Tag Archive for: International Thriller Writers

ITW 2021 Thriller Short Story Award Goes To . . .

by Paula Gail Benson

Alan Orloff

I remember meeting Alan Orloff at Malice
Domestic when his first novel, Diamonds for the Dead, was an Agatha
award finalist. Since that time, he has published nine additional novels and a
myriad of short stories that have appeared in Needle: A Magazine of
Noir, Shotgun Honey Presents: Locked & Loaded, Jewish Noir, Alfred
Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Mystery Weekly, Windward: Best New England Crime
Stories 2016, Chesapeake Crimes: Storm Warning, Noir at the Salad Bar, 50
Shades of Cabernet, Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies, Snowbound:
Best New England Crime Stories 2017, Black Cat Mystery Magazine, The Night of
the Flood, 
and Mystery Most Geographical.

Recently, Alan’s story, “Rent Due” (in Mickey Finn: 21st Century Noir)
received the 2021 International Thriller Writers’ Thriller Award for Best Short


This follows the success of his novel Pray for the Innocent (Kindle Press)
which received the 2019 Thriller for Best E-Book Original.


“Rule Number One” (originally published
in Snowbound, from Level Best Books) was selected for the 2018
edition of 
The Best American Mystery
 anthology, edited by Louise Penny.


“Happy Birthday” (published on Shotgun
Honey) was a 2018
Derringer Award Finalist
 in the Flash Fiction category (an
award given by the members of the Short Mystery Fiction Society).


“Dying in Dokesville” (published in Mystery Most Geographicalwon the 2019
Derringer Award
 in the Short Story category.


Currently, his novel I Know Where You Sleep (Down & Out Books) is
2021 Shamus Award
 in the Best First P.I. Novel category.


Congratulations, Alan! May your writing
continue to thrive!


The Thrilling Lee Child

By Kay Kendall

When my
first mystery was months away from publication, other writers suggested I
should attend ThrillerFest, the high powered writers’ conference held every July
in New York City. I protested that a) I don’t write thrillers, and b) that
conference was pricy. Then I was told that International Thriller Writers, the
group that holds the annual meeting, has a special program for debut authors
that helps put newbies on the map. I was persuaded to attend, thinking I would
go only once in order to participate in that program.

Janet Maslin of the NY Times interviews ThrillerMaster Lee Child.

That was
back in 2013, and I have just returned from my fifth ThrillerFest in a row. Yes,
I got hooked, pure and simple. The authorial fire power at ThrillerFest can’t
be equaled, and contrary to its name, the International Thriller Writers do welcome
authors across the full spectrum of crime writing. Whether you write cozy
mysteries, true thrillers, traditionals, historicals, suspense, or whatever. It
does not matter. All are welcome.
An awards
banquet concludes each conference. Besides handing out six book awards, ITW
honors one author who is deemed the year’s ThrillerMaster. Beginning in 2006
when the conference debuted, in chronological order the honorees were Clive
Cussler, James Patterson, Sandra Brown, David Morrell, Ken Follett, R.L. Stine,
Jack Higgins, Anne Rice, Scott Turow, Nelson DeMille, Heather Graham, and—this year—Lee
Child. Also part of the hoopla centering on the ThrillerMaster is an hour-long
interview by another notable person. This year Lee Child was interviewed by
Janet Maslin, long-time film critic (1977-1999) and book reviewer (1999 on) for
the New York Times 
If you aren’t
up on your thrillers, here is some background about the suave and ever-genial
Lee Child, who hails from Coventry, England. Although a resident of New York
since 1998, he has not lost his gorgeous British accent—or his elegant manners
either, for that matter. Within the thriller/mystery writing community, his
name is a watchword for bestseller-dom. In fact, his twenty-one novels starring
the tall, sexy drifter Jack Reacher are so popular that I was shocked that Lee
Child had not been named an ITW ThrillerMaster years earlier.
Near the
beginning of his interview with Janet Maslin, Child announced that he had
become eligible for the award only three months previously. There was a
twenty-year rule that explained everything, one I had not known about. His
twenty-second Reacher novel is due out in the fall, and two popular films
featuring actor Tom Cruise as the legendarily tall Jack Reacher have been produced.
I will never forget when the news first broke that Cruise would play Reacher.
Much consternation ensued. Cruise is known to be well under six feet tall. Reacher
is described in book after book as six feet five, weighing 220 pounds, with a
chest expanse of 50 inches. To note: Child himself is six feet five, but his
frame is rail-thin.
Lee Child
says he tires of being asked about the choice of Cruise, but his ire is never
evident.  Which is a good thing. At the
awards banquet, two thriller authors performed a mashup of Beatles songs with
lyrics restyled to fit known events in the life and career of Child. The medley
opened with “Tiny Jack Reacher” sung to the tune of “Paperback Writer.” This
performance brought down the house. And Lee Child smiled through it all. He
also gave everyone in attendance a hardback of collected Jack Reacher short
stories that debuted just this month. Now that’s what I call class.

