The Private Eye Writers of America (PWA) announced its 2007 Shamus Award nominees the other day. And while all writers hold a place close to my heart (us fictional characters kind of need them), I'm only going to mention those authors spotlighted in the "Best First Novel" category.
Lost Angel--Mike Doogan (Putnam), featuring Nik Kane
A Perfect Place for Dying--Jack Fredrickson (St. Martin's Minotaur), featuring Dek Elstrom
Holmes on the Range--Steve Hockensmith (St. Martin's Minotaur), featuring Gustav “Old Red” Amlingmeyer
The Wrong Kind of Blood--Declan Hughes (Wm. Morrow), featuring Ed Loy
18 Seconds--George D. Shuman (Simon & Schuster), featuring Sherry Moore
Given annually for outstanding achievement in private eye fiction, the 2007 Shamus awards cover works published in the U.S. in 2006. The awards will be presented on September 28, 2007 during the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention. (Geez, I hope The Famous Author doesn't take us to Alaska this year. I need REAL sunshine.)
Why only first novels? Well, why do you think, ace? These newly created characters--Nik, Dek, Old Red, Ed, and Sherry--are friends of mine, and their life changed dramatically this week. We're all celebrating. See, just being nominated for awards like the Shamus extends our life spans. The publicity and recognition bring us new readers and more sales. The Famous Authors will have to keep writing about us. For the winner, who gets that "Shamus Winner" sticker plastered on every bookcover from now until doomsday, an award like this could mean years and years of exciting adventures.
That's the thing about us characters. We need readers and sales to keep breathing. And frankly, most of us don't make it. One, two, three books, and then, poof, you're dead and buried. It's a tough world out there for fictional beings. Terrible competition for breathing rights. Especially from the long-lived characters like Stephanie Plum, Elvis Cole, Jack Reacher, that Rain guy, and Alex what's-his-name that James Patterson keeps bringing back.
Ask a room full of crime fiction readers if they bought a book in the last month. Say 40 hands go up. Then ask those people how many of those books were debut novels, and watch 38 or 39 hands drop. People buy their favorites. Readers are hesitant to take chances. They like to know they're probably going to enjoy the time spent.
Unfortunately for us new characters, our lives depend on being discovered, and gradually growing into that list of reader favorites. It's a little scary.
So hat's off to my freshly-infused pals, Nik, Dek, Old Red, Ed, and Sherry for their Shamus nominations.
That' staying alive, kids.