I'm back home, reminding myself how to get over jetlag, after a truly exhilarating trip to the United States. I had a packed itinerary and before setting off I was genuinely daunted about how things would go. As it turned out, wildest dreams were exceeded. I returned bearing an Edgar and, at a stop-over for a flight connection in Dublin there was an amazing moment when I learned that I'd received a lifetime achievement award for my short crime fiction (more of which, another day). The chance to meet old friends and make new ones was, after the strange few years we've all had, absolutely wonderful. What's more, I managed not to lose my passport or mess up the complex logistics of the trip, and that counts as a real triumph!
I flew out to Washington DC before catching a train to New York and dashing from my hotel to the pre-Edgars party hosted by Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. There I had the chance to catch up with Janet Hutchings, Charles Todd and Bill McCormick among others, as well as meeting Michele Slung and Joseph Goodrich for the first time. Then it was another dash back to get changed for the champagne reception for Edgar nominees and to meet my American publicist Jennifer Dee (pictured below with the Edgar) as well as fellow nominees Robert Thorogood and Donna Moore (in the above photo), Jamie Bernthal, and Mary Ann Evans.
The Edgars banquet was lavish and I had the pleasure of sharing a table with Anthony Horowitz (below, with his Edgar), whose A Line to Kill I had, by coincidence, read on the plane trip. He is a terrific entertainer. And then there was an unforgettable repeat of an experience I had at my last Edgars banquet seven years ago, when The Life of Crime was announced as the winner of the Best Crime Non-Fiction Book award. I don't believe in preparing speeches in advance for these things, but you can see my attempt to express my delight on the MWA Youtube channel.
Over the years, not many British authors have received two Edgars and I do feel quite humbled by this recognition. I am proud of The Life of Crime, but it's one thing to believe in yourself and your work, quite another for others to do so. There's no doubt this ranks among the top highlights of my entire writing career.
After a celebratory drink with Jennifer, I dashed off to Otto Penzler's late night party and chatted about book collecting with Larry Gandle and Otto before heading back for the hotel, happy but acutely aware I was due to catch a train at 9 am to return to Washington. I managed to catch it and registered for Malice Domestic before joining Catriona McPherson, Ann Cleeves, Vaseem Khan, and Victoria Dowd for a delightful dinner - on a wet night rather reminiscent of Manchester on a bleak autumn day - see above! There was also the chance to chat with fellow diners Michael Dirda, Gigi Pandian, Jeff Marks, and my holiday companion from Hawaii, Steve Steinbock. Mike Dirda and I had another drink in the hotel before the end of the night and as always it was great fun to exchange ideas with one of the finest literary critics around.
On Saturday morning, there was a panel with fellow Agatha nominee (and ultimate winner) Dianne Vallery and in the afternoon I was on another panel, chaired by James Lincoln Warren and featuring Victoria, Jeff Marks of Crippen & Landru, and Shelly Dickson Carr, grand-daughter of John and one of the most delightful people I know. I was pleased to meet some lovely people for the first time, including Gay Kinman (bottom photo, with Art Taylor), who edited an anthology containing my story 'The Outsider' and Tina de Bellegarde and Carol Pouliot, on whose Sleuths and Sidekicks blog an interview with me will appear shortly. The Agathas banquet was another grand affair and after that there were drinks with Ann, Catriona, and two more of my American friends I haven't seen for years, and who have battled with very serious illness, Tonya Spratt-Williams and Shawn Reilly Simmons. I have thought of them both many times over the frustrating time when I haven't had a chance to see them in person. It was so good not only to chat with them, but also to see how marvellously well they are looking after all they have been through. Tonya, incidentally, gave a brilliant off-the-cuff speech at the banquet, where she was Fan Guest of Honour.
On Sunday, there were conversations with a host of people, including Jeff, Shelly, Shawn, Steve Steinbock, Bruce Coffin, Josh Pachter, Nina Wachsman, and many more. I also enjoyed catching up with Maya Corrigan, who told me how shocked and delighted she'd been to find one of her books mentioned in The Life of Crime. After the traditional Agatha tea, it was all over for another year, but I left with many happy and energising memories of a truly fantastic few days.
There was a funny moment as I returned through US security at Dulles airport. I had taken the Edgar in my carry-on bag and the cameras picked it up. So the bag was taken to one side for scrutiny. The security guard was suspicious of the apparent weapon concealed in loads of bubble wrap (thanks for which go to Jeff Marks). I had the same experience seven years ago, and this time I was armed - with the photo at the top of the blog, which persuaded the guard that I was not intending to do anything savage with my trophy. An amusing coda to a great trip. You never get the chance to chat to everyone at as much length as you'd wish at these events, but I thoroughly enjoyed the conversations I did have, and the sense of being back among so many friends for whom I have a great deal of affection and regard. And much as I love the awards side of things, that is what counts for so much in the long run.