What a week! On Tuesday night, I was awarded the Hammett Prize for best crime literature in the U.S. and Canada. On Thursday, I was named editorial page editor of The Free Lance-Star, where I've worked the past seven years. I'm buying lottery tickets.
The Hammett was a shock. We got to the hotel in Somerset, N.J., on Monday night. We checked in at the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association desk. When I got back to the room, I saw that my name tag said "Howard Owen/Oregon Trail," rather than "Oregon Hill." Ki-yi-yippi-yi-ya. Then, in lots of conversations with folks from the International Association of Crime Writers, which gives the award, I got no hint that I might already be a winner. Usually, you get some kind of wink or nod beforehand. I told Karen that I'd put my odds at about 100-1.
I had, however, written a speech beforehand, at the urging of IACW, which wanted all the finalists to write one so that, if you won, they could use it in their newsletter. I wrote it and didn't look at it again. Exercise in futility. I told myself I'd glance at it beforehand, just in case. Then, sitting at a table with IACW folks and other finalists, it occurred to me that it might be a little tacky to be going over one's acceptance speech, one that probably never would be read, at the finalists' table.
So, when they called my name, as I was finishing off my dessert, I managed not to faint and stumbled to the rostrum to more or less read the speech I was glad the IACW and Karen had urged me to write. It is the most important recognition I've received as a writer, by far, and it made 24 years of slogging away at typewriters and computers more than worth it.
As for the editorial page editor's job, I am humbled and honored that a newspaper as fine as The Free Lance-Star has that much faith in an old coot like me. I will try to make them proud.