Read the first 20
pages of Kay Kendall’s second mystery,
won two awards at the Killer Nashville
in August 2016—for best mystery/crime and also for best book. 
first novel about Austin Starr‘s sleuthing,
ROW, was a finalist for best mystery
Killer Nashville in 2014. 

Conferences for Writers and for Readers—Part I

By Kay Kendall

Today I’m sitting in for Stiletto Gang colleague and friend, Marjorie Brody. A
sudden death in her family has left her with an unbearable list of things to
do. Pinch-hitting for Marjorie gives me the chance to make back-to-back posts
exploring the burgeoning phenomenon of conferences designed both for readers
and for writers.

Have suitcase…Will Travel!

Back in the days before I
was a published author, when I contemplated a writing career, I had no idea
that there would be so many opportunities to hobnob with other writers—and with
readers too. I had always thought that the life of a writer was a solitary one.
Then I discovered the wealth of conferences that blanket this continent. The
list of seminars for aspiring writers is long, and almost as long is the list
of conferences for both readers and authors. I swear you could spend your life
going from meeting to meeting. That is, if you had the money to do so.
I have ended up loving
the networking and marketing and meeting readers and other writers so much that
it’s easy to forget about the writing at the core of it all…which remains
sitting alone in that room and facing an empty screen and throwing type up on
it. For me, that is torture. Once I get past the first draft, then the rest is
Starting in 2004, I began
attending one regional writing conference per year. Then, beginning in 2011, I
started attending Bouchercon. It must be the world’s largest con aimed at fans
of mystery authors. Then in 2013, the year my first book was published, I
attended three conferences in one calendar year, and that has remained my
standard to this very day. If my budget and my writing calendar allowed,
however, I would do even more. The most marvelous part of these gatherings is
meeting many people who were Facebook friends and now have turned into real
ones, not just virtual.
Three days ago I returned
home from the annual ThrillerFest in New York City, sponsored by International
Thriller Writers. ITW celebrates its tenth anniversary this year so the
conference was even more star-studded than usual. I participated in an authors’
round table, renewed old acquaintances, made new ones, sold some books, and
networked like crazy. In tomorrow’s post I will talk in detail about some of
the famous writers who spoke at ThrillerFest.
The month of October will
begin with Bouchercon in Raleigh, North Carolina, and end with Killer Nashville
in Tennessee. Half the size of ThrillerFest and Bouchercon, Killer Nashville is
an exceptionally supportive and friendly gathering. My more introverted author
pals are drawn to smaller conferences like this one. At each event I’ve
attended, one of these introverts confides to me how difficult it is to endure
so many people at once.
But now I am back in my
author’s lair, facing that empty PC screen. The nasty thing keeps whispering to
me that I must start writing my third mystery featuring my amateur sleuth,
Austin Starr. Tentatively titled Tombstone
, this will be Austin’s most dangerous adventure yet when she and her
husband David tangle with Russian spies in Cold War-era Vienna. It opens only a
month after the conclusion of Rainy Day
, and David is still mad at her. Because she . . . but wait! I’m about
to give away too much. I must stop. I want this to be a spoiler-free zone!
Kendall is a long-time fan of historical novels and writes
atmospheric mysteries that capture the spirit and turbulence of the
sixties. She is a reformed PR executive who lives in Texas with her husband,
three house rabbits, and spaniel Wills. Terribly allergic to her bunnies, she
loves them anyway! Her book titles show she’s a Bob Dylan buff too. RAINY DAY
WOMEN published on July 7–the second in her Austin Starr Mystery series. The
audio-book will be out soon. 



