Cabbages and Kings

A diary by the authors of the Louis Kincaid series

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Location: Fort Lauderdale/Elk Rapids, Florida and Michigan, United States

We are the New York Times bestselling authors of the Louis Kincaid series and other stand alone thrillers. We have taught writing at major conferences for ten years.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Going to the Edgar prom

Edgar week in New York. Lots of panel banter at the symposium, preening at the cocktail parties, barroom prognostications, and of course, boozy-weepy scenes in the bars after the awards are announced. I've been to four Edgar weeks now -- once as an utterly dazzled newbie nominee, twice as a panelist and once as a mere lurker. But this year, as I worked the room at the agent and editor cocktail party, it struck me like a lightning bolt: I was back in high school again.

All the old cliques were there. All the old insecurities were on display. All the old crushes, fantasies and pimply passions were hovering there below the surfaces. Big Name Authors surrounded by sycophants. Midlist Cassiuses with their lean and hungry looks. Wannabees wandering the periphery waiting to be asked to dance. (By the way, that's us in the picture above with Prom Queen Janet Evanovich.) It was ferocious in its poignancy, and at one point, I found myself sitting alone in the corner, with that old Janis Ian song, “At Seventeen,” rumbling through my head:

To those of us who knew the pain
Of six-figure deals that never came
And those whose names were never called
When announcing winners at the Edgar Ball
It was long ago and far away
And the world was younger than today
When dreams were all they gave for free
To small-press midlist geeks like me...

Okay, I changed the words a little. But the awful agony of high school is very much alive in our mystery community. We're a very welcoming group as a rule, and although there are a couple pricks and bitches in our school, we pretty much have each other's backs. But geez, when we put on our gowns and tuxes and get together at the Edgar prom, the tortured ghosts of our teenaged pasts come out...

The Jocks: Ah yes, the golden boys of the mystery world, they play hardboiled ball, throw the perfect PI spiral or get nothing but neo-noir net.

The Cheerleaders: The goodlooking girls who make the good grades and whose books get voted Most Likely To Succeed.

The National Honor Society: Brainy, brilliant, beloved by kingmaker critics, they labor only to transcend the genre and don't care if their books aren't carried in Costco.

The Greasers: Leathered and liquored, they lurk in the alleys of the thriller world, feared and despised. But they have the hottest sex and everyone secretly wants to hang with them.

The Home Ec Club: Baking muffin mysteries, chick-lit suspense and country-inn cozies, sniffing that no one takes them seriously. Except booksellers know they are quietly conquering the world one cat book at a time.

The AV Club nerds: No one sees them. No one cares. Until they suddenly publish a graphic novel and make a million bucks with an interactive website game, podcast tie-in and movie deal.

So what about you? Where do you fit in? Maybe, like me, you don't. In high school, I was one of those weird kids who clustered with a couple friends in the cafeteria, stuffing my face with Twinkies, watching the popular parade as it passed by.

I'm still weird. I'm still watching the parade. Neither me nor the books that I write fit in any one clique. But I see that as a good thing now. The thing about getting old is that you find your niche; the Cheerleaders start talking to you; you finally get asked to dance, maybe even by one of the Jocks. You figure out that sometimes the view from the outside is a lot more interesting than the view from the inside. You realize that beneath the pretty dresses and nice tuxes, everyone is just as insecure about all this as you are.

I will press this year's Edgar corsage between tissue and store it away.

Addendum: Skip on over to Tess Gerritson's blog for her sweet story about her Edgar dress. We women do get emotional about clothes sometimes.


Blogger S. W. Vaughn said...

My gosh, you're gonna make me cry... here I was lamenting that I am a permanent outsider, and you hammer the point home. :-)

If I ever make it to the Edgar prom, I'll be too terrified to talk to anyone. I'll just wander about looking mysterious and unapproachable.

This is a great post. I really felt the scene. No wonder I love your books so much!

5:23 PM  
Blogger Daniel Hatadi said...

I can't say I ever fit in any group, and whether it's my music or my writing, none of that seems to quite fit anywhere, either.

Back in school, I was the intelligent but strange, slightly aloof, kinda cool guy. But I ended up being school captain, so again, I didn't fit in anywhere.

9:25 PM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Nice, Kris. Kind of hit home, because the other writing cons I've been to resemble high school as well. And I feel like an outsider at them, too. It may be the "novelist nobody's ever heard of" clique, which is really pretty big, but a lot of people fake it better, or, in some cases, they're trying to crash the Guest of Honor clique in hopes some of the glitter will rub off.

7:39 AM  
Blogger Bernita said...

Every society in the world seems to coalesce like this.
Very perceptive post. Thank you.

10:23 AM  
Blogger Jude Hardin said...

Love this post, Kris.

Where can we find a list of the Edgar winners?

11:36 AM  
Blogger PJ Parrish said...

I should have included them here. The winner is in caps:

Best Novel
The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly
Red Leaves by Thomas H. Cook Vanish by Tess Gerritsen
Drama City by George Pelecanos

Best First Novel By An American Author
Die A Little by Megan Abbott
Immoral by Brian Freeman
Run the Risk by Scott Frost
Hide Your Eyes by Alison Gaylin

Best Paperback Original
Homicide My Own by Anne Argula
The James Deans by Reed Farrel Coleman
Kiss Her Goodbye by Allan Guthrie
Six Bad Things by Charlie Huston

There were 1700 entries in the Edgars this year. Can you imagine how hard a job the judges had?

You can find all the other categories at

11:53 AM  
Blogger Jude Hardin said...


12:33 PM  
Blogger Jude Hardin said...

Tess's story about the awards week was great too.

You ladies have inspired me.

Tonight I'm dusting off that lime- green tuxedo I wore to my prom, and I'm heading to Jake's Pool Room. I'm going to pretend it's the Edgar cocktail party. I might even get up and make a speech (I'm pretty sure I'm going to win. Category: Best New Unfinished Novel).

Think anyone will take pictures?

Hey, guys can get sentimental about clothes sometimes too. We just don't usually admit it. :)

7:44 PM  
Blogger Evil E said...

Oh, Kris!
I LOVED this! You nailed it perfectly! It brought back memories of some of my musings when I attended last year. Best time I had was with you and Kelly. Oh, and with JWL too!

And I miss yakking with 'ya! We gotta catch up before ThrillerFest.

10:48 PM  

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