Saturday, April 4, 2015

The CWA List: How Old Were The Authors?

Further analysis of the CWA List. 

CWA 1990 Lists: (in ranked order) (by author)

The Case of the Middle-Aged Authors

You have yet to write that great mystery novel? If so, you may be comforted by the range of ages of the authors when they put out their magnum opuses. From the CWA list, the authors averaged 43.5 years of age* when they wrote the novels which made the list. The youngest was Ira Levin who struck pay dirt with A Kiss Before Dying at age 23**. This novel with the victim's sister and a DJ playing detective also appears prominently on the MWJ lists. At the other extreme, P.D. James scored with Devices and Desires at age 69. The Leper at St. Giles by Ellis Peters, came in a close second at the age of 68. Neither of these can beat the entry by Rex Stout (MWA list). His anti-Hoover novel, The Doorbell Rang, was published when he was 79.

Placing a book on the list may be a measure of the apex of these writers' careers, but their productive writing lives often extended for many years. P.D. James continued to publish until she was 91, Elmore Leonard 87 (with the well-received, Raylan), and Michael Gilbert 86. Raymond Chandler published his first novel, The Big Sleep, number 2 on the CWA list, when he was 50.

*Note. To calculate all but the extreme ages, I subtracted the year of birth from the year of publication rather than researching the date of each.

**In what may be the most varied career for an author, Ira Levin wrote six more novels including Rosemary's Baby (horror), The Stepford Wives (science fiction) and The Boys from Brazil (thriller), jumping from genre to genre with incredible success. He focused much of his time on plays, authoring, among others, No Time for Sergeants and Deathtrap.

Up next: Who were the protagonists of the mysteries?


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