MWA's Special Awards Announcement

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Here is the press release from Mystery Writers of America as they announce their special awards recipients for 2020.

MWA Announces the 2020 Grand Master, Raven and Ellery Queen Award Recipients

BY MWA · DECEMBER 13, 2019

MWA Announces 2020 Grand Master, Raven & Ellery Queen Award Recipients,
Celebrates 75th Anniversary in 2020

December 13, 2019—New York, NY—Today Mystery Writers of America (MWA) announces the recipients of its three special awards. The board chose Barbara Neely as the 2020 Grand Master, the 2020 Raven Award recipient is Left Coast Crime, and Kelley Ragland will receive the Ellery Queen Award at the 74th Annual Edgar Awards Banquet, which will be held at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City on April 30, 2020.

“Mystery Writers of America is thrilled that Barbara Neely is MWA’s 2020 Grand Master,” MWA board president Meg Gardiner said. “Neely is a groundbreaking author, and MWA is delighted to recognize her work, in which she tackles tough social issues with an unflinching eye and a wry sense of humor.”

MWA’s Grand Master Award represents the pinnacle of achievement in mystery writing and was established to acknowledge important contributions to this genre, as well as for a body of work that is both significant and of consistent high quality. Barbara Neely is best known for her Blanche White mystery series, and her debut, Blanche on the Lam, received the Agatha Award, Anthony Award, and the Macavity Award for best first novel, as well as the Go on Girl! Award from Black Women’s Reading Club. Neely published her first short story, “Passing the Word” (1981) in the magazine Essence. Her Blanche White novels, which featured the first black female series sleuth in mainstream American publishing, followed a decade later beginning with Blanche on the Lam(1992), followed by Blanche Among the Talented Tenth (1994), Blanche Cleans Up (1998), and Blanche Passes Go (2000) and are beloved by fans in part because of her unique heroine—an amateur detective and domestic worker who uses the invisibility inherent to her position to her advantage in her pursuit of the truth.

“MWA Grand Master! I hope this doesn’t mean I have to relinquish my position as Empress Regnant of the Multiverse,” Neely said on learning of the award.

Neely’s nomination cited the stories of Blanche White for containing themes and issues that extends beyond mystery and into political and social commentary. “Blanche allows Neely to explore the female beauty. There are other issues that Neely is able to tackle through her writing—such as violence against women, racism, class boundaries, and sexism. Barbara Neely is quoted as saying, ‘That as a feminist mystery writer it is not enough to create strong women, and that maybe the term ‘feminist mystery writer’ is being used too loosely.’”

Neely was born in 1941 in Lebanon, Pennsylvania. According to her biography, she was the only child of African-American descent to attend her elementary and high school in this heavily German influenced community. She attended the University of Pittsburgh where she earned her master’s degree in Urban and Regional planning before beginning a career in the public sector. Neely served as director of Women for Economic Justice, worked in the Philadelphia Tutorial Project, became the director of a YWCA, and headed a consultant firm for nonprofits. In addition, she became a radio producer for Africa News Service, and later, a staff member at Southern Exposure magazine.

Previous Grand Masters include Martin Cruz Smith, William Link, Peter Lovesey, Walter Mosley, Lois Duncan, James Ellroy, Robert Crais, Ken Follett, Martha Grimes, Sara Paretsky, James Lee Burke, Sue Grafton, Stephen King, Mary Higgins Clark, Lawrence Block, P.D. James, Ellery Queen, Daphne du Maurier, Alfred Hitchcock, Graham Greene, and Agatha Christie, to name a few.

The Raven Award recognizes outstanding achievement in the mystery field outside the realm of creative writing. Left Coast Crime will receive the 2020 Raven Award. Left Coast Crime is an annual mystery convention sponsored by mystery fans, both readers and authors, first held in San Francisco in 1991. It is an all-volunteer organization that raises money each year to support a local literacy organization with funds collected through silent and live auctions, and the annual Quilt Raffle. The Left Coast Crime Permanent Committee is Bill and Toby Gottfried, Noemi Levine, Janet Rudolph, Lucinda Surber, and Stan Ulrich.

