I'm one of the judges for the Shamus Awards this year and one of the submissions is Big Machine by Victor LaValle. The book seems to be an attempt to reinvent genre and pull it across the line into the land of serious literature. The novel's narrator Ricky is a janitor, an ex-junkie and a cult survivor. He’s also one of seven African Americans summoned to Vermont by a mysterious figure called the Dean. He sends Ricky after a deserter from the Dean’s team who has organized an army of homeless suicide bombers to attack the Bay Area.

This dark novel deals with race, faith and religion in a whole new way, and explores LaValle’s thesis that “Doubt is the big machine . . . [that] grinds up the delusions of men and women." I haven’t decided yet if it’s a Shamus contender, but I can say that Big Machine is a great read. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/09/07/AR2...

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Comment by Austin S. Camacho on July 30, 2010 at 10:10pm
Just to be clear, we decided to disqualify "Big Machine" because it just didn't fit the spirit of the Private Eye genre. Still a great book, though.
Comment by Garry L. McLaughlin on July 30, 2010 at 10:04pm
Here is the exact wording from their web site:

In general, the PWA defines a "private eye" as any mystery protagonist who is a professional investigator, but not a police officer or government agent. The full definition is, and I quote, "a person paid for investigative work but not employed by a unit of government. Thus books and stories about private investigators (licensed and unlicensed), lawyers and reporters who do their own legwork, and other hired agents are eligible; works centering on law enforcement officers or amateur sleuths are not."

Comment by I. J. Parker on July 1, 2010 at 5:06am
Perhaps the Dean paid for his services? Yes, you do have to be paid for your investigative services, and you can't be in law enforcement. Ideally, you're a private detective. Lately they have also allowed investigative reporters and and investigators working for lawyers. If in doubt about eligibility, a judge consults with the person running the show.
Comment by Steven K Brown on July 1, 2010 at 4:35am
Hmm, I thought to be eligible for the Shamus award the protagonist had to be an investigator that was paid for his efforts.

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