The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books features on the newly announced shortlist for the Agatha award for best non-fiction book, and naturally I'm pleased, as well as grateful to those who have put the book forward for consideration. I was conscious that The Golden Age of Murder was potentially a once-in-a-lifetime book, and that there was a risk if I ventured into non-fiction about the genre again, the result would be anti-climactic. But it would be a mistake to be deterred by that sort of thinking, since the aim of writing is to do what you enjoy, and what you hope others may enjoy. And I found the experience of working on the book hugely enjoyable, not least because my British and American publishers are excellent, and I had wonderful support from a number of people, not least Nigel Moss and Barry Pike, whose comments on the draft were enormously helpful.
I've had wide-ranging experience of dealing with awards, both in my legal career and as a writer. I've been involved in decisions on awards, notably during the period of about twenty years when I was on the CWA Diamond Dagger sub-committee. My own efforts have appeared on shortlists, and occasionally been successful. And, it goes without saying, the vast majority of my works have not come close to featuring in any awards lists.
All this had led me to various opinions about awards. I've sometimes talked to people who develop conspiracy theories about award judging processes, but I tend not to be too sympathetic to these. The reality is that judging awards, or voting for an award, entails a great deal of subjectivity. I can think of many award-winning books that have benefited from good timing as well as intrinsic merit, and that's life. What is the "best"? The novel that I regard as my best got nowhere, in terms of sales or awards, yet three other novels did well. Perhaps that simply means that an author isn't the best judge of his or her own work.
In recent years, I've had a lot of good fortune with awards, and maybe that is why I take a fairly relaxed view of these things. But really, lovely as it is to have one's work recognised, it's surely best to strive to be philosophical about awards. What I'd say to any writer at the start of their career is to enjoy the good times, because all writers have plenty of less good times. To be shortlisted for an award is an honour, something to savour. And then what matters is to keep writing, and try to write something even better, whether or not it ever comes close to winning an award.