Steve Hamilton (The Lock Artist): Edgar Award Winner for Best Novel

The Lock Artist, the Edgar Award winner for Best Novel in 2011, is such a unique crime fiction that grabs your attention and keeps your pulse pounding from the very first beginning page. Learn more about the best novel of the year from the author himself Steve Hamilton, who in his interview with us discusses every significant aspect of the novel that his readers are looking towards hearing from him.


At first many congratulations to you for winning the Edgar Award for Best Novel 2011. Share some of your very special feelings with us on winning this prestigious award.

It was a big night, of course.  Honestly, the best part was being able to thank my editor, Ruth Cavin, who had died (at age 91) just a few weeks beforehand.  But beyond that, the Edgar is given out by your fellow mystery writers, so it really means a lot!

Give us a brief plot description of your novel The Lock Artist.

A young man named Michael, who hasn’t spoken since a childhood trauma, discovers that he has this natural ability to open locks.  Unfortunately, it’s an “unforgivable” talent, especially if the wrong people find out about it.  Michael ends up getting drawn into a life of crime, driven by his need to protect the one person he loves.  And really, the rest of the novel, he’s just trying to escape and get back to her.

How did such a unique idea of writing a crime novel about a “safecracker” occur to your mind?

I’ve always been fascinated by locks and especially safes.  They’re actually very simple devices, but a good safe (which can have over 100,000,000 possible combinations) is like the ultimate puzzle.

Which psychological aspects of humans are focused upon in this novel?

More than anything else, loneliness.  Feeling like an outsider, like you don’t belong anywhere.  Trying to find that one place that feels like home.

How do you combine your plot that is full of flashbacks, with your characters in such a tight and integrated way?

I wanted to make sure that even though I was jumping back and forth in time, the books still just goes.  It has to grab you from the first page, keep you reading, and keep you wanting to know what happens next.  You can fool around with complex structure as long as you never lose sight of that original goal.

How do you portray the character of the main protagonist of your novel, Michael and his silent world?

It’s kind of funny, because even though he literally never says one word out loud in the entire book, he’s actually very “chatty,” in that he’s talking to you the reader the whole time.  Like he says at the very beginning of the book, he’s always been a great listener, and this is his one chance to tell someone else his story.  So off he goes.

How much “love” between Mike and Amelia is important in this crime setting of your novel? What role does “love” play in The Lock Artist?

Ultimately, that love is the one thing that gets Mike through some pretty horrible experiences.  Just looking for it, and when he finally finds, getting back to it.  It’s really the whole engine for everything he does.

Are you yourself a reader of crime and mystery novels? Which ones are your favorites?

I grew up reading crime and mystery, and still love it (and read it) to this day.  I especially love the American hardboiled tradition, from Raymond Chandler to James Crumley to Lawrence BlockThe writer whose work I’m absolutely devouring right now is Daniel Woodrell.  It’s sort of a “backwoods noir,” and it is some of the best writing (or any genre) I’ve ever read.

Misery Bay is the latest from you in the series of Alex McKnight Mystery novels. So what next is coming from you? Another Alex McKnight read or any standalone mystery?

Die A Stranger is coming out in the summer of 2012.  That’s the next McKnight book.  I’ll always want to take breaks and try something new, but then I’ll always want to go back, too.  I’ll always want to know what’s going on in Alex’s life, and working on another book is the only way to find out.

What message do you want to give your wonderful readers?

Just that I appreciate this relationship so much.  I know I’m the luckiest person in the world to be doing what I always wanted to do.  I’ll never take it for granted, and I hope you’ll come out to see me if I’m ever at a bookstore or library near you!  Thanks!

Browse more books by Steve Hamilton at

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