The St. Martin’s Press (later Minotaur Books)/Private Eye Writers of America Best First Private Eye Novel Contest

The Private Eye Writers of America (PWA) is an organization devoted to private-eye detective fiction, and are probably best known for their annual Shamus Awards. Membership is open to fans, writers, and publishing professionals. There are three levels of membership: Active, Associate, and International.

In 1986, the PWA teamed up with St. Martin’s Press, one of the largest, most prominent mystery publishers in the book industry,  to sponsor The St. Martin’s Press/PWA Best First Private Eye Novel Contest, and it was given out more or less regularly until 2014.

It was great while it lasted, and gave some great writers a step up. The PWA is currently seeking a sponsor to continue the contest.

NOTE: There’s seems to be a little confusion about the categories of the PWA’s Best First Private Eye Novel Shamus Award and Best First Private Eye Novel Contest. Seems some publishers don’t make the distinction, and that a novel can win the contest, and a few years later, when it’s finally published, win the Best First Novel Award. But it’s pretty simple, actually.

As PWA godfather Bob Randisi explains, “There is nothing for publishers to distinguish. The PWA/SMP contest winner is for an unpublished novel, and is only a PWA/SMP prize winner. It’s not a book, eligible for book awards, until it is published.”


1986 BEST FIRST PRIVATE EYE NOVEL CONTEST

  • An Infinite Number of Monkeys by Les Roberts (Saxon)

1987 BEST FIRST PRIVATE EYE NOVEL CONTEST

1988 BEST FIRST PRIVATE EYE NOVEL CONTEST

1989 BEST FIRST PRIVATE EYE NOVEL CONTEST

1990 BEST FIRST PRIVATE EYE NOVEL CONTEST

1991 BEST FIRST PRIVATE EYE NOVEL CONTEST

  • A Sudden Death at the Norfolk Cafe by Winona Sullivan (Sister Cecile)

1992 BEST FIRST PRIVATE EYE NOVEL CONTEST

  • Storm Warning by A.C. Ayres (Tony Lowell; eventually published as Hour of the Manatee)

1993 BEST FIRST PRIVATE EYE NOVEL CONTEST

  • The Harry Chronicles by Allan Pedrazas (Harry Rice)

1994 BEST FIRST PRIVATE EYE NOVEL CONTEST

1995 BEST FIRST PRIVATE EYE NOVEL CONTEST

1996 BEST FIRST PRIVATE EYE NOVEL CONTEST

  • No award given

1997 BEST FIRST PRIVATE EYE NOVEL CONTEST

1998 BEST FIRST PRIVATE EYE NOVEL CONTEST

1999 BEST FIRST PRIVATE EYE NOVEL CONTEST

2000 BEST FIRST PRIVATE EYE NOVEL CONTEST

2001 BEST FIRST PRIVATE EYE NOVEL CONTEST

  • No award given.

2002 BEST FIRST PRIVATE EYE NOVEL CONTEST

  • The Sterling Inheritance by Michael Siverling (Jason Wilder)

2003 BEST FIRST PRIVATE EYE NOVEL CONTEST

2004 BEST FIRST PRIVATE EYE NOVEL CONTEST

2005 BEST FIRST PRIVATE EYE NOVEL CONTEST

  • No award given

2006 BEST FIRST PRIVATE EYE NOVEL CONTEST

2007 BEST FIRST PRIVATE EYE NOVEL CONTEST

  • Father’s Day by Keith Gilman (Louis Klein)

2008 BEST FIRST PRIVATE EYE NOVEL CONTEST

2009 BEST FIRST PRIVATE EYE NOVEL CONTEST

2010 BEST FIRST PRIVATE EYE NOVEL CONTEST

  • No award given

2011 BEST FIRST PRIVATE EYE NOVEL CONTEST

  • No award given

2012 BEST FIRST PRIVATE EYE NOVEL CONTEST

2013 BEST FIRST PRIVATE EYE NOVEL CONTEST

2014 BEST FIRST PRIVATE EYE NOVEL CONTEST

RELATED LINKS

Respectfully compiled by Kevin Burton Smith. Thanks to Robert Randisi, Jan Grape, Jan Long, Gerald So and especially Cathleen Jordan for their help with this one.

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