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Susan Straight Wins Edgar Award


Susan Straight Wins Edgar Award

UCR professor wins Best Short Story honors from The Mystery Writers of America.

(May 5, 2008)

Susan StraightEnlarge

Susan Straight

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Susan Straight, professor of creative writing at the University of California, Riverside, has won a 2008 Edgar Allan Poe Award for her short story, “The Golden Gopher.”

The award was presented by the Mystery Writers of America at a banquet May 1 in New York City. “The Golden Gopher,” which was published in the anthology “Los Angeles Noir,” was one of five works nominated in the category of Best Short Story. More than 2,000 entries were received in 12 categories.

“Susan’s winning this award — for the first mystery story she ever published — is just another indicator of her strength as a fiction writer,” said Charles Whitney, chair of the UCR Department of Creative Writing. “The creative writing department has been on something of a roll recently. Students and faculty are winning awards and publishing excellent work.”

Straight said she was so surprised to win that she wasn’t prepared when her name was called.

“Other writers said they were shocked to win, but at the podium they pulled out speeches, and I had a few initials written on three of my fingers,” she said. “For a literary writer to win this award is amazing, and since I love the mystery genre and read about 20 or 30 mystery novels a year, I am very thankful. I wrote this short story not about a blood-and-guts kind of murder, but about someone who kills another man because he can't bear to lose the woman he loves, so it’s really not so much about death but about sadness.”

“The Golden Gopher,” set in downtown Los Angeles, is told from the point of view of a travel journalist whose past comes back to haunt her with the news of her best friend’s death.

Straight is an award-winning author who has published six novels, three children’s books and many works of short fiction, essays and articles. Her sixth novel, “A Million Nightingales,” won the prestigious Lannan Literary Award for Fiction.

Among her awards are: a Guggenheim Fellowship for distinguished individual achievement and exceptional promise; the California Book Prize; a Pushcart Prize; the Gold Medal for Fiction from the San Francisco-based Commonwealth Club; finalist for a National Book Award; finalist for the 2006 Los Angeles Times Book Prize; and the 2007 O. Henry Prize for her short story “El Ojo De Agua.” She won the UCR Distinguished Humanist Achievement Lecturer award in 1998 for her writings about Riverside's Eastside neighborhood. She also was named the Riverside Community College Alumnus of the Year in April 2008.

Straight joined the UCR faculty in 1988 and has served as chair of the Department of Creative Writing. She co-founded the university’s master of fine arts in creative writing and writing for the performing arts program.

Her novels include “I Been in Sorrow’s Kitchen and Licked Out All the Pots” (1993), “Aquaboogie” (1994), “Blacker Than a Thousand Midnights” (1995), “The Gettin’ Place” (1996), “Highwire Moon” (2001) and “A Million Nightingales” (2006).

Straight, a graduate of Riverside’s North High School, earned her B.A. at the University of Southern California and her M.F.A. at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, where she studied with acclaimed author James Baldwin. She lives in Riverside with her three daughters.

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