Suddenly, I had this crazy idea: everyone (including Lee Child) thinks my thriller reviews are fun so I should start giving out awards. And not just for the graft and bribes. You see, I like to think long-term: If I want to have a 20th Anniversary Awards Banquet in 2032, let’s say somewhere in the Maldives, I need to start now. See? I’m a thinker. And you thought I lived minute-to-minute.
My issue with all the other literary awards is that they focus on the writing and not the story. Most of them are awarded by college professors and MFA graduates trying to make use of an otherwise unprofitable degree by sneering at hundreds of entrants before sending a select group of books to ‘committee’ where the least offensive tome of twisted language wins. Screw that. These three awards are based on my personal opinion with nothing more than the dissonant voices in my head for guidance.
Other awards let literary accomplishments triumph over pacing and chills and nail-biting. I like nail-biting. So do you. And, yes, the writing makes nail-biting possible. But the story is what makes us want to read the nail-biting scenes. The whole package from concept to execution is what defines a winner. Cases in point: 50 Shades of Grey; Twilight; and Da Vinci Code were books that exploded not because of the writing but because of the story.*
Patterson’s success tells us that you like a fast paced story. Evanovich’s success tells us that you like a funny story. Child’s success tells us that you like a story with total retribution. Deaver’s success tells us that you like spine-tingling chills. So where are the frickin’ awards for books that have all that stuff? You got it: RIGHT HERE. RIGHT NOW.
After thirty-eight seconds of deep thought, I’ve settled on three awards**: Innovation; Existing Series; and Indie Debut. Why? Because these categories are overlooked by other awards. And because reading these three books will make you feel cocky enough to start reading the New York Times while strutting around in a cardigan smoking a pipe.
2012 Seeley James Award for Most Innovative Thriller: The Girl Who Would Be King, by Kelly Thompson. This story is so innovative that I created this category because of it. I’ve never read a thriller like this one. Groundbreaking, game changing, pioneering, yada yada yada. It is a comic book in full literary regalia. You will never figure out where this story is leading but you will follow it anyway. Not only is it refreshing to see a story featuring two female protagonists but these two don’t even fight over a guy. Imagine that! Not only is it a heroine story, it also has the most likeable evil antagonist I’ve ever come across. I even quoted the evil one when my teenaged daughter broke curfew, “you’ve got twelve seconds to come up with a sentence and it better not start with ‘um’.” Be sure to look for TGWWBK swag on the author’s website, hipsters everywhere will be wearing the bookmarks this year. Buy the book. If you don’t like it, I’ll give you a copy of my book for free (that’ll teach you to complain).
2012 Seeley James Award for Best Existing Series: Charlie Fox Series by Zoë Sharp. Oh sure, you’ve been reading Ms. Sharp for years, goody for you—now run along, I’m talking to these nice people here. Most awards for a series are given for the first book and the rest are disqualified or ignored. What good is that? Every reader has discovered a series mid-stream and been instantly smitten. Many years ago, someone handed me Lee Child’s 10th book and I was hooked by the end of page one. Ms. Sharp’s series impressed me the same way. I found the cheeky humor and the thrilling scenes exceptionally well done. The best part are the little scenes that tie the big ones together, you can relate to them because you’ve driven down that street, stopped at that house, been slobbered on by that dog. And every scene has a friendly sense of humor. I’ve quoted this author as well. He went down faster than a South American footballer, spills out of my mouth at all my daughter’s soccer games. I’m even working on a place in my next novel where I can plagiarise … I mean, make an homage to Ms. Sharp. I liked the series so much I’ve measured my way through the backlist, carefully rationing myself so as not to run through them too quickly. If you’ve not discovered these yet, dive in with Killer Instinct and ration them yourself.
2012 Seeley James Award for Best Indie Debut: Murder Takes Time by Giacomo Giammatteo. Gritty crime dramas are not my first choice to pull off the bookshelf but this one hooked me on the premise: Friendship, Love, Honor, and Betrayal. I’m an expert in those topics. I have BS degrees in the first three and a masters in the fourth. I wondered: can he deliver? The answer is: yes. The crime is gritty, the mobsters are Italian, the situations are tense, and the nuns will surprise you. This story stands out from the crowd because of the depth of the characters. These are real people, desperate and mistaken and damaged and, above all, making an effort to live according to whatever code they believe in. And the twists will surprise you. Check it out.
Shameless begging: Buy my book or the little doggie gets it. If you enjoyed my reviews this year (or the reviews on my previous site accidentally destroyed by a ‘what does this button do’ moment) please buy my book, The Geneva Decision (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo). If you don’t like it, I’ll refund your money and you can buy a book by a real author.
* Not that I would give those books so much as a pooper-scooper award—but there you have it.
**Note to Winners: Don’t get too excited. I might be stinking rich*** but I’m also cheaper than an Indie Author’s advertising budget. This award and $20 will get you a cup of coffee. You can thank me later for saving you hassles on taxes.
*** might be