Do you remember the scene in Fantasia where Mickey Mouse is the Sorcerer’s Apprentice and those brooms keep coming and coming with the pails of water? That is sort of how I feel these days, with the only difference that the books keep coming . . .
I am on the Edgar Committee for Best Novel. For those unacquainted with the Edgar, it is the “Oscar” given to mystery writers. This is the fourth Edgar Committee I have served on. The others (best short story, best true crime, best original paperback) didn’t seem that arduous. Since the start of 2013, I have felt guilty if I wasn’t reading in my spare time. On the few occasions my family has gone on getaways, I have taken a pile of books with me.
Luckily for me, I don’t have to read all of the 500+ books that will likely be sent my way (more than 300 have already been sent). But reading the hundred books or so assigned to me is more than daunting.
I am doing my best to be a diligent judge. I try to read most books in their entirety even though there have been some where I have given up halfway through (knowing nothing can salvage the book to make it a contender in my judgment). I try to put myself in the author’s shoes. I would hope in the past that other judges have read my books with open minds. There is one thing I know for sure: No author ever set out to write a bad book.
The deluge of novels is a daily reminder of how many good books (and not so good) get published every year, and how difficult it is for a work to stand out.
I have always loved to read, but when it comes to all this reading the bloom is definitely off the rose. Instead of reading for pleasure, I am forced to read as a critic, and also forced to do it in an expeditious manner.
I better stop writing now. There are ten books waiting in my to-be-read pile.
Alan Russell 7/1/2013