The Strand Magazine is pleased to announce the winners of the 2021 Strand Critics Awards!

The Strand is a leading source of the latest news on thrillers and mysteries and is a hotspot for all things related to the genre. It has published many exciting works from such giants as John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and Mark Twain. 

Recognizing excellence in the field of mystery fiction and publishing, the 2021 Strand Critics Awards are judged by a select group of book critics and journalists. This year’s judges included top representatives from NPR, USA Today, The LA Times and The Wall Street Journal. The magazine threw a Zoom party on October 4, and this virtual event was hosted by managing editor Andrew Gulli and the acclaimed thriller author Hank Phillipi Ryan

And without further ado, the winners are . . .

Best Mystery Novel (2020): Snow by John Banville (Hanover Square Press)

Author of several much-praised thrillers under the pen name of Benjamin Black, the award recipient won as a first-time nominee. He expressed his response in a wry fashion, saying “It is always a great pleasure to receive an award from the critics, especially as one is so frequently the target of their brickbats … We poor scribblers work in darkness, scrabbling away like moles, in the loamy underground of our imaginations, though now and then we are seized upon and drawn up into the light, to our great surprise. So you see me here, blinking in an unfamiliar but kindly glow of attention. I offer sincere thanks for the award, which will illuminate a little the way for me as I burrow back down to my accustomed place.” He joins previous big names honored at past award ceremonies, such as Michael Connelly, Laura Lippman, Richard Price, Megan Abbott, George Pelecanos, Joseph Finder, Lauren Beukes and William Landay. If you’re curious as to who the nominees were, Banville’s competitors included:

You Again by Debra Jo Immergut (Ecco)
Trouble Is What I Do by Walter Mosley (Mulholland Books)
The Missing American by Kwei Quartey (Soho Crime)
A Song for the Dark Times by Ian Rankin (Little, Brown and Company)
Survivor Song by Paul Tremblay (William Morrow)
Confessions on the 7:45 by Lisa Unger (Park Row)

Best Debut Mystery Novel (2020): When No One Is Watching by Alyssa Cole (William Morrow)

Allysa Cole burst upon the mystery-writing scene with a captivating and delightfully creepy addition to the genre, When No One Is Watching. While this is her debut thriller, she is no new kid on the block when it comes to writing in general: she’s already penned an assortment of impressive and exceedingly well-received short stories, romances and graphic novels. Her feedback on winning is a study in joy and humility: “I literally thought there was no way I would win,” she admits. “This book was incredibly important to me, and I really thought that no one else was going to like it except for me because it was an extremely cathartic book for me to write.” If this doesn’t inspire more authors to break out of a genre rut, what will? Cole beat out:

Amnesty by Aravind Adiga (Scribner)
Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam (Ecco)
Empire of Wild by Cherie Dimaline (William Morrow)
A Burning by Megha Majumdar (Knopf)
A Certain Hunger by Chelsea G. Summers (The Unnamed Press)
Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas (Custom House)

Lifetime Achievement Awards: Alexander McCall Smith, Stephen King and Joyce Carol Oates earn this well-deserved testament to a prolific and productive literary legacy. 

McCall Smith’s The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, cemented his spot on this roster, and his star has only risen since. He’s also a verified humanitarian who bolsters many charitable causes and contributes to philanthropic funds. “Thank you very much Andrew (Gulli) and the critics for this most welcome honor,” said McCall Smith. “I must say I am so grateful for the people who have helped my career along its way and that, of course, includes the Strand Magazine with whom I’ve been associated for a number of years.”

Meanwhile, the “King of Horror,” Stephen King, needs no introduction. Truly a storytelling mastermind, for 50 years, he has conquered genres and shaped the narrative for future writers. With over 60 published novels and roughly 200 short stories to this household name, and with millions of books in print and a readership around the world, his work continues to enthrall and provide thoroughly enjoyable thrills to thousands of readers. “This is a beautiful thing,” he enthuses, “And I’m most appreciative. Looks like I’m in great company!” 

Author Joyce Carol Oates is another who barely needs our endorsement. When her first novel, With Shuddering Fall, was published in 1964 she was immediately heralded as a woman to watch out for and stayed true to her initial hype. Her works are hard-hitting and acute probes into the tender heart and armored shell of the human condition. Now, offering 70 novels, a myriad of short stories and poems, an emotionally resonant and thought-provoking memoir, she’s also a highly-sought editor. “Immersion in a world of fiction has been both a way of remaining sane and a way of trying to comprehend the insanity roiling about us,” she wisely remarks, and she’s “particularly grateful for the thoughtfulness and generosity of the critics who have thought of me in this regard.”

The Strand Magazine’s Publisher of the Year Award: 

Josh Stanton of Blackstone Publishing takes the cake for this award recognizing excellence in publishing. Stanton took the helm at Blackstone ten years ago, and during his tenure sales have tripled (and then some!). He has also overseen the evolution of Blackstone not only as one of the largest audiobook publishers in the United States but also as a publisher of bestselling print and digital books, recently releasing highly successful mystery novels by Meg Gardiner, Brian Freeman, Catherine Ryan Howard and Sara Foster.