The Best Novel Award went to John Banville for Snow, while Alyssa Cole took home the Best Debut Mystery Novel Award for When No One Is Watching.


John Banville, who has written several thrillers under the pen name of Benjamin Black, won the award after being nominated for the first time. “It is always a great pleasure to receive an award from the critics, especially as one is so frequently the target of their brickbats,” said Banville. “We poor scribblers work in darkness, scrabbling away like moles, in the loamy underground of our imaginations, though now and then we are seized upon and drawn up into the light, to our great surprise. So you see me here, blinking in an unfamiliar but kindly glow of attention. I offer sincere thanks for the award, which will illuminate a little the way for me as I burrow back down to my accustomed place.”

Allysa Cole

Allysa Cole took home debut mystery novel honors with her gripping and timely novel When No One Is Watching. A testament to Alyssa Cole’s talent has been her versatility. Before her mystery novel debut, she was the author of several successful and popular short stories, romance and graphic novels. “I literally thought there was no way I would win,” said Cole. “This book was incredibly important to me and I really thought that no one else was going to like it except for me because it was an extremely cathartic book for me to write.”


Alexander McCall Smith, Stephen King, and Joyce Carol Oates Receive Lifetime Achievement Awards

This year, the Strand Magazine’s Lifetime Achievement Awards were presented to authors Alexander McCall Smith, Stephen King and Joyce Carol Oates.

John Banville

The release of The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency in 2002 catapulted Alexander McCall Smith to the top of the bestseller lists. He’s continued the series of charming mysteries set in Botswana and has started several other highly successful series, including the 44 Scotland Street books, The Sunday Philosophy Club series, and numerous children’s books. A true humanitarian, McCall Smith has lent his support to several charitable causes, including rabies control and safeguards for the environment, and to the Christian Book Sale, a charity that raises funds for disaster relief.


“Thank you very much Andrew (Gulli) and the critics for this most welcome honor,” said McCall Smith. “I must say I am so grateful for the people who have helped my career along its way and that of course includes the Strand Magazine with whom I’ve been associated for a number of years.”


Aptly dubbed the “King of Horror,” Stephen King is a true renaissance man of storytelling. Over the past 50 years, he has mastered and melded genres, from supernatural and crime to sci-fi and Western. King is also one of the most prolific authors of our time, with over 60 published novels and roughly 200 short stories. Yet with millions of books in print and a readership around the world, his writing remains as fresh and inventive as when Carrie (1974) first put him on the literary map.

Joyce Carol Oates

Alexander McCall Smith

“This is a beautiful thing,” King said of the award. “And I’m most appreciative. Looks like I’m in great company!”

When her first novel, With Shuddering Fall, published in 1964, 26-year-old Joyce Carol Oates was lauded as an exciting voice in fiction—and that has not changed. Consistently striking at the heart of the human experience, she has written over 70 novels, scores of short stories and poems, countless critical reviews, a heartbreaking memoir, and has edited several anthologies, plays, and essays. Oates has long been a force to be reckoned with, and an inspiration to aspiring writers everywhere.

“I’m honored to be a recipient of the Strand Lifetime Achievement Award with its distinguished history,” Oates said. “As a writer who spends much time in solitude, and especially during this perilous pandemic year when immersion in a world of fiction has been both a way of remaining sane and a way of trying to comprehend the insanity roiling about us, I am particularly grateful for the thoughtfulness and generosity of the critics who have thought of me in this regard.”


The Strand Magazine’s Publisher of the Year Award recognizes excellence in publishing…


Josh Stanton of Blackstone Publishing received the Publisher of the Year Award. Stanton took the helm at Blackstone ten years ago, and during his tenure sales have more than tripled. He has also overseen the evolution of Blackstone not only as one of the largest audiobook publishers in the United States, but also as a publisher of bestselling print and digital books, recently releasing highly successful mystery novels by Meg Gardiner, Brian Freeman, Catherine Ryan Howard, and Sara Foster.

Josh Stanton

“Josh Stanton and the Blackstone team are legendary in this very tough and competitive business,” said Managing Editor Andrew Gulli. “A universal refrain you hear from all of their writers is how dedicated, professional, and creative the Blackstone team is. As a reader and an editor, when I open an envelope from Blackstone Publishing, I know something good is in store.”


“I want to start by thanking everyone who gave me the nod this year. This award comes as a great surprise, but I’m grateful to receive it. First, I’d like to thank all the amazing authors who trusted and believed in us as a publisher, without that we certainly wouldn’t be here today. Also, all the amazing narrators we are so fortunate to have worked with,” said Stanton. “Also our Blackstone staff; they should know honestly that this is their award. I feel blessed to be surrounded with such a talented group good people. And of course our founders Craig and Michelle Black, I want to thank them for building such an amazing company.”


The Critics Awards were judged by a select group of book critics from NPR, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The Minneapolis Star Tribune, and The Washington Post.



Best Novel (2020)

Snow by John Banville (Hanover Square Press)
You Again by Debra Jo Immergut (Ecco)
Trouble Is What I Do by Walter Mosley (Mulholland Books)
The Missing American by Kwei Quartey (Soho Crime)
A Song for the Dark Times by Ian Rankin (Little, Brown and Company)
Survivor Song by Paul Tremblay (William Morrow)
Confessions on the 7:45 by Lisa Unger (Park Row)



Best Debut Mystery Novel (2020)

Amnesty by Aravind Adiga (Scribner)
Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam (Ecco)
When No One Is Watching by Alyssa Cole (William Morrow)
Empire of Wild by Cherie Dimaline (William Morrow)
A Burning by Megha Majumdar (Knopf)
A Certain Hunger by Chelsea G. Summers (The Unnamed Press)
Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas (Custom House)


Lifetime Achievement Awards

Alexander McCall Smith

Stephen King

Joyce Carol Oates


Publisher of the Year Award

Josh Stanton