Sunday, 27 April 2008

A Lovely Grace

sunny, warm, highs 22

We're in Montreal now. Great flight - very smooth and easy. Front row seats! Makes a difference I tell you. Arrived back in time for cappuccino and carrot cake at our favorite Montreal bistro -on Greene Avenue. Walking distance from home. And it's an exquisite day! Feels like late spring. Buds on trees, daffodils out, grass green - no snow in sight. Though the doorman assures us snow is expected for Tuesday.

Snow? Really?

However, have to say that after winning the Agatha it could be a blizzard and I'd be happy. Funny how that works.

What a night it was. I've forgotten what I've told you. So you'll get it all again. Michael and I got to the cocktail at about 6:30. It was already a madhouse - everyone in evening dress, with wine and yakking it up. We had to set up the table we were hosting so we snuck into the ball room and found our table. 20. Lise had shipped us hardcovers of the US version of STILL LIFE as well as the chocolates (wait, this is sounding familiar - so I won't go on and on - or maybe I Stop it!)

We put them out, went outside, talked to a few people then it was time to head back into the ballroom for dinner.

What a sparkling evening. There were 400 people for the banquet. The place was backed and hopping. The people at my table were chosen by heaven. Wonderful, fun and funny people. One is a retired intelligence officer from the navy who now does gui8ded tours of Washington - including one for dogs and their owners (!!) - another two go to Cambridge (UK) to take summer courses, something Michael and I have been dying to do - and go to Heffers bookstore for their annual July crime dinner...which I was invited to this year. This is an incredibly small world. Almost all were libtrarians - whom I love so much I made Reine-Marie a librarian. It was just a gift of a table.

The 'official' speeches, which are often excrutiating at banquets were hysterical - starting with the divine toastmaster/author Dan Stashower. He was very, very funny - and pithy. The fan guests of honor were Ron and Jean McMillen and Elizabeth Foxwell.

A Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Peter Lovesey - who is charming and handsome and funny and brilliant. Just to be in the same room with him was amazing.

The US guest of honor was Charlaine Harris - whose books I don't know but after her speech I sure want to find them.

The Poirot award was given to Janet Hutchings and Linda Landrigan - editors of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchock Presents.

And for the first time Malice Domestic had an International Guest of Honor. That was Lindsey Davis - who writes the Falco historical mysteries...which are brilliant. And she was extremely funny as well...talking about hosting a breakfast gathering of fans a few years earlier at a similar convention, and deciding as a joke to show up in bathrobe, slippers and curlers. Except no one realized it was a joke - and she still gets stopped by people asking if she's the same woman who went down to breakfast by mistake in her curlers and nightie.

And then if was time for the Agathas.

I was calm itself. Very Zen. At one with the universe and the chocolate mousse. Unflappable. Because I knew I wasn't going to win. I wouldn't have to (and didn't) worry about a speech, or getting up in front of 400 people. Normally at these things, or when I give lunch or dinner speeches I don't eat - nerves get me in the stomache. But last night I ate like a horse.

Before the awards were give out I went over to the St Martins Minotaur table to say hi - and to meet Charles Finch, whose remarkable debut mystery was up for Best First Novel Agatha. I'd blurbed his book - with great gusto. It's called A BEautiful Blue Death and well worth reading. I wanted to wish him luck.

Then the awards started.

The Agatha for best young adult mystery went to Sarah Masters Buckey for A LIGHT IN THE CELLAR

The Best Short Story Agatha went to: Donna Andrews for A RAT'S TALE

Best Nonfiction Agatha went to: Jon Lellenberg, Daniel Stashower (also the toastmaster for the evening) and Charles Foley for ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE: A LIFE IN LETTERS

The Best First Novel Agatha went to: Hank Phillippi Ryan for PRIME TIME
(Charlies Finch didn't win - but how fantastic to be shortlisted and distinguished from the sea of other great first novels...and he's going to have a great career.)

