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Friday, April 30, 2004

So forth, the Nevermores 

[Edgar report later, or perhaps tomorrow. In the meantime, the winners are posted here.

As I'd said before, I didn't attend the Agents & Editors party because I had my priorities straight--i.e., I needed a nap. Instead, my friend Mary and I got to Partners & Crime about a half-hour before the festivities were to start, and could see just how bedecked the store was. Gorgeous food platters everywhere, balloons and flowers, too. I said hello to my former colleagues and caught up a bit, but at a little past seven, it was already becoming obvious that conversations would be a premium.

I don't believe they expected the kind of crowd they got--which was large. Extremely large. Several chairs were set up so that took away some valuable space but it didn't make all that much of a difference. It also was extremely cool, as Ron pointed out in an earlier post, to be offered a pate or delicacy from the likes of Anthony Bourdain, who is a good friend of store co-owner Maggie Topkis. I didn't get to talk to him but he was hard to miss, being so tall and with his distinctive visage.

I was introduced to Jason Starr and had a great conversation about noir, the two upstart imprints Hard Case Crime and Point Blank Press and how Scottish writer and editor Allan Guthrie has his hands all over those new publishing outlets. Also made some nice conversation with Colin Harrison, author of THE HAVANA ROOM, a title which would have a lot more significance later on in the evening. And as I mentioned before, I finally met Olen Steinhauer as well as his agent Matt Williams. Some of Tuesday's partiers were in attendance Wednesday night as well, including Lauren Henderson, S.J. Rozan, Ken Bruen, Rebecca Pawel, Jim Hime, and James O. Born, while others stopping in after the A&E Party included Lee Child, Alafair Burke, and Katherine Clark. And more, oh so many more, but my memory bank has limited capacity, after all...

So, the show. There was much to it, and I won't get into everything, but the people at Partners went all out and their efforts were duly rewarded with laughter and guffaws--and some occasional surprises. After quickly dispensing with some industry awards ("Stupid Publisher Tricks," "Good Fences Make Good Neighbors" Award to Amazon for violating agreements about US/UK distribution and ordering) they got right into the opening musical number, set to the tune of "Fugue for Tinhorns" from GUYS AND DOLLS. In "Fugue for Booksellers," a shy lass is just trying to find the right book for her, and she's bombarded with choice: hardboiled (Ken Bruen's THE GUARDS), erudite (Jasper Fforde's LOST IN A GOOD BOOK) or cozy? As that mantle was represented by Lauren Henderson's FREEZE MY MARGARITA, it wasn't exactly, erm, accurate. And Lauren protested in turn throughout. I watched her gesticulations from the back and I can't say I blame her--surely a cat mystery would have worked in her place? But the parody was nicely done (nicely sung too, since Kate Nesbit, the manager, is a classically-trained opera singer) and got a hearty round of applause.

Many of the award winners were not in attendance, but Andrew Klavan (winning for the most grabbing opening line in a crime novel for DON'T SAY A WORD) sent in a rather hilarious speech in thanks, as did Thomas Perry and Ed McBain for their award wins. Colin Harrison accepted in person for the "Havana Award", as over the last year, a whole bunch of books were set or used the city name in the title--Harrison's irony, of course, is that his book has nothing to do with Cuba. Which was why he won. He was a good sport about it though.

To close the evening, there was the "Better Dead than Read" Award for worst opening paragraph of one of three categories: Hardboiled, historical, and cozy. Two of the honors went to the lovely and talented Donna Moore, meaning she won more Nevermores than anyone else that night. The first win elicited a loud roar from a certain section (with an isolated cheer in the back, from, well, me.) That entry combined the hardboiled cliche--but told from the point of view of a teenager taking care of his baby sister. For some reason it was just great to watch people like Bourdain laughing uproariously at Donna's comedic touch--and she claims she's not a writer! Not yet, maybe, but all in due time...

Afterwards, there was cake. Oh, and it was glorious, and I barely had any because I was going out to dinner. Tried to corral Ken Bruen into coming along, but he was otherwise engaged, and ended up at a nearby bar (one of my favorites, the Stoned Crow) along with Lauren, Jim Born, Ron, Jason Starr, and others. I heard the next day that the drinking went on a while--that, in fact, some persons never actually got any sleep....

Meanwhile I celebrated Donna's win with her, Olen, Rebecca, and Bev and Kathy from the 4 Mystery Addicts list. We talked about the Edgars, publishing war stories, slush pile horrors, and why inexplicably, Pawel's books aren't available in Spanish, considering they are set in wartime Spain. Hopefully, that will change now.

And so I was in bed at a reasonably early hour--with little idea of what was in store for the Big Show. And as for that account, like I keep saying--stay tuned...

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