9 March 2016

Murder Ink's Dilys Barbara Winn (1939-2016)

Her recent obituary in the New York Times said she "more than any single figure came to define modern mystery fandom", and the Rap Sheet simply headlined its own obituary "Winn Lost". Originally from Dublin, Dilys Winn became a major figure on the international crime fiction scene.

She left Ireland at an early age and went to high school and college in the US, working first as an advertising copywriter. In 1972 she opened Murder Ink in Manhattan, New York's first bookstore devoted to the mystery genre. She also organised "mystery gatherings" in the city, including Mystery Mondays and Sinister Sundays with panels of writers including Lawrence Block and Julian Symons.

In 1975 she sold the shop and began work on Murder Ink: The Mystery Reader's Companion, a wide-ranging collection of essays and opinions about the genre. The Mystery Writers of America conferred a Special Edgar Allan Poe Award on it in 1978.

The first edition was subtitled "Perpetrated by Dilys Winn" (a 1984 update is subtitled "Revised, revised, still unrepentant AND perpetrated by Dilys Winn"). A sequel, Murderess Ink: The Better Half of the Mystery, followed in 1979.

In the 1990s she opened Miss Marple's Parlour, another bookstore devoted to crime fiction, in Key West in Florida. By then she was also reviewing mysteries for Kirkus Reviews. She retired from Kirkus in 2013.

In 1992 the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association established the annual Dilys Award, for the mystery book its members had most enjoyed selling that year. It was last conferred in 2014.
Tom Comiskey