“We are all agog here at Left Coast Crime by the news that we have been awarded the Raven Award by Mystery Writers of America,” said Surber. “We are truly thrilled and honored to be recognized. Since 1991 Left Coast Crime has been holding annual conventions where readers, authors, critics, librarians, publishers, and other fans can gather in convivial surroundings to pursue their mutual interest in the mystery/crime genre. We strive to create an inclusive environment with many opportunities to build warm and caring friendships through a variety of programming.”

Previous Raven winners include Marilyn Stasio, Raven Bookstore in Lawrence, Kansas, Kristopher Zgorski, Dru Ann Love, Sisters in Crime, Margaret Kinsman, Kathryn Kennison, Jon and Ruth Jordan, Aunt Agatha’s Bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Oline Cogdill, Molly Weston, The Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego, Centuries & Sleuths Bookstore in Chicago, Once Upon a Crime Bookstore in Minneapolis, Mystery Lovers Bookstore in Oakmont, PA, Kate’s Mystery Books in Cambridge, MA, and The Poe House in Baltimore, MD.

The Ellery Queen Award was established in 1983 to honor “outstanding writing teams and outstanding people in the mystery-publishing industry.” This year the Board chose to honor Kelley Ragland, associate publisher and editorial director of Minotaur Books. Ms. Ragland came to Minotaur Books in 1993.

On learning she would receive the Ellery Queen Award, Ragland said, “I’m honored and not a little bit stunned to have been recognized by MWA with the Ellery Queen Award. To be added to a list that includes such inspiring professionals in our community, especially St. Martin’s own Ruth Cavin, is truly humbling. My work with mystery authors at Minotaur Books, which celebrated its 20th anniversary this year, and within the mystery community—what I have always found to be the most supportive, generous, and dedicated slice of the publishing world—is a source of great joy to me. Thanks to MWA for this recognition, and their support of all facets of the mystery community, including publishers, writers—especially new writers—and readers.”

Fresh out of college and newly relocated to NYC after growing up in the Midwest, Kelley Ragland started as an editorial assistant at St. Martin’s Press in 1993, became an editor in 1998, and took part in the creation of the St. Martin’s Publishing Group’s crime and suspense imprint, Minotaur Books, in 1999. She became Editorial Director of Minotaur in 2009 and Vice President and Associate Publisher in 2015. Over her twenty-six years at SMPG, she has worked with such authors as Jeffrey Archer, Kelley Armstrong, Linda Barnes, Steve Berry, Allison Brennan, Chelsea Cain, Andrew Gross, Charlaine Harris, Louise Penny, Dana Stabenow, Olen Steinhauer, and many others.
Previous Ellery Queen Award winners include Linda Landrigan, Robert Pépin, Neil Nyren, Janet Rudolph, Charles Ardai, Joe Meyers, Barbara Peters and Robert Rosenwald, Brian Skupin and Kate Stine, Carolyn Marino, Ed Gorman, Janet Hutchings, Cathleen Jordan, Douglas G. Greene, Susanne Kirk, Sara Ann Freed, Hiroshi Hayakawa, Jacques Barzun, Martin Greenburg, Otto Penzler, Richard Levinson, William Link, Ruth Cavin, and Emma Lathen.

The Edgar Awards, or “Edgars,” as they are commonly known, are named after MWA’s patron saint Edgar Allan Poe and are presented to authors of distinguished work in various categories. MWA is the premier organization for mystery writers, professionals allied to the crime-writing field, aspiring crime writers, and those who are devoted to the genre. The organization encompasses some 3,000 members including authors of fiction and non-fiction books, screen and television writers, as well as publishers, editors, and literary agents. For more information on Mystery Writers of America, please visit the website: www.mysterywriters.org

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