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Thinking about Edgar

So the Mystery Writers of America presented the 65th Edgar Awards in New York City last night. I am a member of the MWA, and have been – proudly – since Keeper was published, ohsomanyyearsagonow.

The MWA is a Good Thing, and its history is one of which I am proud, and I am – when I look at its list of members past and present – frankly dubious of my right to count myself amongst their company. But they let me in, and I’m not leaving until they pry my cold, dead grip from the doorframe, splinters and all coming with me. If I’m honest, I barely make it through the door – my skill at The Mystery is feeble at best, in my opinion; Suspense I’m pretty darn good at, and I know my stories well, I believe. But I have never mastered the intricacy and elegance of the well-plotted mystery, at least to my satisfaction.

But this is neither here nor there. This is not what brings me writing. What brings me writing is that, as I look over the list of categories for this year (and years past), I find an omission. The Edgars are “Awarded by the Mystery Writers of America, for distinguished work in the mystery genre: novels, television, and motion pictures.“ Best Novel (congratulation to Steve Hamilton for his terrific novel, The Lock Artist), Best First Novel by an American Author (kudos to Bruce DeSilva for Rogue Island, which I confess to having not yet read and will seek to immediately rectify the situation), and the list goes on and on. Best Fact Crime, Best Paperback Original, Best Critical-slash-Biographical Work, Best Juvenile, Best Young Adult, Best Stageplay, Best Television Episode, the naming of the new Grandmaster (pretty much the highest honor our community can confer, this year granted to the amazing and ground-breaking Sara Paretsky).

No comics.

I don’t know why it’s taken me so many years to really recognize this omission, but this year, I did. This year, I found myself thinking about Ed Brubaker and Brian Bendis and Jason Aaron and all the others out there who write mysteries and crime fiction and police-slash-investigative procedurals in the comics medium… and I’m wondering why we do not have a category for works like these. Works that are certainly just as legitimate and capable of the same elegance and power that novels and teleplays can achieve.

The mystery, as a genre, has suffered from much the same ghettoization, slight, and ridicule as comics. It’s been called anti-literary and – gasp! – popular, where “popular” means “read by many people and therefore cannot possibly have merit.” Mysteries have been accused of pandering, sensationalism, being overly lurid, of corrupting our youth. The mystery and the comic share a parent in the form of the pulps.

Sound familiar? Sound like any other medium? (Well, aside from that one… and that one… and yes, that one…)

So, an open question: why isn’t there an Edgar category for Best Comic Book Story/Graphic Novel?

And in lieu of a compelling answer to that question, I’m thinking maybe next year, maybe for the 66th Annual Edgar Awards, there ought to be one.

Just a thought.

Back to the novel….

5 Responses to Thinking about Edgar

  1. Len Berry

    I hope the MWA does start a comics category for the Edgar Awards. I know that a few of the science fiction awards have had such a category for many years, the nominees of which could often be described as mysteries.

  2. Jared

    Interesting thoughts. Made me think of a few random thoughts….

    1. Reminded of when when they amended the World Fantasy award rules after Gaiman won for short fiction w/ Sandman to say that graphic content could not be nominated. That was utter BS. And to date there is still no graphic story category.

    2. Why is Rankin’s and Mina’s Vertigo Crime GNs not filed with their other books in the mystery section? Makes me crazy.

    So basically, I hear where you are coming from.

    On a positive note, glad to see Steve Hamilton seems to have hit one out of the park w/ The Lock Artist. Love the Mcknight series but thought the Night Work stand alone was not very good. Will have to check out the Lock artist!

  3. J Culuris

    While I realize this is beside the point, I have to disagree with your self-criticism in the opening. Of course you did add the qualifier: “. . . at least to my satisfaction.” I won’t let that stop me. I’m referring to A Shooting at Midnight. And I do understand that the mystery elements were also beside the point, in the context of the story you were telling. But in this type of story it should be. Nevertheless, your explanation of who committed the murder and how the gun was involved was both surprising and satisfying. They (the MWA) let you in because you belong in their company.

  4. Dwight Williams

    Wondering about the Arthur Ellis awards in Canada as well. Although to be fair, it’s not as if there’s a surfeit of such homegrown OGNs in the mystery/crime drama genres hereabouts at the moment to the best of my knowledge.

  5. Chris

    A nice thought, and something worthy to hope for. But there has always been a sad irony with the American comic scene. Our comics seem to simply be a gateway to various genres (SF, crime, what have you) for young readers. But after a while, comics get the lip service but not the actual respect.

    Sleeper and Incognito are fantastic reads and, differences in the mediums not withstanding, I’d hold them in the same light of any James Ellroy novel. But the words “comic book” still carry enough of a stigma that they’re held in a lower level of esteem.

    Maybe someday :)

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