Monday, February 02, 2004

Edgar Nominees: Mystery Unveiled

The Mystery Writers of America has released its nominations for this year's Edgar Awards. The winners will be announced Thursday, April 29, at the 58th annual Edgar Awards dinner gala at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City. For more information about the awards and organization, go to the Mystery Writers' Web site ( ).

Best Novel

* The Guards by Ken Bruen (St. Martin's Minotaur)
* Out by Natsuo Kirino (Kodansha International)
* Resurrection Men by Ian Rankin (Little, Brown)
* Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear (Soho Press)

[Note: Lost Light by Michael Connelly (Little, Brown) was also nominated in this category, but Connelly withdrew his book from consideration because he's president of MWA.]

Best First Novel by an American Author

* 12 Bliss Street by Martha Conway (St. Martin's Minotaur)
* Offer of Proof by Robert Heilbrun (Morrow)
* Night of the Dance by James Hime (St. Martin's Minotaur)
* Death of a Nationalist by Rebecca Pawel (Soho Press)
* The Bridge of Sighs by Olen Steinhauer (St. Martin's Minotaur)

Best Paperback Original

* Cut and Run by Jeff Abbott (NAL-Penguin)
* The Last Witness by Joel Goldman (Pinnacle)
* Wisdom of the Bones by Christopher Hyde (NAL-Penguin)
* Southland by Nina Rovoyr (Akashic Books)
* Find Me Again by Sylvia Maultash Warsh (Dundurn Group)

Best Critical/Biographical

* Mystery Women, Volume 3 by Colleen Barnett (Poisoned Pen Press)
* Amelia Peabody's Egypt: A Compendium edited by Elizabeth Peters and
Kristen Whitbread (Morrow)
* Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light by Patrick
McGilligan (HarperCollins)
* The American Police Novel: A History by Leroy Lad Panek (McFarland)
* Beautiful Shadow: A Life of Patricia Highsmith by Andrew Wilson

Best Fact Crime

* Black Dahlia Avenger: A Genius for Murder by Steve Hodel (Arcade)
* The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson (Random/Crown)
* Judgment Ridge: The True Story Behind the Dartmouth Murders by Dick
Lehr and Mitchell Zuckoff (HarperCollins)
* And the Dead Shall Rise: The Murder of Mary Phagan and the Lynching
of Leo Frank by Steve Oney (Pantheon)
* Rothstein: The Life, Times and Murder of the Criminal Genius Who
Fixed the 1919 World Series by David Pietrusza (Carroll & Graf)

Best Short Story

* "Bet on Red" in High Stakes by Jeff Abbott (NAL-Penguin)
* "Black Heart & Cabin Girl" in Blood on Their Hands by Shelly Costa
(Berkley Prime Crime)
* "Aces and Eights" by David Edgerley Gates (AHMM, December 2003)
* "The Maids" in Blood on Their Hands by G. Miki Hayden (Berkley
Prime Crime)
* "Cowboy Grace" in The Silver Gryphon by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
(Golden Gryphon)

Jan. 31, 2004, 7:24PM

Book turns leader's daughter into Ireland's literary darling

Cecelia Ahern is garnering publicity, six-figure deals and Hollywood interest
Associated Press

DUBLIN, Ireland -- In Ireland, a first-time author is garnering bucketloads of publicity, six-figure deals and Hollywood interest for her new tear-jerker novel. She also happens to be the prime minister's daughter.

Cecelia Ahern, 22, who spent a recent Saturday signing newly minted copies of PS, I Love You for several hundred fans at a Dublin bookstore, rejects claims her success is due to the high profile of her father, Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern.

"I think it's very flattering for Dad, actually, to think he has all this influence with Hollywood and all over the world," she said.

She may have a point. The novel already has proved exceptionally attractive to publishers in countries where, as the young author puts it, "the reaction is, `Bertie who?' "

PS, I Love You has been snapped up by publishers in 23 countries, including a $1 million deal with Hyperion in the United States. Hollywood producer Wendy Finerman, who shared a 1994 Oscar for Forrest Gump, snapped up the film rights for $100,000 -- altogether enough money, Ahern says, for her to buy her first laptop and move out of her mother's house.

Cecelia Ahern's lineage is the buzz topic in Dublin, where an initial print run of 50,000 copies has made PS, I Love You an immediate best seller.

The novel tells the story of Holly, a 30-year-old Dubliner whose husband, Gerry, dies unexpectedly of a brain tumor. Holly discovers he has left her 10 sealed envelopes containing monthly tasks Holly must complete or challenges she must face -- each designed to help her come to grips with her grief and embrace life again.

Ireland's airwaves and newspapers have devoted unusual space to discussing whether Ahern's work is an exceptional piece of "chick lit."

"Heartbreak, intrigue and love letters from beyond the grave -- read that lot on a back cover, and you'll find it hard to put it down," said a review in the Irish Times, Ireland's often-stuffy newspaper of record, which found Ahern's style flawed but "neither syrupy nor stilted, with promising flashes of humor and a relaxedly bawdy use of expletives."

