Mystery Writers Awards–The Bruce Alexander Memorial Historical Mystery Award

2012 Left Coast Crime, a convention for fans and writers of crime fiction will meet March 29–April 1st in Sacramento, CA for Mining For Murder.  As I mentioned in my post about the Lefty Award, which is bestowed during the convention, there are a couple other awards besides the Lefty that are also given out. The Bruce Alexander Historical Mystery Award is one. Bruce Alexander is the pen name for Bruce Alexander Cook. Cook wrote on a variety of subjects, from biographies of black listed screenwriter of Dalton Trumbo and German playwright Bertold Brecht, to non fiction explorations of Branson MO, and one on music, titled Listen to the Blues. He wrote four 20th century detective novels with Antonio “Chico” Cervantes as protagonist. But it was his historical crime novels starring real life blind judge, Sir John Fielding, that are the basis for this honor in his name. Sir John Fielding founded London’s first police force–The Bow Street Runners–and was a respected social reformer in Georgian England.

The award is given to the best historical mystery novel covering events before 1960:


  • Rhys Bowen, Naughty in Nice (Berkley Prime Crime)
  • Rebecca Cantrell, A Game of Lies (Forge)
  • Ann Parker, Mercury’s Rise (Poisoned Pen Press)
  • Priscilla Royal, A Killing Season (Poisoned Pen Press)
  • Jeri Westerson, Troubled Bones (Minotaur)
  • Jacqueline Winspear, A Lesson in Secrets (Harper)
Rhys Bowen burst upon the traditional mystery scene with a wonderful series starring Constable Evan Evans, police officer in the village of Llanfair, set in the gorgeous countryside of Wales. She now has two historical series going at the same time–a feat I am always amazed can be accomplished. She is nominated for her Royal Spyness series featuring “Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie, daughter to the Duke of Atholt and Rannoch. And she is flat broke.  Naughty in Nice: “In 1933, Georgie, the mystery world’s favorite penniless heiress, escapes to the French Riviera after Her Majesty the Queen sends her there on a mission to recover her stolen snuff box.Lady Georgie is honored to be trusted by the Queen—and even more honored when she meets Coco Chanel and is asked to model her latest clothing line. But when a necklace belonging to the Queen is stolen on the catwalk, Georgie not only has to find two priceless items—she also has an unsolved murder on her hands and has to keep an eye on her love interest, Darcy O’Mara, who has been acting awfully suspicious throughout Georgie’s ordeal.”  I was a great fan of her Constable Evans series, but haven’t had a chance to indulge in Georgie–after reading the synopsis, I fear I must find one right away, lol.
Rebecca Cantrell is “fluent is in German, she received her high school diploma from the John F. Kennedy Schule in Berlin and studied at the Freie Universität in Berlin and the Georg August Universität in Göttingen before graduating from Carnegie Mellon University.” Her Hannah Vogel mystery series set in Berlin in the 1930s. In A Game of Lies “Hannah Vogel looks behind the friendly facade the Nazis put on for the Olympic Games and uncovers a secret that can change the outcome of the upcoming war.”  I’ve not yet read Ms. Cantrell, and although I usually am not interested in spy titles, this one is very intriguing.
Ann Parker is an author  for which I made a promotional pin of one of her dust jackets a couple of years ago, so it’s nice to see her nominated for this award. “Ann’s ancestors include a great-grandfather who was a blacksmith in Leadville, a grandmother who worked at the bindery of Leadville’s Herald Democrat newspaper, a grandfather who was a Colorado School of Mines professor, and another grandfather who worked as a gandy dancer on the Colorado railroads. When Mercury’s Rise opens, Inez is on a stagecoach from Leadville to Manitou Springs, where she will see her sister and rejoin her young son at last. But that Rocky Mountain stagecoach ride turns out to be much more than she bargains for….”
Priscilla Royal received a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly for A Killing Season, not an easy achievement and when won, a great thing to be able to brag about! Prioress Eleanor of Tyndale is the series protagonist, an aristocrat and leader of the Order of Fontvraud in 13th century England. “When Baron Herbert returns from crusade he grows increasingly morose and withdraws from his family. When his sons begin to die in strange accidents, questions are asked whether Herbert harbors a dark sin for which God has cursed him. The baron suddenly sends for Sir Hugh of Wynethorpe, begging his friend to bring spiritual and secular healers. Sir Hugh persuades his sister, Prioress Eleanor of Tyndal Priory, as well as a respected physician, Master Gamel, to accompany him.” I’m not in love with Medieval mysteries, I admit. I tend not read many historical novels, with exceptions, naturally, lol. I may make this one.
