Going to the Edgar prom
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.