Category Archives: Awards
Earlier this month, as is usual for the evening of the first Saturday in December (chosen to coincide with Rex Stout’s December 1st birthday), we attended The Wolfe Pack’s Black Orchid Banquet. Among the night’s features are toasts (one of which associate editor Jackie Sherbow gave) and the presentation of the Black Orchid Novella Award, given by our editor Linda Landrigan in conjunction with BONA awards chair Jane K. Cleland. This year’s winner is a BONA first, as Steve Liskow garnered his second win—this time for his story “Look What They’ve Done to My Song, Ma,” which will appear in the July/August 2017 issue. The occasion was also special because it marks the award’s tenth year. We asked the BONA winners from years past to share their memories, and we’re sharing some of them with you here.
I loved spending time in New York City for the banquet. I was born in Manhattan and my parents moved to Long Island when I was a child. My grandfather was a NYC cab driver. . . . It was especially fun . . . during the holiday season, so being in the city for the banquet at that time was especially meaningful for me. I got to visit old haunts and even met up with Santa Claus in Macy’s.
The banquet itself was wonderful. Jane Cleland is one of the most fun people I’ve ever met. . . . It was an honor and pleasure to meet Linda Landrigan. She was so welcoming and so great to talk to that it made me a whole lot less nervous about delivering my acceptance speech. . . . I had such a good time and have such warm memories of the banquet. It was a magical experience set in a city I love during a time of year I love and I’ll be forever grateful.—Susan Thibadeau, 2013 winner
The banquet was a few months after Hurricane Sandy, which led to real difficulty getting in and a smaller-than-average, though very enthusiastic crowd. . . .
In the few months after receiving the BONA I sold stories to two very hard-to-crack markets. Was it a coincidence or did they notice the award? I have no evidence, but I have an opinion.
It was a great honor, especially since AHMM is my favorite magazine, and I have been a fan of Stout and Wolfe since sixth grade—Robert Lopresti, 2012 winner. For more BONA reminiscences, visit Rob Lopresti’s related blog I’m Dreaming of a Black Orchid, Picking More Black Orchids, and Addressing the Red Envelope
The old saw that being a writer is the most solitary of occupations is completely wrong. Honestly, I can’t think of a more social activity, because a writer is nobody without readers, and readers form a community, as this gathering tonight so clearly demonstrates. . . . . Of course [the armchair detective in my novella] Miss Enola is not alone. She has Erica to keep her company, even if she spends most of her time in her own head. Mostly, though, she will never be alone as long as there are people who love to read detective stories. I hope that when “Inner Fire” is published in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine this coming summer, you will all have the opportunity to read it. I wrote it for you, and I am deeply and humbly grateful for the honor you have done me in granting me this award. I tell you from the bottom of my heart that it is one of the brightest highlights of my career as an author of crime fiction.—From the acceptance speech of James Lincoln Warren, 2011 winner
- My wife Helen and I making the 4 + hour drive to NYC from Vermont and scurrying across town in time for the banquet’s 6:30 cocktail hour.
- Realizing early on that Wow, these Wolfe Pack folks are really into their Rex Stout.
- Taking part in a table-versus-table competition of songwriting with a Nero Wolfe theme. Our table accepted my suggestion of using the tune from the 1950’s Davy Crockett show. As I recall, we acquitted ourselves admirably.
- Taking the podium to accept my award. For my acceptance speech, I began, I’ve recently committed the complete cannon of Nero Wolfe to memory and will now recite it . . . I then began rattling off the opening passage of the first Wolfe novel, Fer-de-Lance, (which I had memorized for the occasion). After three or four lines, I stopped and said, You know . . . I realize now, you probably all have memorized his complete works yourselves, so I’m just being redundant. I’ll move on . . . Laughter ensued.
- Laughter not ensuing when I tried to make some jokes about Stout’s early efforts to name his detective. I suggested that prior to becoming Nero Wolfe, the character was originally called Caligula Bobcat. That joke died in the air, swiftly and soundly.
- After the banquet, leaving at the same time as Linda. She graciously led Helen and I down the city streets and gave us a tour of the various shop window Christmas displays. A splendid end to a splendid night!—Michael Nethercott, 2008 winner
When I accepted the award, I mentioned how I was mostly a science fiction author. After the banquet was ending, a long-time mystery writer (who got his start in the science fiction pulp magazines in the 1950s) shook my hand, said, “Get the hell out of science fiction!” and walked away. I have taken his advice to heart and haven’t written a science fiction story since then!—John Betancourt, 2007 winner
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 4, 2016
The Wolfe Pack
New York, NY
2016 NERO AWARD & BLACK ORCHID NOVELLA AWARD WINNERS
The Nero Award is presented each year to an author for the best American Mystery written in the tradition of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe stories. It is presented at the Black Orchid Banquet, traditionally held on the first Saturday in December in New York City. The “Nero” is considered one of the premier awards granted to authors of crime fiction. This year, the winner is David C. Taylor’s Night Life, (A Forge Book Published by Tom Doherty Associates, LLC).
The Black Orchid Novella Award is presented jointly by The Wolfe Pack and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine to celebrate the novella format popularized by Rex Stout. This year’s winner is… for the second time… Steve Liskow. The novella is titled “Look What They’ve Done to My Song, Ma.” (Steve also won in 2009.)
About the Wolfe Pack
The Wolfe Pack, founded in 1977, is a forum to discuss, explore, and enjoy the 72 Nero Wolfe books and novellas written by Rex Stout. The organization promotes fellowship and extends friendship to those who enjoy these great literary works of mystery through a series of events, book discussions, and a journal devoted to the study of the genius detective, Nero Wolfe, and his intrepid assistant, Archie Goodwin. The organization has more than 500 members worldwide. For further information, please see http://www.nerowolfe.org.
