Crime fiction, traditionally the genre of the outsider protagonist, has attracted some of our best writers, including past recipients of the Bill Whitehead Award, who have used the genre to comment on queer survival in a repressive culture. Similarly, the historic criminalization of homosexuality and the enforcement by law of stereotypic gender roles has been explored in important works of nonfiction about queer panic, presence and persecution, including several finalists for the Publishing Triangle’s nonfiction awards over the years.

The Joseph Hansen Award recognizes an outstanding work of crime fiction or nonfiction. This award honors the American novelist Joseph Hansen (1923–2004). Beginning with Fadeout (1970), Hansen’s groundbreaking mystery series featuring Dave Brandstetter, a gay death claims investigator, introduced into crime fiction a queer protagonist who challenged the existing stereotypes of queer characters as criminal, deviants or victims. In his lifetime, Hansen was widely acclaimed. The Los Angeles Times called him “the most exciting and effective writer of the classic California private eye novel working today.” In 1992, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Private Eye Writers of America. In addition to the Brandstetter books, Hansen published a number of non-mysteries including A Smile in His Lifetime, and Living Upstairs, for which he won the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Fiction. This was his second Lambda Literary Award, having previously won in the Gay Mystery category for A Country of Old Men, the eleventh book in the Brandstetter series.

The winner receives a prize of $1000, which is underwritten by Michael Nava. Each year’s finalists were published the preceding year.

The finalists and winners are determined by a panel of judges appointed by the Publishing Triangle’s awards committee. In the list below, finalists are presented in alphabetical order by book.


1989: An Allie Burns Novel, by Val McDermid (Grove Atlantic)

Survivor’s Guilt, by Robyn Gigl (Kensington)

Vera Kelly Lost and Found, by Rosalie Knecht (Tin House)

The Verifiers, by Jane Pek (Knopf Doubleday Publishing)