane’s dustin’ crops where there ain’t no crops.”
Hitchcock: Alfred Hitchcock seems to get all the credit, but the brilliant dialogue was written by others. “North by Northwest” (Ernest Lehman) and “Family Plot” (Ernest Lehman from Victor Canning’s novel); “Psycho” (Joseph Stefano from Robert Bloch’s novel); and “Rear Window” (John Michael Hayes from Cornell Woolrich’s short story).
“A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans.”
Thrills and Laughs: Even a thriller can have moments of dark humor. “The Silence of the Lambs” (Ted Tally from Thomas Harris’ novel) and “Pulp Fiction” (Quentin Tarantino, Roger Avary). Occasionally, satire has been rewarded: “Heathers” (Daniel Waters) and “The Player” (Michael Tolkien from his novel).
Sometimes, the winner simply defies categorization. The musical “Chicago” razzle-dazzled the voters in 2003, getting the nod over “Road to Perdition.” Don’t get me wrong. “Chicago” is a wonderful adaptation of show about celebrity and crime. It’s just, as far as I know, the only musical to ever be ranked among the winners of Edgar Awards.
So what’s the future of mystery and crime films? For one thing, expect fewer novels to be the source material for Hollywood. When studio execs talk about “tentpole” movies with nine-figure budgets, they’re not looking for character-driven novels in the tradition of “The Maltese Falcon.”
There’s a similar pattern in network television. “Law & Order” and its spawn created an era of crime shows heavy on procedure and light on character. (During one nine year period — 1997 to 2005 — the “Law & Order” shows won seven of nine television Edgar Awards). Thankfully, cable has brought us shows with richer characters. HBO’s “True Detective” and FX’s “Justified” come to mind.
Still at the risk of sounding as obsolete as a Betamax, I miss my favorites of the seventies and eighties: “The Rockford Files,” “Quincy,” “Magnum, P.I.,” “Hill Street Blues,” “L.A. Law,” and “Moonlighting.”
But then, someone should just tell me: “Forget it, Paul. It’s Hollywood.”
(All the winners (and nominees) for this year’s Edgar Awards can be found here. Prior Edgar Awards winners beginning with 1954’s best novel “Beat Not the Bones” by Charlotte Jay can be found in Wikipedia here).