Doug Allyn is the author of novels including The Burning of Rachel Hayes and the forthcoming The Jukebox King, and a multiple winner of the Edgar Award for Best Short Story as well as the EQMM Readers Award. His last tale to appear in AHMM was “Message from the Morgue” (January/February 2015). Here, on the reflective occasion of our 60th anniversary, he talks about publishing his first short story “Final Rites” in the December 1985 issue—and winning the Robert L. Fish Award for it.
Some memories never fade. Your first kiss. First car. First serious love affair. (Not necessarily in that order, but often as not, I suspect.)
But for writers, the First that ranks right up there with the aforementioned big 3, is the First Story that doesn’t come limping home with a business card stapled to page one: Sorry, but your pathetic offering doesn’t measure up to our lofty standards, mwa-ha-ha-ha. (Or words to that effect.)
Instead, you get a brief letter of acceptance and a contract. And after the initial confusion, (what? No rejection card?) you realize you’ve actually made your First Sale.
Wow. What a freaking rush! A high equal to the best buzz sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll can offer, and I’m speaking from experience. (Well, okay, maybe not quite as good as sex. And Shanghai speed can be—but I digress.)
The rush of elation is, for most writers, geometrically intensified by the number of rejections we received prior to that First Acceptance.
And that truly is the feeling. Acceptance. Some far off, godlike editor in the Big Apple (in my case, Cathleen Jordan, of AHMM) was offering to publish my puny little story.
Remember the night Sally Field won her Oscar? “You like me,” she babbled. “You really like me.” And the world chuckled indulgently. And maybe her speech was inane, but it was from the heart, and a lot more moving than some vapid diva thanking everybody from Krishna to her pool boy.
That’s the feeling of a First Sale. Sally Field on Oscar night. A once-in-a-lifetime rush that has nothing to do with the numbers at the bottom of the contract.
My First Sale was a story called “Final Rites.” Often, I have no idea where stories come from, but “Final Rites”? That one’s easy. One of my son’s high school buddies had a summer job as a gravedigger. A tough kid, a football player, hardcore jock.
“What’s it like, digging graves?” I asked.
“It gets weird sometimes,” he said. “If I’m down in the hole, squaring it up, and the mist rolls in off the river . . . ? Whoah!” And the burly football player shivered.
And gave me a story. About a gravedigger, who shivered, when he was down in a hole.
I still remember that rush. Even now, a hundred-plus stories later, I get that same lift when I find a story that needs telling.
But for “Final Rites”? The amazing First Buzz was about to get even better.
A few months after the story appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Cathleen Jordan called to inform me that “Final Rites” had won the Robert L. Fish Award, for best first story.
I was stunned, overwhelmed, reduced to tears, right? Wrong. I had no idea what she was talking about. Literary awards? I grew up in northern Michigan where wealth is measured in wives, dogs, and rifles. (Just kidding. About the wives part.)
“If you’re serious about a writing career,” Cathleen said, “I strongly suggest that you come to New York to accept your award.”
“Do I have to wear a tie?” (I didn’t own one.)
“It’s black tie,” she said.
“I have to wear a black tie?”
“No, you putz, it is black tie. It’s the Edgars, the Oscars of the mystery world. It’s . . . New York! Formal dress, tuxes and evening gowns.” (Cathleen didn’t actually say ‘you putz’, she was far too refined. Bet she was thinking it, though.)
Without further ado, my wife and I were off to NYC, to party for a week, collect the award, (plus a check). And Cathleen was exactly right.
That first story, and the award it won, got my career up and running. In addition to meeting the staff at Dell Magazines (Cathleen, Eleanor Sullivan, et al, I acquired an agent, had lunch with Ruth Cavin, the legendary editor of St. Martin’s Press, who published my first five novels. (My eleventh, The Jukebox King, will be released by Stark House in February.)
All this, from a gravedigger’s shiver, and a first story Cathleen rescued from Dell’s towering slush pile.
Some memories never fade. Some debts can never be repaid. I will be forever grateful to the folks at Dell, for inviting me into this game, and letting me play.
And I’ll never forget Sally Field’s Oscar speech, either.
Because I know exactly how she felt.
Congratulations to Mark Thielman, whose novella “A Meter of Murder” won the 9th Annual Black Orchid Novella Award! The author was celebrated at the December 5th Black Orchid Banquet as part of The Wolfe Pack’s weekend of festivities. Mr. Thielman, who currently hails from Texas, is a former prosecutor. You can look forward to reading the novella—his first published piece of fiction!—in the July/August 2016 issue of AHMM.
It’s a great pleasure to congratulate Jas. R. Petrin, whose AHMM story “Under Cap Ste. Claire” (October 2013) has been named a finalist for the 2014 Arthur Ellis Award, given by the Crime Writers of Canada. Petrin is a previous winner in this category with his AHMM story “Killer in the House” and he has been named a finalist for an AHMM story every year since 2010. The 2014 winners will be announced on Thursday, June 5 at the Arts & Letters Club in Toronto.
I’m pleased to see that four of our stories from 2013 are on the shortlist for a Derringer Award presented by the Short Mystery Fiction Society.
Kudos to Joseph D’Agnese for his story “Bloody Signorina” (AHMM, September 2013) in the category of Best Long Story, and in the category of Best Novelette, to William Burton McCormick for “The Antiquary’s Wife” (AHMM, March 2013), O’Neil De Noux for his story “For Love’s Sake” (AHMM, July/August 2013), and James L. Ross for “Last Night in Cannes” (AHMM, November 2013).