Friday, May 2, 2008


Loathe though we are here at ORBA Central to air our dirty linens in public, we've run into a bit of dissension. A few members of our committee got together this past week in New York in honor of the Edgar Awards. Over cocktails, they hatched a scheme for the future direction of the ORBA's - a bold plan to reshape the whole awards landscape.

Unfortunately, they didn't consult the rest of the committee about this bold new direction, and there was less than enthusiasm amongst some of the rest of our numbers. Thankfully the argument didn't come to blows, but that was only because you can't throw a martini in someone's face through a conference call.

As a result of this brouhaha, the ORBA committee has decided to put the awards on hiatus until cooler heads might prevail. We are aware that this will be a blow to many of you who have already developed a loyal attachment to the awards. We appreciate your enthusiasm and lament the necessity of this decision.

But fear not, the ORBA's are not dead. Like the phoenix, they will rise again from the ashes - as soon as you-know-who sobers up.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The ORBA for Sexiest (Male) Author of the Year

Initially there was some dissent amongst the committee members when we discussed the nature of the second ORBA. Two of our judges thought that it was somewhat demeaning to present an award for the Sexiest Author.

"We're not People magazine," one of them sniffed. No, we're not. But since the other five judges agreed, the two dissenters were overruled. (Sorry fellas!)

Because image does matter. Looks matter. Sex matters. We all hate that, but there's a lot of realities in this world we hate. And the unfortunate truth is, in publishing, like in any other sales business, image matters.

But hey, we get it. Nobody wants to be judged by the way they look. But it happens. It's reality and it doesn't matter if it's right or wrong.

Do you ever wonder why a man who writes brilliantly can only get a 5k print run? And then you meet him and he looks like a troll, smells worse, and stutters when he talks? There's your answer.

Or you read in the trades about a woman who can't write her way out of a paper bag, yet somehow keeps getting those fat contracts? Then you see her and she's utterly gorgeous? There you go.

Looks. Image. And, sex. Oh yes, our very favorite part. Sex definitely matters. That's why we've decided our second ORBA, and our first annual ORBA, goes to Jason Starr.

I know what many of you are thinking -- where's The Natural? Where's Barry Eisler? Isn't he considered the Sexiest Everything Alive? Well, that dear readers, is why we're picking these awards and you are not.

It is quite true that Mr. Eisler has those chiseled good lucks, that amazing blow-dried hair, those bedroom eyes, and that shadowy past to keep us intrigued. He's also an incorrigible flirt, which goes a long way towards making a man sexy. And if the sex scenes in his books are any indication, the man knows how to take a woman up against a wall.

But alas, by all appearances, Barry Eisler is madly in love with his wife and devoted only to her. A sweet sentiment, no doubt. But not a very sexy one -- not for us.

Our criteria for this award (most of us, anyway) was to imagine which author we would most like to be trapped in an elevator with. Alone. No books to sign, no cameras, no repercussions.

Maybe we've had a few cocktails -- maybe he's had a few (hopefully) -- and things start to get interesting. Barry Eisler, his soft hands and Percivalian smile notwithstanding, would not close the deal.

Jason Starr would close it with hammer and nail. Jason has those smoldering good looks, dark eyes and Samsonesque hair. He has, if we're being blunt, the whole package. (And yes, ladies, we do mean package.)

What's more, Jason is a bad boy. He's the guy our mothers warned us about, back when mothers still did things like that. On the surface he's all tortured artist. But underneath beats the heart of the Casanova of Crime, the Don Juan of Delinquency.

We've all read his novels. We've had drinks with him in out-of-the-way hotel bars. We've been in that elevator (in our dreams if not in reality).

And Jason is the real deal. When the elevators door close, the evening isn't over. With Jason Starr, it's just beginning. And that's why he's this year's winner of the ORBA for Sexiest (Male) Author Alive.

Congratulations, Jason. Ladies, we suggest you hang around the elevators at Bouchercon.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

The Winner of the First ORBA: Laura Lippman, a Writer with Balls

The exclusive honor of being the only person ever to win the very first ORBA goes to: Laura Lippman.

Because she has balls.

Unlike the other mystery awards, we won't make you wait around for months to find out what you really want to know: who won the damn thing, right?

We're proud to present Laura Lippman the very first ORBA, for being the only woman in the mystery & thriller genre who writes like she has a pair of balls. And we all love a nice set of balls.

