That awkward moment
when you discover that the crime novel which just won your society's award was written by a convicted murderer who has been locked away in prison for the last twenty years.
And you thought you knew about BBAs.
Does anyone bother to factcheck anything these days?
From The NYT:
Just before Labor Day in 2011, Toni Kirkpatrick, an editor at Thomas Dunne Books, an imprint of St. Martin’s Press, picked up her phone and called an unfamiliar number with a Southern California area code. She was hoping to deliver good news to a man named Alaric Hunt, the newest winner of a debut-detective-novel writing contest, jointly sponsored by Minotaur Books (another St. Martin’s imprint) and the Private Eye Writers of America. The contest has a good track record — a past winner, Michael Koryta, a 21-year-old phenom, has since published 10 successful thrillers — and it also comes with a substantial prize: a $10,000 advance and a guaranteed publishing contract for the book that has been submitted.
S. J. Rozan, the author of award-winning private-detective novels, served as a judge on behalf of the Private Eye Writers association, and she recommended Hunt’s submission to Kirkpatrick. “The voice was new,” Rozan told me. “It wasn’t the same wisecracking self-deprecating tone you see with a lot of private-eye books. The characters seemed real.” Kirkpatrick was similarly impressed. “The manuscript felt very accomplished,” she said. “He clearly knew how to tell a story. The language and dialogue were fantastic.”
Beyond that, though, all either of them knew about Alaric Hunt was that he had submitted a manuscript along with a Southern California phone number. So when a woman answered the phone, Kirkpatrick asked if she could speak to Alaric.
“He’s not available. He’s in an institution.”
The woman on the phone was Hunt’s first cousin, Jade Reed. She had mailed the manuscript to Minotaur on his behalf.
“Like a prison?” Kirkpatrick asked.
“Will he be out soon?”
Reed paused. “Well, he’s there indefinitely.”
Before this phone call, it had never occurred to Kirkpatrick that her contest winner might have spent the past 25 years in prison, where he’s serving a life sentence for murder.
The story was also reported by NPR.