Annal: 1994 Hammett Prize for Crime-Writing

Results of the Hammett Prize in the year 1994.

Book:Dixie City Jam

Dixie City Jam: A Dave Robicheaux Novel

James Lee Burke

They’re out there, under the salt—the bodies of German seamen who used to lie in wait at the mouth of the Mississippi for unescorted American tankers sailing from the oil refineries of Baton Rouge out into the Gulf of Mexico. As a child, Dave Robicheaux had been haunted by the sailors’ images; then, as a young college student, he’d accidentally discovered one of their subs while scuba diving. Years later, in a New Orleans populated by desperate hustlers and millennium-watchers of all stripes, Robicheaux, a detective with the New Iberia sheriff’s office, finds himself and his family at serious risk, stalked for his knowledge of a watery burial ground by a mysterious man named Will Buchalter—a man who believes that the Holocaust was one big hoax.

American crime fiction’s “finest prose stylist” (Los Angeles Times) is at the peak of his powers in Dixie City Jam as he looks long and deep into the human heart of darkness.

Book:Dogs of God

Dogs of God

Pinckney Benedict

A tale of malevolence and violence set in rural West Virginia, the locale Benedict has made his own, dogs of god tells of Tannhauser, a crazed backwoodsman turned tyrannical drug lord, and the odd cast of characters—gun runners, federal agents, corrupt cops, local eccentrics, drifters—enticed into his destructive orbit. Innocently into their midst comes a young man called Goody, whose reputation as a formidable amateur boxer pits him against one of Tannhauser’s goons in a bare-fisted boxing match—a fight that Goody realizes too late will require more than just a knockout to win. As in all of Benedict’s fiction, the writing is explosive and colorful, full of the rhythms of Appalachian speech, and the action takes place on the unsettling border between the absurd and the terrifying. dogs of god unquestionably proves what so many have already said: that Pinckney Benedict is one of the outstanding voices of his generation.

Book:Shinju

Shinju

Laura Joh Rowland

When beautiful, wealthy Yukiko and low-born artist Noriyoshi are found drowned together in a shinju, or ritual double suicide, everyone believes the culprit was forbidden love. Everyone but newly appointed yoriki Sano Ichiro.

Despite the official verdict and warnings from his superiors, the shogun’s Most Honorable Investigator of Events, Situations, and People suspects the deaths weren’t just a tragedy—they were murder. Risking his family’s good name and his own life, Sano will search for a killer across every level of society—determined to find answers to a mystery no one wants solved. No one but Sano…

As subtle and beautiful as the culture it evokes, Shinju vividly re-creates a world of ornate tearooms and guady pleasure-palaces, cloistered mountaintop convents and dealthy prisons.

Part love story, part myster, Shinju is a tour that will dazzle and entertain all who enter its world.

Book:Shot in the Heart

Shot in the Heart

Mikal Gilmore

Gary Gilmore, the infamous murderer immortalized by Norman Mailer in The Executioner’s Song, campaigned for his own death and was executed by firing squad in 1977. Writer Mikal Gilmore is his younger brother. In Shot in the Heart, he tells the stunning story of their wildly dysfunctional family: their mother, a blacksheep daughter of unforgiving Mormon farmers; their father, a drunk, thief, and con man. It was a family destroyed by a multigenerational history of child abuse, alcoholism, crime, adultery, and murder. Mikal, burdened with the guilt of being his father’s favorite and the shame of being Gary’s brother, gracefully and painfully relates a murder tale “from inside the house where murder is born… a house that, in some ways, [he has] never been able to leave.” Shot in the Heart is the history of an American family inextricably tied up with violence, and the story of how the children of this family committed murder and murdered themselves in payment for a long lineage of ruin. Haunting, harrowing, and profoundly affecting, Shot in the Heart exposes and explores a dark vein of American life that most of us would rather ignore. It is a book that will leave no reader unchanged.

Book:Third and Indiana

Third and Indiana: A Novel

Steve Lopez

Someone is painting bodies on Philadelphia’s Broad Streetone more boldly drawn chalk outline every time another life is lost to the violence of the drug wars. A sixteen-year-old dealer; a priest; a nine-year-old girl. The images pile through the summer and fall, moving closer each day to the doorstep of City Hall.

Ofelia Santoro rides her bicycle over the bodies and through the dark, decaying streets of the neighborhood known to police as the Badlands. She is looking for her fourteen-year-old son, Gabriel, who disappeared a month earlier. His father skipped two years ago, and she’s been losing her boy ever since. Gabriel got his first job when he was twelve, as a lookout, spotting cops for the coke sellers working the car trade. Now he’s a dealer himself, the youngest guy in the Black Cap gang, holding down the most dangerous corner and hiring his own lookouts. He feels guilty getting kids involved the same way he got involved, but he needs…[more]

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