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Published: Thursday, 11/18/2010

Author Sara Parestsky receives top mystery honor

The Mystery Writers of America has chosen Chicago author Sara Paretsky to receive its top honor.

The group announced Thursday that it would present Paretsky its Grand Master award in April in New York. The award is among the Edgar Awards the group presents annually. The Grand Master award was established to acknowledge an author's important contributions to the genre.

Paretsky created feisty female private detective V.I. Warshawski in the 1982 novel Indemnity Only. Her latest book, Body Work, was released earlier this year and is the 14th installment in the Warshawski series. The mystery writers' group says Warshawski challenged a genre where “women typically played minor or passive roles.”

Paretsky was in Toledo in March, 2003, when she spoke at the Author! Authors! series, co-sponsored by The Blade and the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library.

Past winners have included authors Agatha Christie, Alfred Hitchcock, and Stephen King.

The winners seemed stumped at the National Book Awards.

There were few prepared speeches Wednesday night as most recipients managed few words beyond thanking the usual suspects. Patti Smith, who has some experience before audiences, became tearful as she accepted the nonfiction prize for Just Kids, a bittersweet look back to New York City in the 1960s, when anything really could happen and Smith and photographer Robert Mapplethorpe were just a couple of young artists out to break the rules.

Smith became the rare rock star to win a competitive literary award (Bob Dylan has won an honorary Pulitzer), and the one-time punk rocker offered an old-fashioned tribute to books. She begged publishers not to let the printed page die in the electronic age and recalled working decades ago at a Scribner's bookstore, stacking the National Book Award winners and wondering how it would feel to win one.

“So thank you for letting me find out,” said Smith, 63, who now claims an award previously given to Rachel Carson, Gore Vidal, and Joan Didion.

The fiction prize Wednesday night was a surprise, Jaimy Gordon's Lord of Misrule, a wry, hard-luck racetrack comedy chosen over such better known works as Lionel Shriver's So Much for That and Nicole Krauss' Great House.



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