It was my honor this year to be one of three judges for the Shamus Awards, Best Paperback Original Novel. Shamus Awards, of course, are awards for writing in the private eye sub-genre, which happens to be my sub-genre. My fellow judges were Jan Grape www.facebook.com/
mysteryauthorjangrape and Reed Farrel Coleman, http://reedcoleman.com/, both of whom put up with me admirably.
The judges received 26 books, direct from publishers. One of the first odd things I noticed was that publishers sent books that were clearly not p.i. novels, and others that were iffy at best. The p.i. we’re looking for is supposed to be a crime solver not employed by a police or government agency. However, he (or usually she) should be someone paid for his work. I think this is a key point that people should be able to understand. Like a sonnet has 14 lines, a private investigator does work for pay.
A second thing I noticed is that there are some bizarre books being published. For example, two entries featured a dead private eye, yes, a zombie. Three more had ghosts in varying roles. And then there was the talking Chihuahua private eye. Eight of 26 books were “not my cup of tea,” my new polite way of saying I didn’t think the author wrote well. I suppose that’s a matter of taste, but I was being asked to judge, wasn’t I?
Of the remaining 18 we found four the three of us agreed were perhaps better than the rest. I had two others I liked that Jan and Reed didn’t think much of and they had one they were both quite fond of that was low on my list. I thought being new, I could give a little for the sake of consensus, so I did.
It was an interesting experience but I had a steady stream of required reading for two and a half months. I got to the point where I was really not looking forward to another private eye novel. I suppose it was a good experience, to see what’s in the market, but I don’t think I’ll do it again for a while.
The winner? I’m going to leave that for the Private Eye Writers of America http://www.privateeyewriters.com/ to announce. It was a good book, well-crafted, and I have no regrets about selecting it.