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).
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.
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….