The Vampire Lestat’s Mom and Rambo’s Dad

By Kay Kendall
week the organization International Thriller Writers (ITW) celebrated its tenth
anniversary. The star power of authors present at the celebratory conference,
ThrillerFest, ran the gamut from supernova to red dwarf. Last year when I went
to my first ThrillerFest as a debut author, I was stunned by the numerous super
stars in attendance, and also by how kind and generous they were. This year’s
meeting was even more jam-packed with sparkling talent.

Anne Rice is in center, with her son Christopher the tall man over her shoulder. Others left to right are R.L. Stine, David Morrell, and Scott Turow. 

Rice wrote her first novel about the vampire Lestat in 1985—she was present. David
Morrell wrote his first Rambo novel in 1972, followed by 28 more novels of
various kinds—he was there. Ditto Lee
Child, father of Jack Reacher, who first appeared in 1997, with his nineteenth tale
out next month. Scott Turow dropped by to pick up his award, Thriller Master
2014. His novel Presumed Innocent put
the legal thriller on the map in 2000, and eleven more novels followed. Other
luminaries who spoke at ThrillerFest (whose books you no doubt either read or at
least recognize) include David Baldacci, Steve Berry, Michael Connelly, Lisa
Gardner, Heather Graham, M.J. Rose, and John Sandford.
Here I am with T. Jefferson Parker.
you’re in such company, you can either feel insignificant—or you can choose to
be inspired. I picked the latter. The atmosphere was so supportive, of any
writer at any level, that it was easy not to be intimidated.
One of the main purposes of the ITW organization is to
provide a way for successful, bestselling authors to help debut and midlist
authors advance their careers. Judging
from the two conferences I’ve attended, the contacts I’ve made, and the
networking that is ongoing, I can only conclude that this goal is being met

Ian Rankin with Steve Berry in background

Helping to put the
international in the conference was one of my favorite authors, Ian Rankin. He
flew in from his home in Edinburgh, Scotland, to participate on several panels.
He has written nineteen installments in his bestselling crime series featuring
Inspector John Rebus. Another of my favorites is T. Jefferson Parker. His twenty
crime novels are set in southern California, and his next book is due this
October, called Full Measure.  

I have met Rankin and
Parker at previous book events and corresponded with both of them. They recognize
me as both a super fan of their work and an aspiring novelist. It is
heartwarming and encouraging to be treated nicely by one’s literary heroes. Now
I can’t wait to return to ThrillerFest next year. 
(By the way, I participated on a panel but forgot to ask one of my pals
to shoot the photographic evidence. Darn.) 

Cheers to ThrillerFest!

Kay Kendall set her debut novel, Desolation Row—An Austin Starr Mystery,
in 1968. The Vietnam War backdrop illuminates reluctant courage and desperate
love when a world teeters on chaos. Kay’s next mystery, Rainy Day Women (2015) finds amateur sleuth Austin Starr trying to
prove a friend didn’t murder women’s liberation activists in Seattle and
Vancouver. Kay is an award-winning international PR executive living in Texas
with her Canadian husband, three house rabbits, and spaniel Wills. Very allergic to bunnies, she loves them anyway! 
Her book titles show she’s a Bob
Dylan buff too.

