Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Dana Haynes wins "Spotted Owl" Award for CRASHERS

Friends of Mystery President Elinore Rogers presents 
the coveted Spotted Owl to Dana Haynes

Last Thursday I attended a meeting of the Friends of Mystery to witness the presentation of their 16th annual Spotted Owl Award. The revered Spotted Owl is awarded to what the Friends deem the best novel of the year by a Northwest writer.

The festivities got underway with a sale of second-hand books at extremely reasonable prices. I splurged and spent two bits for an old issue of EQMM with a Doug Allyn story. Imagine my chagrin, minutes later, when it was announced that after the meeting, the remaining books would be offered at half price. I could have had that sucker for twelve and a half cents!

I chatted with some folks I knew, including President Ellie Rogers and her husband Jim (Ellie claims we’ve know each other 40 years, but I think it’s a mere 36), rock stars Brian Trainer and Laurie Mills of legendary Portland band Rock Residue, BIG NAME AUTHOR Bill Cameron (who looks remarkably like a character from The Simpsons) and ZooMystery Queen Ann Littlewood.

A Rogues Gallery: Bill Cameron (author of Lost Dog, Day One, Chasing Smoke and the upcoming County Line), the award-winning Dana Haynes, and Katy King (author of City of Suspects).

Names withheld to protect the innocent.

Then it was on to the big moment. Ellie got up to podium, pulled out a really cool plaque inscribed with the image of a spotted owl, and placed it in the hands of Mr. Dana Haynes. Mr. H then proceeded to regale us with interesting stuff about the award-winning Crashers.

Crashers, in case you don’t know, involves a terrorist plot to down airliners using an ingenious (and hopefully impossible) method.

Among the secrets Dana divulged:

He began the book in 1999, but it was sidelined by certain events on September 11, 2001, and had to wait ten years to see print. Dana attributes its publication to at last finding the right agent, Janet Reid of FinePrint Literary Management, and the right editor, Keith Kahla of the St. Martins imprint Minotaur.

He got the idea from an article about the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) investigation of a crash near Philadelphia. Though there was almost nothing left of the plane, they were still able to figure out what happened.

Though the book displays an astonishing amount of technical info, he’s not a technical guy, so he had to learn as he went, doing a lot of research at Powell’s Technical Bookstore (just down the street from the City of Books) and on the NTSB website.

At various times, Dana referred to the book as having 200 protagonists, then 19, and finally 9. Having just read the book, I think the correct answer is pretty close to 9. To give them all distinct voices, he cut photos out of magazines to represent each character and stuck them up where he could see them as he wrote.

The first protagonist we meet, and the one I most identified with, is a pathologist named Tommy Tomzack. Dana said he had a tough time getting a handle on Tommy, who was originally envisioned as being from New Hampshire. Then he saw Billy Bob Thornton in Primary Colors. Once he gave Tommy a Texas accent and let him swear like a stevedore, the character practically wrote himself.

Someone asked if the book made him afraid to fly. Quite the opposite, Dana said. He learned so much about how well they’re put together, and how good the people are who build and fly them, that he’s more comfortable than ever.

When the book was published in Japan, the publishers wanted a minor change in the plot. Dana was hesitant until his editor said, “What do you care? You can’t read Japanese anyway.”

When it was published in Italy, the publisher produced a trailer. Dana swears it features a guest-scream from Kermit the Frog. What do you think?

Good news: A sequel is coming in November, also from Minotaur, reuniting all nine protagonists. Dana was determined to kill one of them, governmental liaison Susan Tanaka, in the second book, but his inamorata, author Katy King, put her foot down and refused to allow it.

More good news: Following the sequel, we’ll see a spin-off with only one Crashers character, former Israeli intelligence agent Daria Gibron. I’m anxiously awaiting both books.

Ann Littlewood, author of Night Kill and Did Not Survive 
(no, she's not an albino, it's just my cheesy camera) chats with fans.

In case you're wondering, here are the runners up for the Spotted Owl:

2. Jon Talton for Deadline Man
3. Robert Dugoni for Bodily Harm
4. Mike Lawson for House Justice
5. Patrick McManus for The Huckleberry Murders
6. Bill Cameron for Day One
7. Phillip Margolin for Supreme Justice
8. Greg Rucka for The Last Run
9. Steve Martini for The Rule of Nine
10. Michael Gruber for The Good Son

Lots of talented writers here in the Northwest territory.

Noticeably absent from this list are two books Davy and I feel are also deserving, so we’d like take this opportunity to present the 1st annual Ring-Tailed Raccoon Award to (in alphabetical order) Portland author Ann Littlewood for Did Not Survive and Tacoma’s notorious Robert S. Napier for The Toyman Rides Again. Yep, it's a tie. Congratulations, folks. (Sorry, no plaques.)


Deka Black said...

In Japan.Wow. Must be pretty hard being published in Japsn.

Ann Littlewood said...

Aw, gee, Dave, thanks so much. I'll set up my award so it hangs down the back of my cap. Oh, by the by, I think it was probably September 11 that delayed Dana's book, not November 11. Just sayin'...

Friends of Mystery is a great outfit and you covered the event beautifully.

Cap'n Bob said...

Thanks, Evan. I got gypped again.

Evan Lewis said...

By the way, Cap'n, Tough Jim made a fabulous find at the book sale: A copy of the rare and desirable ARC of The Toyman Rides Again.

Anonymous said...

Cool. Great post.

Cap'n Bob said...

No doubt the one I sent to Ellie, Evan. Rodney Dangerfield has nothing on me.