The Give a Dam Award, intended for a classic published at least 30 years ago, goes unclaimed this year. I read plenty of books this year that were published more than three decades back, but none of them were new to me. So, moving on...
my favorite influence peddlar, Ken Bruen, cops a share of this award for making me aware of THE WOMAN WHO MARRIED A BEAR, by John Straley. This book won the Shamus Award in 1993 for Best First Novel, and deservedly so. The series deserves more attention than it ever got.
John Hart, a rare double Edgar winner, also takes a pair of Lowheads this year for IRON HOUSE. This book rakes in the Not Worth a Tinker's Dam Award, for the most overrated work of crime fiction, as well as the Dam Your Eyes Award, for the book most anticipated and least enjoyed. Don't bother looking for my review of this one, because I didn't bother writing one.
The Dam With Faint Praise Award for the best, most-overlooked - underhyped, if you will - work of crime fiction goes to a book that caught me off guard: TEMPORARY PERFECTIONS, by Gianrico Carofiglio, is a philosophical, introspective tale about a lawyer searching for a missing woman, and finding out more about himself than he bargained for.
And now for a trio of short-story awards. I fell way, way behind on my short-story reading once autumn arrived but still managed close to 200 stories this year, so I had a wonderful array from which to choose these excellent stories:
The Dam Skippy Award (Online) goes to Patricia Abbott for THE PERFECT DAY, published at All Due Respect. This story about a day at the beach for a dysfunctional family hints at Flannery O'Connor-like clouds on their horizon.
Ring Lardner. Lardner may be better known for his writing about baseball, but this tale of murder, narrated by an unwitting small-town barber, is chilling.
The Dam Skippy Award (Digital) goes to Eric Beetner for his story included in the PULP INK anthology, ZED'S DEAD, BABY. The story is about a persistent enforcer who always, always gets his man. Dead or otherwise. A darkly funny tale, far and away my favorite in an anthology that includes stories from such talents as Reed Farrel Coleman, Allan Guthrie, and Hilary Davidson.
Oddly enough, not one of the winning stories came from the best overall anthology or collection I read this year, which was DISCOUNT NOIR, edited by Patricia Abbott and Steve Weddle. Hm, I may need to add another award for next year for the best anthology or collection.
And at last, the award for the best novel I read this year, the Hot Dam Award. Well, there's a long list of the possibles. In the order I read them, first to last:
- THE WOMAN WHO MARRIED A BEAR by John Straley
- OUTSOURCED by Dave Zeltserman
- ONE TRUE SENTENCE by Craig McDonald
- THE LOST SISTER by Russel D. McLean
- DIE A LITTLE by Megan Abbott
- A VINE IN THE BLOOD by Leighton Gage
- DUST DEVILS by Roger Smith
- THE END OF EVERYTHING by Megan Abbott
- A KILLER'S ESSENCE by Dave Zeltserman
- EL GAVILAN by Craig McDonald
- TEMPORARY PERFECTIONS by Gianrico Carofiglio
- HEADSTONE by Ken Bruen
As always, I owe a debt of endless gratitude to the authors, for their work and for their patience with this reader, who doesn't always "get it." I'll try to do better in 2012.
Happy New Year!