The Generosity of Mystery Authors

by Kay Kendall
The first conference for mystery fans that I attended
was Bouchercon 2011 in St. Louis. Previously I’d only attended writers’
conferences where would-be authors pitched manuscripts to agents and sat at the
feet of those hallowed gods/goddesses called published authors. Bouchercon,
billed as the
World Mystery and
Suspense Conference
,“ was an entirely different breed of cat. I couldn’t
get my mind around what was going on.  
And then I got it! The published mystery authors weren’t there to tell us
how to write, how to sell, or how to win an agent. No, they were there to talk
about their writing and their writing worlds. Once I figured that out, I soaked
up every tiny detail that came my way. And I loved it.

I’m holding Charlaine’s LIVING DEAD IN DALLAS,
 the second Sookie Stackhouse book,
and she holds my debut mystery, DESOLATION ROW. 

The session that stands out, still to this day, was an
afternoon panel of new authors. One man exclaimed his astonishment over the
generosity of mystery writers. He said they supported each other and even him—a
newbie. But he was shocked to discover that mystery writers do so little
backbiting. Then he leaned over and leveled a hard look at us in the rapt
audience. “Poets are not like that,” he said. “I’ve attended meetings of poets
with a relative, and they’re just awful.” The audience howled.
While I can’t comment on poets, I can say from experience
that mystery authors are indeed generous. At Bouchercon 2012 in Cleveland I met
two authors who later agreed to blurb my debut mystery, Desolation Row. First,
thriller writer extraordinaire Norb Vonnegut gave key advice that helped me through
final edits. Whenever I need advice from
a seasoned pro, I still turn to Norb. Janet Maslin, influential book review at the
New York Times, calls him “the author of three glittery thrillers about fiscal
malfeasance” in which “he is three for three in his own improbably sexy genre.” 
The second author was Hank Phillippi Ryan, to whom I
was introduced only in passing. Yet brief as that encounter was, this
multi-award winning mystery author agreed to blurb my debut effort when I asked
As well, Stiletto Gang member Linda Rodriguez reached
out to me as an online pal to offer help setting up a bookstore event in the
Kansas City area. (Her writing career began as a poet so she may disagree with
the opinion I quote above.)
I could go on and on, but you get the idea. Mystery
authors are a benevolent group. At heart they love the genre we write in and
seem to understand that the success of one does not take away from the others. In
fact, a whole organization has been founded on that principle, the
International Thriller Writers. After attending Bouchercon 2004 in Toronto, ITW
founding members decided to reach down and pull up writers who needed help in
climbing the slippery slope to publication, “providing
opportunities for mentoring, education and
collegiality among thriller authors and industry professionals
A much older organization is the Mystery Writers of America founded in 1945. It underwrites MWA-University, one-day seminars led by
experienced authors who share their how-to advice for a minuscule fee. The session
I attended last weekend in Dallas was, as the under-30s would say, “awesome.” The
attached photo of me with Charlaine Harris was taken at that event. When this
creator of the Sookie Stackhouse series of paranormal mysteries (on which the
HBO series True Blood is based) wished me success like hers, I almost fell
over. In truth, I’d be pleased with one percent of her enormous fan base.

Traditionally the holiday season is when we are encouraged
to be more big-hearted and giving than usual. As I contemplated blogging about generosity, I remembered the mystery authors I’ve been privileged to meet. While I can’t
thank each one individually because they’re too numerous, I can offer this
posting as an ode to them collectively. Both their writing and the generosity
of their spirit serve to inspire me. 

Kay Kendall
To celebrate the conclusion of 2013, the year in which my debut mystery was published, I will give away one copy of Desolation Row to someone who leaves a comment here about the joys of reading mysteries . . . or how you feel about mystery authors . . . or, heck, anything that you think is related!