Michael Haskins

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Award winners!

Congratulations to the many fine books and authors honored at Bouchercon (the World Mystery Convention) this weekend. Half a dozen different prizes are awarded at this gathering, recognizing quality in every different aspect of crime fiction.

I want to add my personal congratulations to my fellow mystery writers Sean Chercover for his winning the Anthony Award for his short story, “A Sleep Not Unlike Death” and his Crimespree Award for “Trigger City;” and Robert Crais for his Crimespree Award for "Chasing Darkness.' Robert got the award for ongoing series and, I've gotta tell you, he sure has a fantastic series about Elvis Cole and Joke Pike. If you haven't read any of Bob's book, get going. Also another congratulations to fellow MWA - Florida board member James O. Born for winning the Barry Award for his short story "The Draught." All three of these writers are friends and if you haven't read them, you should.

We salute all this year's winners:

Anthony Award, given by the attendees of Bouchercon:

Best Novel: Michael Connelly, THE BRASS VERDICT
Best First Novel: Stieg Larsson, THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO
Best Paperback Original: Julie Hyzy, STATE OF THE ONION
Best Short Story: "A Sleep Not Unlike Death," by Sean Chercover from Hardcore Hardboiled
Best Critical Nonfiction Work: Jeffrey Marks, ANTHONY BOUCHER: A Bibliography
Best Children's/Young Adult Novel: Chris Grabenstein, CROSSROADS
Best Cover Art: Peter Meselund for THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO by Stieg Larsson
Special Service Award: Jon and Ruth Jordan

Barry Award, given by Deadly Pleasures magazine:

Best Novel: Arnaldur Indridason, THE DRAINING LAKE
Best First Novel: Tom Rob Smith, CHILD 44
Best British: Stieg Larsson, THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO
Best Paperback Original: Julie Hyzy, STATE OF THE ONION
Best Thriller: Brett Battles, THE DECEIVED
Best Short Story: "The Draught" by James O. Born, from The Blue Religion

Crimespree Award, given by Crimespree Magazine:

Favorite Book: Sean Chercover, TRIGGER CITY
Best in an Ongoing Series: Robert Crais, CHASING DARKNESS
Favorite Comics Writer: Brian Azzarello
Favorite Original Paperback: Christa Faust, MONEY SHOT
Favorite Mystery Bookstore: Once Upon a Crime, Minneapolis

Derringer Award for Short Mystery Fiction, given by the Short Mystery Fiction Society:

Best Short Story: "The Cost of Doing Business," by Michael Penncavage (published in ThugLit)
Best Flash: tie – "No Flowers for Stacey," by Ruth McCarty (Deadfall: Crime Stories by New England Writers;); and "No Place Like Home," by Dee Stuart (Mysterical-E)
Best Novella: "Too Wise," by O'Neil De Noux (published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine)
Best Long Story: "The Quick Brown Fox," by Robert S. Levinson (published in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine)

Macavity Award, given by Mystery Readers International:

Best Mystery Novel: Deborah Crombie, WHERE MEMORIES LIE
Best First Mystery: Stieg Larsson, THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO
Best Mystery Short Story: "The Night Things Changed" by Dana Cameron from WOLFSBANE & MISTLETOE
Sue Feder Memorial Historical Mystery: Rhys Bowen,A ROYAL PAIN

Shamus Award, given by the Private Eye Writers of America:

Best Hardcover: Reed Farrel Coleman, EMPTY EVER AFTER
Best First P.I. Novel: IN THE HEAT, Ian Vasquez
Best Paperback Original: Lori Armstrong, SNOW BLIND
Best Short Story: "Family Values," by Mitch Alderman
Hammer Award (for character longevity): Matthew Scudder, created by Lawrence Block
Lifetime Achievement: Robert J. Randisi

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

NY Times: Price War Over Books Worries Industry

As a writer this article has caused me to be concerned about the future of the printed book. Let me know what you think.

Price War Over Books Worries Industry


Published: October 16, 2009

A tit-for-tat price war between Wal-Mart and Amazon accelerated late on Friday afternoon when Wal-Mart shaved another cent off its already rock-bottom prices for hardcover editions of some of the coming holiday season’s biggest potential best sellers, offering them online for $8.99 apiece.

