The Edgar Award is named after Edgar Allen Poe, and is awarded to authors who have distinguished themselves in the genre of mystery. It’s sponsored and awarded by the Mystery Writers of America and has been since 1946 with the first recipient, “Watchful at Night” by Julius Faust.
The first step in the awards process is the selection of the General Awards chair. He/she then chooses chairs for each of the individual Edgar categories and one for the Mary Higgins Clark award. Then those thirteen chairs select four additional judges, but for the Novel of the Year, they choose eight judges.
Throughout the year, nominated books are mailed to the judges. It’s quite an arduous task to read each and every book – hundreds are sent in. On some books, the judges can make exceptions. For instance, if they’re fifty pages in and just can’t get involved in the story, they can move on. Every book submitted gets at least fifty pages, which is highly generous.
The judges then begin compiling a Top Ten List, and they rank the books they read according to the merit of each book. At the end of the year, the Top Ten List from each judge is compiled into a master list. The books are once again ranked, and the top five nominees are chosen, as well as the winner, who is honored at a banquet. Then the process starts all over again.
The categories are: Best Novel, Best First Novel, Best Paperback Original, Best Critical/Biographical, Best Fact Crime, Best Short Story, Best Children’s Mystery, Best Young Adult Mystery, Best Motion Picture Screenplay, Best Television Feature, Best Television, Best Play, and the Mary Higgins Clark award, which is given to the individual who writes a book most closely written in the Mary Higgins Clark tradition.
Only publishers and agents may submit books to be reviewed, and they have to send a copy of the book to each member of the committee in charge of their category. There is no entry fee.
Winners for 2006 were:
“Citizen Vince” by Jess Walter
“Officer Down” by Theresa Schwegel
“Girl in the Glass” by Jeffrey Ford
“Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her” by Melanie Rehak
“Rescue Artist: A True Story of Art, Thieves, and the Hunt for a Missing Masterpiece” by Edward Dolnick
“The Catch” – Greatest Hits by James W. Hall
“Last Shot” by John Feinstein
“The Boys of San Joaquin” by D. James Smith
“Matter of Intent” by Gary Earl Ross
“Sea of Souls” – “Amulet” Teleplay by Ed Whitmore
“Syriana” – Screenplay by Stephen Gaghan, based on the book by Robert Baer
“Dark Angel” by Karen Harper
The 2007 winners will be announced early in 2008.
A book or screenplay that has taken the Edgar Award is truly worth the applause. It has passed under the scrutiny of industry professionals who know quality when they see it, and is very coveted by anyone who writes in the genre.