Then it was time for the real reason anyone was there - the most important moment in everyone's life (are you still awake???) The best Novel Agatha.

They read out the nominees:

Margaret Maron, for HARD ROW
Louise Penny for A FATAL GRACE

My hands were in the air ready to applaud whoever won.

The host read: And the winner is.... A FATAL -

Blood rushed to my head - and time stopped. I remember hearing a roar - could have been people, could have been blood. Never realized how similar (and sometimes inseperable) they are. Then I tilted backwards in my seat and clapped my hands over my face. And for an instant all went my dark coccoon. Then I took my hands away - a glare of lights, hands on my shoulders, applause. Andy Martin the publisher of St Martins Minotaur had appeared right there. I think I hugged him. (he might have been on his way to the bathroom poor man, but he got mauled by me) then up the three steps (i counted - it all happened in an instant but also extremely slowly) to the stage. Verena Rose, the chair of Malice Domestic handed me the Agatha Award.

Even writing this I can feel tears.

All those years reading Agatha Christie - introduced by my mother. All the comfort traditional mysteries - Dorothjy L Sayers, Ngaio Marsh, Josephine Tey have given me. They're what I turn to still when life is unkind. I'd heard of the Agathas long before I even began writing. I'd heard of the teapot award, because that's what it is. A lovely teapot (actual size and useable) glazed a royal blue, and inscribed...Malice Domestic XX (20 - our year) and on the other side words I never, ever expected to see except as applied to someone else. Best Novel Agatha Award

I don't know what I said expect I looked at my hands at one stage and they were trembling. And beyond the quivering hands I saw a sea of smiling, kindly faces. Who only wanted the best for all of us. What a great community mystery reading and writing is.

I remebered to thank Michael. And Hope Dellon and Andrew Martin of Minotaur. And the other nominees. But don't know what else I said. And then in a daze I was back at my seat with a miraculous teapot in my grip that I didn't have to steal from Donna or Rhys or Margaret or Elaine.

Hope Dellon (who celebrated a birthday yestrerday and didn't tell us until this morning!!) said she'd express post the teapot home to us...since our luggage was already bulging and there was a real danger the teapot would break and I would die.

As some of you know, I really struggled writing the second book. Filled with fear I'd put all I had into STILL LIFE and there was nothing left. I know winning the AGATHA would be meaningful at any stage in my career, but to win it for A FATAL GRACE - a book that didn't come easily but was finally the book I really, really wanted to write is even more meaningful to me.

What a lucky person I am. As I wrote to someone this morning. I've grown to realize it isn't enought to have great good fortune (and I've had so much) but the real blessing in life is knowing how lucky I am.

Gratitude is the gift and the reward. And I'm filled with it. And cake.


Lesa said...


Congratulations! I was rooting for you and A Fatal Grace. Well deserved!

DL said...

Congratulations! It was tough competition with four worthy novels against yours. Wow. I'm pleased for your win.

BTW, on Tuesday, you can continue celebrating with snow ice cream to go with more cake!

-- debra

Hilary said...

Does Cloud Nine beat first class? Well done. Well deserved.

Louise Penny Author said...

Dear Lesa,

You - my dear - have walked beside me this whole way! Thank you. What a trip.


Louise Penny Author said...

Dear dl,

Oh, my. Snow ice cream. Well, on our way to mthe Russell library (as I mentioned in todays - tuesday) blog I had mashed potatoes in ice cream scoops. Then cake. So close.

Thanks for the message -


Louise Penny Author said...

Dearest Hilary,

Wow - you know Cloud Nine is it! Beats many things - bliss. Such good luck. Thank you, Hilary. You're so supportive of the books, and me - I know it and appreciate it.


Joni said...

Just a belated note to congratulate you again on your well-deserved Agatha win. It was so wonderful to meet you and swap amazing-puppy stories with you. Best wishes and felicitations on the Ellis nomination -- you're on a roll!