Publishers, booksellers, agents and authors, meanwhile, fretted that the battle was taking prices for certain hardcover titles so low that it could fundamentally damage the industry and the ability of future authors to write or publish new works.

The price cutting began on Thursday when Wal-Mart announced that it would take pre-orders for 10 yet-to-be-published hardcovers for $10 apiece on its Web site, Walmart.com. Later that day Amazon quietly began cutting the prices of those same titles to the very same $10, prompting Wal-Mart to lower its price to $9, a markdown of 59 to 74 percent off the list price of the books. Amazon had matched the $9 price by Friday morning, and Wal-Mart had lowered its price again, to $8.99, by late afternoon.

The titles affected include Sarah Palin’s memoir, “Going Rogue”; John Grisham’s short-story collection, “Ford County”; Stephen King’s “Under the Dome”; Barbara Kingsolver’s new novel, “The Lacuna”; and the latest installment in the Alex Cross thriller series by James Patterson, “I, Alex Cross.”

Although Wal-Mart, Amazon and other retailers like Costco, Target and even pure bookstore chains like Barnes & Noble typically discount best sellers, they usually don’t take more than 50 percent off the list price. Wal-Mart’s move, and Amazon’s reaction, signaled a new threshold in price cutting for books and left publishing insiders wondering how low it would go when the beleaguered industry is already worried about the effect of $9.99 e-books and a slowdown in book sales over all.

On Friday a spokeswoman for Wal-Mart said in an e-mail message that the company would “continue to adjust our pricing so that Walmart.com offers the lowest prices on these top pre-sellers in books.” Amazon declined to comment.

Wal-Mart has said for the moment that its $8.99 offer is limited to 10 titles that will officially be released in November. Once they are published, the company said, the price could go up. Still, publishing industry veterans were worried about the potential long-term effect on the consumer mindset.

“If readers come to believe that the value of a new book is $10, publishing as we know it is over,” said David Gernert, Mr. Grisham’s literary agent. “If you can buy Stephen King’s new novel or John Grisham’s ‘Ford County’ for $10, why would you buy a brilliant first novel for $25? I think we underestimate the effect to which extremely discounted best sellers take the consumer’s attention away from emerging writers.”

The immediate impact of the low prices was likely to be felt by other bookstores, including chains like Barnes & Noble and Borders. As of Friday, neither of the Web sites for those companies indicated that it was matching the $9 price. At BN.com and Borders.com, the titles were generally discounted by 40 percent.

A spokeswoman for Barnes & Noble declined to comment. In a statement Borders said the majority of its revenues did not come from best sellers. “Our model does not rely on being the lowest priced,” the company said in the statement. “It relies on offering our customers a true bookstore experience — the opportunity to explore a vast array of titles within a comfortable environment where shoppers can go where their interests take them.”

Independent booksellers have long struggled to compete with discounts offered by Barnes & Noble, Amazon and Wal-Mart. William Petrocelli, an owner of Book Passage, an independent company that has stores in San Francisco and suburban Corte Madera, Calif., said that for now he was relying on the loyalty of customers who valued staff recommendations and author events as much as prices. But, he said, if the low prices siphoned off too many customers and put independent stores out of business, it would ultimately affect what would get published.

“What this does is accentuate the trend towards best sellers dominating the market,” Mr. Petrocelli said. Without independents, decisions about what books to put on store shelves would reside in the hands of a few corporate executives rather than hundreds of idiosyncratic booksellers, he said.

“You have a choke point where millions of writers are trying to reach millions of readers,” Mr. Petrocelli said, “but if it all has to go through a narrow funnel where there are only four or five buyers deciding what’s going to get published, the business is in trouble.”

For now, Wal-Mart and Amazon will make a loss on the sales of the discounted titles because publishers generally charge retailers 50 percent of the list price.

Publishers hoping to sell large volumes of titles like “Going Rogue” or “Under the Dome” might see the discounts spur more sales. One publishing executive also said Wal-Mart’s move was welcome because it signaled that another large competitor was taking on Amazon, which currently dominates online sales of books. As long as the $8.99 price was promotional, rather than a permanent trend, this executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid commenting publicly about a customer, said there were some positive aspects to Wal-Mart’s move.

“If this is a short-term statement to let hundreds of millions of people know that they will be able to buy books from Walmart.com,” the executive said, “it’s a good thing.”

