Quarterly crime-fiction and mystery magazine The Strand has announced its list of nominees for the annual Strand Magazine Critics Awards.
Authors Louise Penny, Michael Connelly, and John Searles headline this year’s nominees for best novel, while Dan Smetanka of Counterpoint Press receives the Publisher of the Year Award. James Lee Burke and Lee Child are both honored with Strand Lifetime Achievement awards.
Recognizing excellence in the field of mystery fiction and publishing, The Strand Critics Awards are judged by an ever-changing group of book critics and journalists. This year’s judges were chosen from The Boston Globe, National Public Radio, The Washington Post, USA TODAY, and The Associated Press.
The 2022 Strand Critics Awards nominees for Best Novel and Best Debut are …
Anywhere You Run by Wanda M. Morris (William Morrow)
Back to the Garden by Laurie R. King (Bantam)
Desert Star by Michael Connelly (Little Brown)
Her Last Affair by John Searles (Mariner Books)
A World of Curiosities by Louise Penny (Minotaur)
Secret Identity by Alex Segura (Flatiron Books)
Jackal by Erin E. Adams (Bantam)
A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham (Minotaur)
Before You Knew My Name by Jacqueline Bublitz (Atria/Emily Bestler)
Don’t Know Tough by Eli Cranor (Soho)
Shutter by Ramona Emerson (Soho)
Past recipients of The Strand Critics Awards include Michael Connelly, Laura Lippman, Richard Price, John Banville, Megan Abbot, Sheena Kamal, and William Landay.
“It’s great to see new faces for the best novel award this year,” said Andrew F. Gulli, managing editor of The Strand Magazine. “And Counterpoint Press is an unstoppable publishing house, always releasing interesting and eclectic books. It’s also wonderful to see James Lee Burke and Lee Child getting the recognition they deserve. Both have contributed to the genre in a way that’s unparalleled, and on a personal level they are among the most generous and supportive authors around.”
Adding to an already impressive list of awards, James Lee Burke receives The Strand’s Lifetime Achievement Award. After finding early publishing success in the 1960s and early 70s, Burke’s works were largely ignored for over a decade. However, thanks to his undeniable versatility and talent, and the persistence of his legendary literary agent, Philip Spitzer, Burke’s 1986 novel The Lost Get-Back Boogie was finally published to critical acclaim and a Pulitzer Prize nomination. Since then, he hasn’t looked back. In a career spanning six decades, he has received continuous praise and comparisons to an illustrious set of authors ranging from Sartre to Hemingway.
“I’m very honored to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award from The Strand and its publisher Andrew F. Gulli,” Burke said in response to the news. “The term ‘light bearer’ may seem a reach, but it is not. Every good writer has one raison d’etre for his or her art. It is the compulsion to describe a piece of the firmament in a perfect way, one that the reader will never forget. … I cannot tell you how nice it is to receive such a fine award from such a nice group of literary people.”
After writing for television for many years, Lee Child turned his talents to novels. The result? A highly successful career as one of the most popular thriller authors of the last 25 years. His very first novel, The Killing Floor (1997), hit the best-sellers lists and marked the debut of Jack Reacher, who quickly became one of the most iconic action heroes of the thriller genre. The Jack Reacher books have sold millions of copies in dozens of languages around the world and have been successfully adapted into blockbuster films.
“The Strand Magazine has been an absolute icon in our genre since its first issue in 1890,” Child said. “Its history is our history. To be recognized by it for my body of work is an unparalleled honor, which I accept with gratitude—and, to be honest, a touch of imposter syndrome.”
Past lifetime achievement award-winners include Walter Mosley, Heather Graham, Joyce Carol Oates, J.A. Jance, Sandra Brown, Nelson DeMille, Jeffery Deaver, Alexander McCall Smith, and Elmore Leonard.
This year’s recipient of The Strand Magazine’s Publisher of the Year Award is Dan Smetanka, Vice President and Editorial Chief of Counterpoint Press. During his tenure with Counterpoint Press, Smetanka has presided over record growth and distribution, launched critically acclaimed books by authors such as Tod Goldberg, Peter Houlahan, Dana Johnson, and John Verdon, and has also been instrumental in reviving the works of Eve Babitz. Based in Southern California and describing themselves as “an author-driven publishing house” centering on new literary voices, the team at Counterpoint is part of a movement of publishers like Blackstone, Sourcebooks, Bancroft Press, and Camcat Books that are helping to transform and diversify the industry. Moreover, Smetanka has been described as an editor’s editor. Unafraid to take risks, he is beloved by his authors for his hands-on approach and sharp attention to even the smallest details.
“Thank you so much for this incredible recognition of our work here at Counterpoint,” Smatenka said.
“We are all so grateful to you and the Strand for your support of writers and their work and I look forward to celebrating with the finalists this year.”
Past recipients of the Strand Publisher of the Year Award include Tom Doherty, Morgan Entrekin, Josh Stanton, and Bronwen Hruska.
The Strand Critics Awards will be held virtually in September 2023.