Now, having balls has nothing to do with what sex the author is. Lord knows, having balls has nothing to do with being a man. And it also does not mean writing fuck every fifth word or coming up with creative ways to kill or torture characters.

What it means for us is a writer who takes risks, who pushes the envelope, who stretches outside the comfort zone, who is willing to risk alienating loyal fans in an effort to produce the best damn book possible. And that's what Laura Lippman does. Not just once, but time and again.

Sure, her Tess Monaghan books are fine, if a bit uneven. As private eye series go, it's one of the better ones. Lippman could have kept writing those until the cows came home, and her core group of fans would have kept buying them. She could have kept getting solid, if unspectacular reviews, and she could have kept going to Bouchercon every year where people would line up to kiss her tuchus.

Nothing would have changed.

But that wasn't good enough for her. Laura decided to try something different. And not the idiotic different the self-proclaimed "young guns of hard-boiled crime fiction" are doing -- please, give us some credit for not buying that snake oil. Laura tried to be better than just okay -- she tried for greatness. And that took balls.

Of course, trying and failing doesn't win awards. The reason we're awarding the first ORBA to Laura Lippman is because she tried and succeeded. Her trio of standalone novels -- Every Secret Thing, To the Power of Three and What the Dead Know -- were not just better-than-average detective novels. They were brilliant works of literature that just happened to have mysteries in them.

There are a lot of good writers in the mystery & thriller genre, male and female. But there are only a few who have the ability to write a truly great book. We could debate who exactly belongs in that club, but one thing the members of the committee all agreed on is that there is only one woman who inarguably goes on that list. And that's Laura Lippman. Which leads us to ask -- where are the other women?

Every year we hear the Elaine Viets of the world stamp their feet and whinge that female authors are getting screwed (the bad way) by all the awards committees. We at the ORBA's say, "Where's the evidence?" Bring us one female writer in the genre that is even close to producing the quality that Lippman does. We're waiting...

Didn't think so. Because there isn't one. Every female author in the mystery & thriller genre would do well to raise the level of their work to where Ms. Lippman spends her time. No, forget female. Every author period. But if you do, watch out for nosebleeds.

Congratulations to Laura Lippman, a woman who writes with balls. If you're not reading her books, you're an idiot. And for those authors who aren't pushing themselves as she does -- get a flat with the people not reading her, because you, too, are idiots.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Mystery and Thriller Book Awards Committee

The Mystery and Thriller Book Awards are chosen by a distinguished committee of professionals drawn from the publishing industry. In order to preserve the integrity of the awards, the committee members will remain anonymous. However, the composition of the committee is as follows:
  • A New York Times bestselling author who has multiple awards nominations, including the Edgar, Barry and Anthony.
  • An editor at a top New York publishing house who has worked with a distinguished lineup of authors, including two of today's top-selling thriller writers.
  • An agent who works with a selection of acclaimed writers, including a winner of the Edgar Award.
  • A series author who has been nominated for both the Agatha and Anthony Awards multiple times.
  • A retired editor who once had two books simultaneously atop the bestseller lists, one fiction and one non-fiction.
  • An author published in multiple genres with over two dozen novels in print.
  • A New York-based playwright and essayist whose work has appeared Off-Broadway and in major newspapers and magazines across the country.
The awards we present won't always be based on a unanimous vote by all seven judges. But each judge will have input and nothing will be decided without a healthy majority decision.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Announcing the Mystery and Thriller Book Awards

We're a group of industry professionals who, like you, are tired of all the awards in the mystery & thriller genre. The Edgar, Anthony, Agatha, Barry, Thriller, Gumshoe, Shamus, Nero, Macavity, Hammett, the list goes on ad nauseum. We all know how they are chosen and by whom, and we all know the popularity, cronyism and favoritism inherent in those and all such awards.

That is why we have created the Mystery and Thriller Book Awards -- the Only Real Book Awards. ORBA's for short, because we think it's cute. Selected by an elite committee of professionals (we really are) the ORBA's will not only celebrate the things that are truly important, but will do so with an unbiased and objective eye never before seen in this industry.

We have been behind the curtain of all the traditional awards and we are tired of what we have seen. So, we're doing something about it; offering an alternative.

Welcome, mystery & thriller fans. You are home.