Rafi Mohammed, a consultant and author of “The Art of Pricing,” said he was surprised by the radical discounting because he could think of no other industry in which retailers cut the prices of the newest or most popular goods. “You always pay the highest price for the latest and greatest,” he said. (In fact, new music CDs are often discounted.)

Indeed, Mr. Patterson, who said that while he was glad to be included in the top 10 most popular preordered books at Walmart.com, he could not think of any other industry accepting such dramatic discounts.

“Imagine if somebody was selling DVDs of this week’s new movies for $5,” Mr. Patterson said. “You wouldn’t be able to make movies.” He added, “I can guarantee you that the movie studios would not take this kind of thing sitting down.”

Brad Stone contributed reporting from San Francisco.

A version of this article appeared in print on October 17, 2009, on page C1 of the New York edition.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Literary Legend Elmore Leonard set to receive Lifetime Achievement Award


EN, has unveiled the winners of its prestigious 2009 Literary Awards competition. The prizes, announced by PEN USA Executive Director Adam Somers, honor outstanding work by writers in 10 separate genres. They will be presented at the 19th Annual Literary Awards, which will be held at the BeverlHills Hotel on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2009.

In addition to the literary prizes, PEN USA’s LitFest gala will feature several other honors. As a ribute to his writing accomplishments, legendary author Elmore Leonard will be presented ith the Lifetime Achievement Award. In a career spanning 60 years, Leonard has published 3 novels and numerous short stories, creating a distinct literary style that has delighted readers nd influenced a new generation of writers. Books like Swag, LaBrava, Freaky Deaky, and Tishomingo Blues are not only classics of the crime genre, but some of the best writing of the last alf century. Many of Leonard’s novels and stories have been adapted to film: most notably Get Shorty, starring John Travolta, and directed by Barry Sonnenfeld; Out of Sight, starring George Clooney and directed by Steven Soderbergh; and Jackie Brown, from the novel Rum Punch, directed by Quentin Tarantino. In the spring, a TV series based on Leonard’s short story, Fire in the Hole, is scheduled to premiere on FX. Leonard’s most recent novel, Road Dogs, has received some of the best reviews of his career. He is currently finishing his next book, entitled Djibouti, to be published in 2010 by HarperCollins/William Morrow.

Recipients of the literary awards were chosen by a distinguished panel of writers, editors and journalists. Winners were selected from among more than 500 entries. Each winner will receive a $1000 cash prize presented at the Literary Awards Gala.

Past recipients of the Lifetime Achievement Award include: Woody Allen, Ray Bradbury, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Betty Friedan, Larry Gelbart, Vaclav Havel, Christopher Isherwood, Walter Mosley, Neil Simon, Jane Smiley, Robert Towne, Gore Vidal, and Billy Wilder.


Fiction KIM BARNESA Country Called Home (Alfred A. Knopf)

Creative Nonfiction STEVE LOPEZThe Soloist (G.P. Putnam's Sons)

Research Nonfiction LESLIE T. CHANGFactory Girls (Spiegel & Grau)

Poetry SEIDO RAY RONCIThe Skeleton of the Crow (Ausable Press)

Children’s Literature KATHI APPELT • The Underneath (Atheneum Books for Young


Translation MAXINE CHERNOFF & PAUL HOOVERSelected Poems of

Friedrich Hölderlin (Omnidawn Publishing)

Journalism KAREN OLSSONBefore and After (Texas Monthly)

Drama MARISELA TREVINO ORTABraided Sorrow (El Centro Su


Teleplay GEORGE MASTRASBreaking Bad: Crazy Handful of Nothin’

(Sony/Gran Via/Highbridge)

Screenplay DUSTIN LANCE BLACKMilk (Newmarket Press)


PEN USA is a non-profit Los Angeles-based membership organization of professional writers, and the International PEN center in the United States for those writers living west of the Mississippi River. Its members are connected by the goals of building interest in the written word and defending writers worldwide by protecting freedom of expression. Among its many contributions to the literary world, PEN USA’s Emerging Voices program awards fellowships to

promising writers from underserved communities and provides them with an intensive eight month program of workshops, classes, seminars and individual mentorships. In the classrooms of many underprivileged schools across Southern California, its PEN in the Classroom program helps children and teachers alike in the process of creative reading and writing.

For further information, visit www.penusa.org

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