The Edgar Allan Poe Awards, 1949
In 1945, roughly a dozen mystery writers established Mystery Writers of America, Inc. (MWA), with headquarters in New York City, for the purpose of“promoting and protecting the interest and welfare of mystery writers and to increase the esteem and literary recognition given to the genre.” Early members of the organization included writers such as Dorothy B. Hughes (author of In a Lonely Place and The Expendable Man), Anthony Boucher (New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes), Rex Stout (the Nero Wolfe mysteries), Fred Dannay and Manfred Lee (the duo who wrote under the name of Ellery Queen), Erle Stanley Gardner (the Perry Mason novels), among others.
In 1946, MWA would host the first Edgar Awards Ceremony—the awards are, of course, named after Edgar Allan Poe, whose Daupin short stories are widely acknowledged to have created the detective story genre. That year rewards went to the categories of Best Novel, Best Motion Picture, Best Radio Drama, and Outstanding Mystery Criticism. In 2017 there are fourteen classifications for Edgar Awards, including Best First Novel, Best Paperback Original, Best Short Story, Best Fact Crime, Best Young Adult Novel, and lifetime achievement awards such as the Grand Master Award. A peek through the list of Edgar winners and nominees throughout the years reveals a who’s who of classic and modern literary writers and works.
Fact crime writer and Meridian, Mississippi native W.T. Brannon was an early member of MWA, and received two Edgar Awards: one for Best Fact Crime (1952), and one “Special Edgar” for “general excellence in fact crime writing” (1953). Brannon attended the Third Annual Edgar Awards Ceremony in 1949 held at the Henry Hudson Hotel in New York. The photo is 12 by 18 inches and shows the great majority of attendees at the Henry Hudson ballroom that night. Brannon noted himself in the picture with an arrow. Unfortunately, not all attendees’ names are known, though a few of the verified names in the audience include writers Eleazar Lipsky, Manfred Lee, Stanley Ellin, Veronica Parker Jones, as well as actor Boris Karloff.
In addition to this picture, the Brannon collection contains hundreds of his manuscripts and many of the magazine issues in which his work appeared. For more information about the W.T. Brannon Collection or any collection in Special Collections, contact Andrew Rhodes at Andrew.Rhodes@usm.edu or 601.266.6765.
Special thanks to Barry Zeman and Margery Flax for information and guidance regarding MWA history. Extra special thanks to Mr. Zeman for identifying faces in the picture and providing the program cover for the 1949 award ceremony.
Zeman, Barry. Interview. March 31, 2017
Text by Andrew Rhodes, Special Collections Specialist