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.


mike p. said...

Lippman is an awesome writer. I wouldn't say she has balls (I'm not sure that's a very nice thing to say) but she can write her ass off.

Scott Perry said...

I have never read Miss Lippman, but I will check out her books based on this. Thank you!

Cozy Crime said...

I love Laura's books. (Tess is one of my favorites!) But I don't think it's necessary to use language like that.

Clea Simon said...

Lippman is a masterful writer. But the only woman writer with balls? Come on... I'm assuming you interpret balls to be harder-edged crime fiction, but how about Megan Abbott, Linda L. Richards, Denise Mina.

Anonymous said...

If Clea had read the post correctly, she would know that they are definitely not talking about simply writing "harder-edged" fiction.

Pay attention, people, or don't comment.

Kudos to the judges on this site. Very smart choice, and I applaud you having the "balls" to call it like it is.

Terry Glass

Anonymous said...

this is the lamest award i've seen yet. what a bunch of idiots.