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Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar® Awards

Honoring Writers and Others Important to the Mystery Genre


The Edgar Award statue, coveted by mystery writers

The Edgar Award statue, coveted by mystery writers

Matthew Peyton / Getty Images Entertainment
About the Edgar® Awards
The Edgar® Awards are bestowed each year by the Mystery Writers of America organization to recognize writing achievements in the literary genre of mystery and crime, as well as achievements outside of the scope of writing that support the mystery genre, such as publishing or bookselling.

The Edgar® Awards were established shortly after the founding of the Mystery Writers of America organization to help bring attention and prestige to the field of mystery writing. Named after Edgar Allan Poe, “the father of the detective story,” the award statuette (given out since the third year of the awards) is a likeness of the writer, as well.

In 1946, the first Edgar® Awards were given for Best First Novel, Best Motion Picture, Best Radio Drama, and Outstanding Mystery Criticism. Over the years, Mystery Writers of America added awards, including for Best Play (1950), Best Short Story (1951), Best Television Episode (1952), and Best Radio Drama (1960).

The first Edgar® Awards Dinner took place in New York City and, although the venue has changed several times, the gala event is still today held in Manhattan.

The Edgar® Awards Categories
At the Edgar® Awards Dinner, the MWA announces the winners from the roster of finalists in the following categories:

Best Novel - only hardbound novels are considered.

Best First Novel - must be a mystery by an American author.

Best Paperback Original - paperback first novels are not eligible for this category and must be submitted under Best First Novel.

Best Fact Crime - non-fiction.

Best Critical/Biographical - regarding works or authors in the literary genre.

Best Short Story - works up to 22,000 words from magazines, periodicals, book-length anthologies and web sites.

Best Juvenile Mystery - for ages 5 - 11.

Best Young Adult Mystery - for ages 12 -18.

Best Play - all full-length plays produced professionally on Broadway, off Broadway, or through the League of Regional Theatres are eligible.

Best Television Series Episode Teleplay - that has aired.

Mary Higgins Clark Award - is selected by a Special Mystery Writers of America Committee "for the book most closely written in the Mary Higgins Clark Tradition." The guidelines for the Mary Higgins Clark Award were established by the author herself. In order to be eligible for the award, the protagonist of the novel must:

  • Be a nice young woman whose life is suddenly invaded.

  • Be self-made and independent, with primarily good family relationships.

  • Be employed in an interesting job.

  • Be minding her own business; that is "She is not looking for trouble--she is doing exactly what she should be doing and something cuts across her bow."

  • Solve her problem by her own courage and intelligence.

    In addition, the Mary Higgins Clark Award-winning story must have no on-scene violence, strong four-letter words or explicit sex scenes.

    In addition to the awards named above, special award recipients are announced in advance of the dinner:

    Grand Master of the Edgar® Awards
    According to Mystery Writers of America, the Grand Master Award “represents the pinnacle of achievement in mystery writing and was established to acknowledge important contributions to the genre, as well as a body of work that is both significant and of consistent high quality.”

    The Grand Master Award was established in 1954 and first bestowed in 1955, upon Dame Agatha Christie, who simultaneously won the Edgar Award that year for Best Play for Witness for the Prosecution.

    Traditionally, the Grand Master gives a speech at the Edgar® Awards Dinner.

    The Raven Award
    Named for the Poe poem, MWA’s Raven Award recognizes outstanding achievement in the mystery field outside the realm of creative writing. Past recipients of the Raven Award have included mystery bookseller and publisher Otto Penzler, as well as “First Readers,” Presidents Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Bill Clinton.

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