I met Gus Carpenter belly to the bar at Bouchercon Baltimore. Stella Hardesty, I've been chasing on an internet dating site for fictional characters. She says she just wants to be friends. Now, both of them -- Gus and Stella -- have been nominated in the Best First Novel category for an Edgar A. Poe Award, The Mystery Writers of America's annual celebration of the best in crime fiction. Luckily, I don't have to vote. How could I choose?
And actually, it's Gus's and Stella's creators who won the nominations, including a former Redhead of the Week. Gus and Stella won't get any credit, although you and I know each was the chief ingredient in these authors's success. I mean, if you don't like the lead character, don't care what happens to him/her, how are you going to turn a single page?
Gus's nominated first novel is STARVATION LAKE and his creator is Bryan Gruley, Chicago bureau chief of the Wall Street Journal. An award winning journalist (he and The Famous Author shared personal stories about working with a bigtime WSJ editor), Gruley shared in the Pulitzer Prize given to the Wall Street Journal in 2002 for coverage of the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Stella's nominated first novel, A BAD DAY FOR SORRY, is the work of Sophie Littlefield, former Redhead of the Week, who grew up in rural Missouri. Like Stella Hardesty, her heroine, Sophie enjoys quilting and sewing. She lives with her husband and two teenage children near San Francisco, California.
Here's a synopsis of A BAD DAY FOR SORRY: Stella Hardesty dispatched her abusive husband with a wrench shortly before her fiftieth birthday. A few years later, she’s so busy delivering home-style justice on her days off, helping other women deal with their own abusive husbands and boyfriends, that she barely has time to run her sewing shop in her rural Missouri hometown. Some men need more convincing than others, but it’s usually nothing a little light bondage or old-fashioned whuppin' can’t fix. Since Stella works outside of the law, she’s free to do whatever it takes to get the job done---as long as she keeps her distance from the handsome devil of a local sheriff, Goat Jones.
When young mother Chrissy Shaw asks Stella for help with her no-good husband, Roy Dean, it looks like an easy case. Until Roy Dean disappears with Chrissy’s two-year-old son, Tucker. Stella quickly learns that Roy Dean was involved with some very scary men, as she tries to sort out who’s hiding information and who’s merely trying to kill her. It’s going to take a hell of a fight to get the little boy back home to his mama, but if anyone can do it, it’s Stella Hardesty.
And here's a synopsis of STARVATION LAKE: In the dead of a Michigan winter, pieces of a snowmobile wash up near the crumbling, small town of Starvation Lake — the same snowmobile that went down with Starvation's legendary hockey coach years earlier. But everybody knows Coach Blackburn's accident happened five miles away on a different lake. As rumors buzz about mysterious underground tunnels, the evidence from the snowmobile says one thing: murder.
Gus Carpenter, editor of the local newspaper, has recently returned to Starvation after a failed attempt to make it big at the Detroit Times. In his youth, Gus was the goalie who let a state championship get away, crushing Coach's dreams and earning the town's enmity. Now he's investigating the murder of his former coach. But even more unsettling to Gus are the holes in the town's past and the gnawing suspicion that those holes may conceal some dark and disturbing secrets secrets that some of the people closest to him may have killed to keep.
May I suggest you give these characters and authors a try? The MWA's awards committee thinks they are special. We know Gus and Stella are, and TFA says Bryan and Sophie are pretty nice people, too. AC