International Association of Crime Writers, North American Branch


Dashiell Hammett


The novel Bluff by author Jane Stanton Hitchcock was announced today as winner of the 2019 Dashiell Hammett Award for Literary Excellence in Crime Writing.

A combination of all the best qualities of Dorothy Parker and Agatha Christie, Bluff is a witty story set among the upper classes and the title pays tribute to Hitchcock’s love of poker, although poker is not really a part of the story. Maud Warner talks herself into an exclusive restaurant where she, in plain view, shoots the “Pope of Finance,” a Bernie Madoff type who is lunching with a man known as the “accountant to the stars.” Did she kill the right man? Why would a woman like her do this? The intricate story keeps the pages turning until the surprising ending, but never loses its deft, satirical wit.

The annual award recognizes quality writing in any U.S. or Canadian book examining or depicting crime and its effects, in any genre.

Since 1991, the North American Branch of the International Association of Crime Writers has presented the Hammett trophy to the book of the year that best represents the conception of literary excellence in crime writing. Dashiell Hammett, author of The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man, has long been recognized as combining literary excellence with popular detective stories. The Hammett award distinguishes itself by being the only award for crime writing which is based entirely and exclusively on literary quality, without regard to distinctions of genre, the career history of the author, or any other factors.

Past winners have included Elmore Leonard, Alice Hoffman, James Lee Burke, Margaret Atwood, Mary Willis Walker, Martin Cruz Smith, Gil Adamson, Megan E. Abbott, George Pelecanos, Howard Owen, Lisa Sandlin, and others.

Past nominees have included Norman Mailer, Robertson Davies, Ernest Gaines, Jane Stanton Hitchcock, Cormac McCarthy, Laura Joh Rowland, Walter Mosley, Stephen King, Laura Lippmann, and others.

After a lengthy process of screening hundreds of book from 2019, the reading committee, composed of five IACW/NA members, nominated a shortlist of five books. This shortlist was then passed to a panel of distinguished judges consisting of novelist Marina Endicott, Toronto Star book reviewer Deborah Dundas, and World Literature Today book review and online editor Rob Vollmar.

The shortlist finalists consisted of

  • The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols by Nicholas Meyer (Minotaur Books)
  • Bluff by Jane Stanton Hitchcock (Poisoned Pen Press)
  • Blood Relations by Jonathan Moore (Mariner Books)
  • The Murals by William Bayer (Severn House)
  • Norco '80: The True Story of the Most Spectacular Bank Robbery in American History by Peter Houlahan (Counterpoint)
Distinguished shortlist judges from previous years have included Frederick Barthelme, Digby Diehl, Joyce Carol Oates, Daniel Simon, Margaret Atwood, Morris Dickstein, Robert Con Davis-Undiano, Alan Cheuse, Raymond Sokolow, C. J. Cherryh, David R. Godine, Shannon Ravenal, and others.

The reading committee for the 2019 competition was composed of IACW/NA members Del Staecker (chairman), Paul McHugh, Ann Romeo, Joe Gannon, and J. Madison Davis.