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By Dawn Ius

Duane Swierczynski wishes he could say he was doing something exciting when he heard the news that his short story “Tough Guy Ballet” had been nominated for an ITW Thriller Award. But rather than “juggling knives or disposing of a corpse (or juggling knives while disposing of a corpse)” Swierczynski admits he was at his desk— writing.

“Boring, right? My writer friend Dave White alerted me when he saw the news,” Swierczynski says. “Everyone says this, but that doesn’t make it any less true: I feel like I’ve already won, just being nominated.”

His story joins four other nominees—“The Victims Club” by Jeffery Deaver, “10,432 Serial Killers (In Hell)” by Emily Davenport, “Window to the Soul” by Scott Loring Sanders, and “Nana” by Helen Smith.

Swierczynski says his story is about “an alcoholic cop who teams up with a teenaged girl who has a dozen detectives in her head to square off against a serial killer with a hundred maniacs in his head.”

It’s a far cry from the writing he used to do as a fashion journalist, when occasionally he was called on to interview a model—despite wishing he could be cranking out a new horror novel on his typewriter instead.

His new project is a true crime book about an eccentric Philly gangster who killed one of Swierczynski’s relatives 100 years ago.

“It sounds like a tragedy,” he says, “but it’s also kind of an Elmore Leonard-style comedy.”

Swierczynski will have to wait until July 14 to find out if his “Tough Guy Ballet” will take home top honors when the ITW Award winners will be announced at the ThrillerFest banquet in New York.