Oline Cogdill

(Note: The 2013 Edgar Awards will be announced May 2 at the Grand Hyatt in New York City. The Edgar Symposium is May 1 at the Lighthouse International Auditorium in New York. Today's blog is a closer look at Grand Master Margaret Maron. I'll take a closer look at Ken Follett, who shares the Grand Master honor, on Sunday April 28).

Margaret Maron’s 1992 novel Bootlegger’s Daughter changed the face of the regional mystery.

In this novel, Maron showed us how the changes in North Carolina had created a new state. Her novels have looked at problems of race, migrant labor, politics, and unstructured growth.

As Maron once said in an interview, “The mystery novel is the peg upon which I hang my love and concerns for North Carolina as the state transitions from agriculture to high tech, from a largely rural countryside to one increasingly under assault by housing developments and chain stores.”

Certainly the genre was filled with regional mysteries before, but Margaret set the stage for a deeper look at cities and states. She showed how place affects the characters and that small towns have a pull on its residents that is just as strong as major metro areas. The world didn’t have to revolve around New York or Los Angeles. And there was just as much crime and nastiness in small towns as any big city.

And she showed those regional changes through her heroine, Deborah Knott, a judge whose family’s long history is an asset and a problem. The youngest of 12 children, Deborah’s father Kezzie Knott is a notorious bootlegger, ex-con, and political player.

She is devoted to him.

Deborah’s massive family, their closeness and their differences gave readers an insight to their own lives.

I am an only child, but grew up surrounded by cousins, and I could relate to Knott’s family issues. Knott’s closeness to her father echoed my own close relationship with my now deceased parents.

Maron has written more than 26 novels, include another series about NYPD cop Sigrid Harald, and 2 collections of short stories. Her works have been translated into a dozen languages and are on the reading lists of many courses in contemporary Southern literature.

Bootlegger’s Daughter remains the only book to have won the Edgar, the Agatha, the Anthony and the Macavity for Best Novel.

Bootlegger's Daughter also is listed among the 100 Favorite Mysteries of the Century as selected by the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association.

Among many other awards, Margaret has received the 2004 Sir Walter Raleigh Award for best North Carolina novel of the year. In 2008, she was honored with the North Carolina Award for Literature. (The North Carolina Award is the state’s highest civilian honor.)

Maron has been named one of this year’s Grand Masters by the Mystery Writers of America. During the Edgar Symposium, I will be interviewing her and Ken Follett, who is the other Grand Master honoree.

We’ll talk about North Carolina, her novels and how she remembers all Deborah’s brothers and nieces and nephews.