When I approached Jeri Westerson‘s website, I was startled to see how her series was described. “Crispin Guest Medieval Noir Series.” I get medieval, I get Noir. What I don’t get is the two combined. I can’t imagine a Noir like feeling imposed upon a medieval world, but then I’ve not cracked open a novel of Ms. Westerson’s therefore have no reason to disparage, lol, especially since enough people obviously find her work outstanding enough to nominate her in this category. So, pooh on me! After reading the following synopsis and seeing all the historical figures involved, I can imagine a gripping tale. Troubled Bones: “The retelling of the unfinished Canterbury Tales as it might have happened…    Disgraced knight Crispin Guest gets himself into some serious trouble in London and as a result is forced to accept an assignment far out of town. The archbishop of Canterbury has
specifically requested Crispin to investigate a threat against the bones of saint and martyr Thomas a Becket, which are housed in a shrine in Canterbury Cathedral. The archbishop has received letters threatening the safety of the artifacts, and he wants Crispin to protect them and uncover whoever is after them. But when he arrives at Canterbury, Crispin is accosted by an old acquaintance from court—one Geoffrey Chaucer—who has arrived with a group of pilgrims. Trapped in Canterbury, looking for a murderer, a hidden heretic, and a solution to the riddle that will allow him to go back home, Crispin Guest finds his considerable wit and intellect taxed to its very limit.”
Jacqueline Winspear has been nominated and won so many awards already, that I’m almost tired of seeing her name! But, naturally, that can only mean her work is exceptional, and I should be indulging in it.  The following info has now drawn me to her books, and I’m sure after having read them I too will be cheering her to be nominated and win awards. “Jacqueline’s grandfather was severely wounded and shell-shocked at The Battle of the Somme in 1916, and it was as she understood the extent of his suffering that, even in childhood, Jacqueline became deeply interested in the “war to end all wars” and its aftereffects. As an adult her interest deepened to the extent that, though she did not set out to write a “war” novel, it came as no surprise that this part of history formed the backdrop of Maisie Dobbs and other books in the series. The unique and engaging character of Maisie Dobbs is very much a woman of her generation. She has come of age at a time when women took on the toil of men and claimed independence that was difficult to relinquish. It was a time when many women remained unmarried, simply because a generation of men had gone to war and not come home.” Her nominated title is A Lesson in Secrets.
Left Coast Crime seems to have the most amount of different awards at a mystery conference I’ve heard of–or maybe I should say it has the most unique categories, because most conventions have Best Novel, Best First Novel, Best Short Story, and Best Non Fiction–which must be to mundane for these guys. Besides the Lefty and Bruce Alexander awards, there is The Golden Nugget–best mystery set in the state of California, and Eureka! Best first mystery novel. Now, I’m no dummy, and I’m thinking that the title of these last two change from year to year, depending upon location–so, Golden Nugget, and Eureka are named because the theme is mining, duh! As goofy as that may seem to me, the authors nominated in the categories are no laughing matter, especially when the likes of brilliant Michael Connelly, fantastic Jan Burke, and super popular Sue Grafton are among them.
So–without synopsis’s etc, here are the last two nomination lists:

The Golden NuggetBest mystery novel set in California:

  • Jan Burke, Disturbance (Simon & Schuster)
  • Michael Connelly, The Drop (Little, Brown)
  • Janet Dawson, Bit Player (Perseverance Press)
  • Sue Grafton, V is for Vengeance (Putnam)
  • Kelli Stanley, City of Secrets (Minotaur)



Eureka!Best first mystery novel:

  • Sally Carpenter, The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper (Oak Tree Press)
  • Darrell James, Nazareth Child (Midnight Ink)
  • Tammy Kaehler, Dead Man’s Switch (Poisoned Pen Press)
  • Rochelle Staab, Who Do, Voodoo? (Berkley Prime Crime)
And here’s some tantalizing extra info:
LCC 22 has two Guests of Honor: New York Times Bestselling authors John Lescroart (author of DAMAGE and the Dismas Hardy series) and Jacqueline Winspear (author of the Maisie Dobbs series).  Special Guest:  New York Times Bestselling author James Rollins (author of the SIGMA Force novels).  The Fan Guest of Honor will be Noemi Levine.  Mystery author and noted Hollywood actress Harley Jane Kozak will be the Toastmaster.