Saturday, 17 April 2021

This is the book awards season, with nominations and presentations starting now through August when Bouchercon 2021 occurs.

Of course, in-person ceremonies can’t be held just yet, but authors deserve to be rewarded for their good works.

Left Coast Crime kicked off the presentations with its awards a couple of weeks ago in a tidy ceremony. Details of who won can be found here at Mystery Scene.

The 75th Edgar Awards, sponsored by Mystery Writers of America (MWA), will be presented via Zoom at 1 pm (EST) on April 29. Meanwhile, MWA is hosting a series of interviews with the nominees, Grand Masters, and Ellery Queen honorees. In addition, authors are reading from their nominated books on Mystery Writers of America’s Facebook page.   

Malice Domestic will have its ceremony in July.

I think the organizers of these virtual award ceremonies are doing a terrific job. They are focusing on the nominees—and let’s face it, it truly is an honor to be nominated—with the winners being allowed to discuss their book and offer their gratitude, often in a prerecorded video.

The applause is missing, but I hope everyone watching is applauding at home.

And traditional buying of the drinks isn’t happening, but we can toast at home. And when we can do it in-person, winners should expect to be toasted many times.

The latest awards presentation was this weekend with the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.

Full disclosure, I was a judge in the Mystery & Thriller category, along with my fellow judges Naomi Hirahara and Michael Nava. I was elected to present the award. The 2020 L.A. Times Book Prize in the Mystery & Thriller category was awarded to S.A. Cosby for Blacktop Wasteland. You can view the ceremony here. (This Mystery/Thriller Award is given out about 23 minutes into the ceremony.)

In presenting the award, our group statement was:

Blacktop Wasteland by S.A. Cosby, published by Flatiron, centers on a young family man at a crossroad in his life. This compelling novel deeply explores race, responsibility, parenthood, moral complexities and identity. Set in economically strapped area of Virginia, Blacktop Wasteland also looks at how a family’s struggles with cash are acerbated by a financial downtown. Cosby’s noir story reflects concerns of the 21st century through a gripping plot accented by fully fleshed out characters with realistic motives.

The five finalists in the 2020 L.A. Times Book Prize in the Mystery & Thriller category were:
- Blacktop Wasteland, by S.A. Cosby (Flatiron)
- A Beautiful Crime, by Christopher Bollen (Harper)
- Little Secrets, by Jennifer Hillier (Minotaur)
- And Now She’s Gone, by Rachel Howzell Hall (Forge)
-These Women, by Ivy Pochoda (Ecco)

Congratulations to all.


L.A. Times Book Prize and Awards Season
Oline Cogdill
Sunday, 11 April 2021

For years, I wanted to attend Left Coast Crime (LCC) having heard such good feedback about the conference. The various western locations also interested me.

But the timing was never right as it always seemed I had previous commitments in the March/April time frame.

But 2020 was different.

Oh, so different as we were about to find out.

For the first time, the timing worked for me and, as an extra bonus, one of my dearest and closet friends lived in San Diego.

Tony and I had big plans—we would spend the day before the conference and, after LCC ended, we would either stay in San Diego, a city I love, or spend time in Los Angeles.

None of that was to be.

Tony and I spent the day before the conference together.

But then the pandemonium of the pandemic began to take hold.

The first day of LCC was terrific. Good panels, good authors, good discussion.

I moderated one panel, went up to my room to grab something and 10 minutes later came down to find out the city had shut down LCC because of the health risk.

Of course, the in-person 2021 LCC also had to be canceled. But LCC had a terrific virtual conference last month that featured the finalists in the Lefty Award categories.

And attention must be paid to those authors who have worked so hard on their novels to become Lefty Award finalists.

Last Saturday, LCC had its small but very good awards ceremony honoring those winners and finalists.

Each winner was given a chance to make an acceptance speech.

Between categories, LCC honored its past by showing the program cover and the guests of honor through the years.

Congratulations to all the Left Award winners, and to the nominees. Each author is a winner.

Best Mystery Novel
WINNER: All the Devils Are Here, by Louise Penny (Minotaur Books)
What You Don’t See, by Tracy Clark (Kensington Books)
Blacktop Wasteland, by S.A. Cosby (Flatiron Books)
Blind Vigil, by Matt Coyle (Oceanview Publishing)
And Now She’s Gone, by Rachel Howzell Hall (Forge)

Best Humorous Mystery Novel
WINNER: Murder in the Bayou Boneyard, by Ellen Byron (Crooked Lane Books)
Mimi Lee Gets a Clue ,by Jennifer J. Chow (Berkley Prime Crime)
Squeeze Me ,by Carl Hiaasen (Alfred A. Knopf)
The Study of Secrets, by Cynthia Kuhn (Henery Press)
The Pot Thief Who Studied the Woman at Otowi Crossing ,by J. Michael Orenduff (Aakenbaaken & Kent)
Skin Deep, by Sung J. Woo (Agora Books)