Other critics have been nastier, quoting particularly wooden bits of dialogue from the book. But the level-headed Ahern said her political pedigree means she's tough enough to take it -- and she's already written her second novel.

"I grew up seeing people write terrible and untrue things every day about my dad, who works 24/7 in politics and is an amazing man," she said. "So if there is constructive criticism, I'm going to take it -- if I agree with it. Fortunately, there's nothing I agree with so far!"

Her success story has added a new twist to one of Ireland's longest-running soap operas -- the life and loves of Bertie Ahern.

Ahern is Ireland's first prime minister to suffer an openly broken marriage. His daughters, Cecelia and Georgina, have remained close to their father but grew up with their mother, Miriam, in a country where divorce was illegal until 1997.

As prime minister since 1997, Ahern traveled across Ireland and the world with his longtime partner, Celia Larkin, at his side, courting criticism from religious conservatives in this overwhelmingly Catholic country. But their relationship fell apart last year. Since then, Irish tabloids have speculated about a Bertie-Miriam reconciliation.

The Ahern clan also gained in the domestic glamour stakes last year when Georgina married Nicky Byrne of Ireland's best-known boy band, Westlife.

Cecelia Ahern says she has no intention of drawing on her parents' troubles for inspiration.

"I have an imagination of my own," she said. "There's plenty of ideas floating around up there already."

The book that spawned a monster

By Stephen Dowling
BBC News Online entertainment staff

It is 30 years since Peter Benchley's tale of a menacing Great White shark was published. BBC News Online looks at the book's legacy.
If anything helped to make a modern villain of sharks - and especially the Great White - it was Peter Benchley's debut novel Jaws.

In 1974 Benchley struck a chord with the story of a resort town menaced by a giant shark - a terror older than man himself.

The book starts with a Great White shark lurking off the eastern resort town of Amity, which kills a girl taking a midnight swim.

Her remains are found by local police chief Martin Brody , who believes the killer is now lurking offshore, but the local mayor, afraid a summer shark scare will bankrupt the town, refuses to close the beaches.

The book came, the author said, from a simple newspaper story.

'Moral crisis'

"In 1964 I saw a small item in the New York Daily News about a fisherman who caught a 4,550lb Great White off the beaches of Long Island," Benchley told BBC Radio 4's Front Row programme.

"And I thought right then 'What if one of these things came round and wouldn't go away?"

Thomas Congdon, an editor at publishers Doubleday in the US, had read some of Benchley's articles. In 1971 he took the 31-year-old writer to lunch to see if the journalist had any book ideas.

None of Benchley's ideas were suitable for a book, the now-retired Mr Congdon told BBC News Online.

"So at the end of the lunch meeting, for something to say over coffee, I asked him if he had an idea for a novel, half-hoping he'd say no. 'Yes,' he said, 'I want to tell the story of a Great White shark that marauds the beaches of a resort town and provokes a moral crisis."

Mr Congdon was certainly interested. "He did a page in my office, and I gave him a cheque for $1,000," he said. "On the basis of that he did me 100 pages.

"The first five pages were just wonderful. They just went in to the eventual book without any changes. The other 95 pages though were on the wrong track. They were humorous. And humour isn't the proper vehicle for a great thriller."

One suggestion for the book's title was The Stillness in the Water - not, Mr Congdon said, a name that rolled off the tongue.

When the book finally got its toothy title it became one of the publishing sensations of US book history, rivalling Herman Melville's other tale of great white denizen of the deep, Moby Dick.

Compared to Steven Spielberg's resulting film, the book had a darker underlying theme. Matt Hooper, the marine biologist brought in to fight the shark, has an affair with Brody's wife Ellen.

Mayor Vaughan's insistence on keeping the beaches open, meanwhile, may have something to do with the fact he owes money to the mafia.

Spielberg has admitted that when he first read the book he found most of the characters unlikeable, and wanted the shark to win.

On publication Jaws was certainly popular - it had already been well-received in book clubs. It stayed on the bestseller list for 44 weeks, according to Carl Gottlieb's The Jaws Log.

Change of heart

By the time summer arrived, Jaws had become a genuine phenomenon.

Sunbathers leafed through the book lying yards away from the sea - the very environment that hid Benchley's finned killer.

Jaws spawned a wave of copycat novels with mutant rats and crabs or rabid dogs as the nemesis - one of the 1970s less enduring literary trends.

Still, Mr Congdon is still happy to praise it. "It's a good novel - it's not great literature and it's not Moby Dick, but it's a well-written book."

The book - great literature or not - did spawn Steven Spielberg's 1975 film version, which arguably kick-started blockbuster movie-making.

Another legacy of Jaws is less trivial. Benchley began to feel guilty about how his novel had turned sharks into villains, and had a very public change of heart: he is now an ardent ocean conservationist - saving sharks is at the top of his agenda.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2004/02/01 12:59:08 GMT


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