Friday, May 01, 2015

Edgar Awards 2015 — The speeches, or Charles Ardai on editors, plus DBB and YA

Charles Ardai
I've long admired Charles Ardai for founding and running Hard Case Crime. I've long respected him for what Hard Case authors say about his devotion to their work. And I am grateful for his  generosity when I had some questions about publishing and editing a few years ago.

But I like him even better after this week's Edgar Awards dinner. Ardai was on hand to receive the Ellery Queen Award, and his acceptance speech constituted the best vindication of editing and editors I have ever heard.

Would anyone scold a great conductor for not letting the first bassoon play more? he asked. Would anyone denigrate a great movie director for exercising casting control over his or her own movies? No. Yet people these days disguise their ignorant contempt for editors and editing behind references to "gatekeepers," perpetrating the delusion that editors only interfere with a writer's "voice."  Ardai became the second person I know to describe gatekeeper as a "sneering" term. Since I was the first, while I maintained my composure and kept snapping pictures during Ardai's speech, inwardly I was cheering myself hoarse.

Ardai said he gained his respect for editors early, when an editor performed surgery on one of his stories, changing almost every sentence. That taught him that editors make stories better, and that's what made him decide to be an editor when he grew up. On the way, though, he founded an Internet company and became an award-winning author. Yet an editor is what he wanted to be and what he talked about.

If I were an author, I'd want a man like Ardai behind my work. Join me in saluting a righteous dude, Charles Ardai.
  ***
Hilary Davidson
Lois Duncan
I was a youth and then an unmodified adult; young adult fiction had not been invented when I was a YA myself.  That's why I had never heard of Lois Duncan before Edgar night.

Duncan was named a Mystery Writers of America grand master, and I learned from Hilary Davidson's introduction that Duncan is rated alongside S.E. Hinton and Judy Blume on the young-adult Mount Rushmore. I learned that her books had been censored, and that she wrote an account of the quest for her daughter's killer.  I learned from Davidson and later from Sarah Weinman how much Duncan's work had meant to them.  And that's one of the things I like best about conventions, dinners, and other mass crime fiction gatherings: The chance to learn about fascinating people and genres I might not otherwise have considered.

© Peter Rozovsky 2015

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13 Comments:

Blogger seana graham said...

Duncan seems to have been around most of my time as a bookseller, but I think my teenage reading era must have preceded the rise of YA. I don't know that I would have been particularly interested in its issue based themes. Or what were its themes before the dystopian view of today took over.

A good editor--or copyeditor--is worth their weight in gold.

May 01, 2015  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, I think you're right. You and I are probably in the same chronological ball park, and I don't remember anything like YA. That's why I was so impressed by how much Duncan's work meant to people like Hilary Davidson and Sarah Weinman, probably were reading YA just when it started to get big.

I know how important editors are, and so does anyone else with half a brain who is not a huckster or a shill.

May 01, 2015  
Blogger seana graham said...

Well, I believe there are some writers who do sometimes take umbrage at their suggestions.

May 01, 2015  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

It's less the writers that I have in mind than it is promoters selling snake oil about new, open media, about letting the people get their news directly, and so on, the kinds of idiots who can use "legacy" as an adjective while maintaining a straight face.

Over in the world of books, it has also been my experience that self-published work is sloppier than the other kind. But again, the real villains are not writers, even bad ones, but people who trick them into believing that the absence of "gatekeepers" is a good thing.

May 01, 2015  
Blogger seana graham said...

Agreed. Although often writers I know who have gone the traditional route have found that they've had to hire a combination of editors and consultants ahead of submitting even to get their food in the door.I do wonder if the role of publisher has changed somewhat in recent years, though what exactly they are doing if they aren't editing and expect the author to do their own promoting, I'm not really sure.

May 01, 2015  
Blogger seana graham said...

Foot in the door, not food in the door. I'm sure the food is always welcome.

May 01, 2015  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana: I first heard the complaint a few years ago from an author friend that authors were now having to pick up the cost of editing that publishers once paid for. I thought of it as part of a larger shift of burden from capital to labor. As I understand it, agents these days do more editing than they once did.

May 01, 2015  
Blogger seana graham said...

Yes, I think that's right about the agents. I liked the labor analysis.

May 01, 2015  
Blogger Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Peter, thanks for writing about the Edgar Awards event. It was interesting to read about Charles Ardai. I can't say I have heard of him though the name does ring a bell.

May 02, 2015  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Prashant, take a look at the Hard Case Crime Web site. They have brought back the look of paperback orginals, reprinting classic paperback-original author and newer hard-boiled writers.

I know you have just read a short story by Richard S. Prather. Hard Case publishes one of his novels.

May 02, 2015  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana: I'm no insider, but it certainly appears that authors have a harder time than they used to. Consumer capitalism is at least partly to blame, I suspect.

May 02, 2015  
Blogger Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Peter, I love the covers of Hard Case Crime paperbacks although I have read just one so far. It was from a secondhand bookshop but in near mint condition. I forget the title. I haven't seen them in new bookstores.

May 03, 2015  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Perhaps the books are not distributed in India. I know India has a pulp crime tradition of its own, so perhaps there could be a readership for Hard Case and similar books as well.

May 03, 2015  

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