Best Historical Mystery Novel
WINNER:The Turning Tide, by Catriona McPherson (Quercus)
he Fate of a Flapper, by Susanna Calkins, (Minotaur Books)
A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Murder, by Dianne Freeman (Kensington Books)
Riviera Gold, by Laurie R. King (Bantam Books)
Mortal Music, by Ann Parker (Poisoned Pen Press)
Turn to Stone, by James W. Ziskin (Seventh Street Books)

Best Debut Mystery Novel
WINNER: Winter Counts, by David Heska Wanbli Weiden (Ecco)
Murder Goes to Market, by Daisy Bateman (Seventh Street Books)
Derailed, by Mary Keliikoa (Camel Press)
Murder at the Mena House, by Erica Ruth Neubauer (Kensington Books)
The Thursday Murder Club, by Richard Osman (Viking)
The Lady Upstairs, by Halley Sutton (Putnam)

More good news, LCC 2022 is scheduled for April 7–10, 2022, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I plan to go, along with my other dear and close friend, Toni. (Yes, one is Tony, one is Toni). She and I plan to come in early, go to Santa Fe for a couple of days and then tour Albuquerque—something we did years ago.

2022 Left Coast Crime Honorees
Guest of Honor: Mick Herron
Guest of Honor: Catriona McPherson
Fan Guest of Honor: Kristopher Zgorski
Toastmaster: Kellye Garrett
Ghost of Honor: Tony Hillerman

I am hoping that by the time LCC 2022 rolls around, in-person conferences will be the norm.

And more good news, LCC 2023 also is in the works for Tucson, Arizona.

Planning is good!

Left Coast Crime Lefty Award Winners
Oline Cogdill
Thursday, 11 March 2021

There’s an art heist going around the country—and insightful sleuths are needed to solve the crime.

The Art Heist Experience is an interactive true-crime show inspired by the theft of 13 works of art worth $500 million from Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990. During the play, masked audience groups walk around the crime scene, interviewing “suspects,” then come the solution. Plenty of evidence and clues are scattered about, and, of course, a number of red herrings.

Art Heist Experience combines two of my favorite things—mysteries and live theater. And for those of us who desperately miss live theater, this is a start to getting back to it. As well as the theatrical experiences, the productions also are planned with safety in mind. Masks are required, the productions are, for the most part, outside and the new "detectives" are arranged in small groups of 10 or less.

The real crime behind Art Heist Experience occurred during the early morning of March 18, 1990, when two men posing as police officers entered Boston’s Isabella Gardner Museum. They tied up the guards and during the next 81 minutes pulled off one of the most daring thefts in history. The stolen 13 pieces of art valued at $500 million have never been recovered, nor have arrests ever have been made.

Police, FBI, Interpol, art investigators and crime enthusiasts from all over the world have researched for decades and failed to solve this brazen and unusual puzzle, according to news reports.

While interactive productions often look like a free-for-all, these generally are well calibrated. During the 90-minute event, “sleuths” take a journey through the streets of the various cities to meet the characters, hear their stories and ask questions—also known as interrogating—to “zero in on the criminal mastermind,” according to a press release.

Each group will come up with the best theory of who did the crime, and what really happened. The productions are staggered to begin every half hour so throngs of detectives are not tripping over each other.

During Art Heist Experience, each production has a coordinator who will keep the action going smoothly as well as taking notes on those actors who receive the most “guilty” votes.

As a bonus for theater goers, each production is cast locally. This is not a national tour. At the Broward Center in Fort Lauderdale, the cast includes Hester Kamin, Amy Lee Gonzalez, Randall Swinton, Jesse Castellanos, Daniel Llaca, Stephanie Manner, Jeremy Quinn and Ernesto Gonzalez.

Art Heist Experience is being produced around the country, ending a run in Toronto during May. It has had a successful run in each city it has played, including a sold-out run during the Vancouver Fringe Festival.

The production was created by Justin Sudds of Right Angle Entertainment, and co-written and co-directed by TJ Dawe and Ming Hudson. Dawe also is developing another interactive show based on the board game Clue.

Art Heist Experience will play the Arsht Center, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, from March 16 through April 1-4; another production will play at the Broward Center, 201 SW Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale, from March 16 through April 4; performances begin every half-hour on a varying schedule, so check websites for exact times; tickets start at $43 at the Arsht Center, $39.50 to $44.50 at the Broward Center; visit or call 305-949-6722 for Miami tickets; visit or call 954-462-0222 for Fort Lauderdale tickets.

Art Heist Experience also will play Houston beginning March 19; Dallas March 20; West Palm Beach April 27; Boston May 4; Fayetteville May 4 and Toronto May 18. Future dates are in the works.

Photos were taken at various locations on Granville Island during the Vancouver production. Photographs by Diane Smithers

Art Heist Mixes Mystery and Theater
Oline H Cogdill