Detective Novel Wins Top Prize at Annual San Diego Book Awards

Musician-turned-mystery writer Corey Lynn Fayman took top honors at the 2021 San Diego Book Awards for “Ballast Point Breakdown,” a sarcastic novel starring a guitarist, Navy SEALs, and trained dolphins.

The book received the Geisel Award, a Best Performance Award named after Ted “Dr. Seuss” Geisel, who wrote several of his best-selling and influential children’s books while living in La Jolla.

“Ballast Point Breakdown” is the fourth book by Fayman, who also worked as a keyboardist, sound designer, and college professor. All of the stories feature Rolly Waters, an eccentric sleuth whom the author created (he writes on his website) out of “boredom and a distorted sense of literary ambition.”

Other books in the series, which began in 2006, also mix musical references and local ambiance: “Black’s Beach Shuffle”, “Border Field Blues”, “Desert City Diva”.

The nonprofit San Diego Book Awards were started in 1994 by the late Chet Cunningham, a prolific writer of some 450 westerns, thrillers, medical guides and military history. He wanted to encourage local published and unpublished authors. (The contest recently opened to writers from all over, not just county residents.)

The first prize for unpublished works, the Chet Cunningham Spur Award, bears his name. This year he went to two novels, “Made This Way” by Danielle Thomsen and “Woodtick” by Cathy Worthington.

The other winners of this year:

Anthology: “Crossing Borders”, edited by Lisa Brackmann and Matt Coyle.

Fiction for children: “Jada’s dance for Chicano Park”, by Veracruz Sanchez.

General fiction: “Mother Mother”, by Jessica O’Dwyer, and “Daddy Loves You! by Helen Foster James.

General Non-Fiction: “Empire Builder: John D. Spreckels and the Making of San Diego,” by Sandra Bonura.

Magic fiction: “Melody: A First Contact Novel”, by David Hoffer.

Thesis: “My homeland is memory: stories from a Cuban childhood”, by Oliva Espín.

Poetry: “Near and far”, by Al Zolynas.

Specialized non-fiction: “A Girl Like You”, by Frank and Carla Murphy.

Self-Help: “Mastering Self-discipline: A Thoughtful Approach Works Better”, by Brian Peter Brinig.

Unpublished news: “The Purple Madonna”, by Cathy Worthington.

More information on the awards, including a list of finalists and submission requirements, is available online at

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