Thursday, March 06, 2008

Left Coast Crime: P.I.s in the 21st Century

Editor’s note: Today began the 2008 Left Coast Crime convention in Denver, Colorado, which will run through Sunday. The Rap Sheet’s man on the crime scene is Mark Coggins, whose latest novel is Runoff. We hope to post more dispatches (and photos) from him as this weekend’s events unfold.

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I left from San Francisco this morning and had to scramble to get to the Left Coast Crime convention in Denver and my moderation duties for the “Private Eye in the 21st Century” panel. We had a great group of P.I. writers, including some who aren’t faking it like me and have real P.I. and law-enforcement experience.

First up: Mario Acevedo, who is on the conference committee and also created the 2008 conference logo. After trying to get a “serious” novel published for 17 years, he instead wrote the most ridiculous story idea he could think of: a vampire private detective investigates an outbreak of nymphomania at the Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant. That lead to a contract with HarperCollins. But with a title like The Nymphos of Rocky Flats, how can you go wrong?

Barbara Fister was next. She’s an academic librarian at Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota, where she teaches courses on research and writing. She has her first P.I. novel (In the Wind) coming out this spring, and she very graciously put up with us less-than-academic types.

Speaking of non-academic types, meet Harry Hunsicker (Crosshairs), who claims he was raised by wolves in the rain forests of northern Texas. But he didn’t fool me. Everyone knows the Texas rain forests are in the southern part of the state.

I missed getting a portrait of Colleen Collins, who is a private eye by day, and a multi-published author by night. For all of you aspiring P.I. novelists out there, she teaches classes on how to write P.I. fiction like you really know what you’re talking about.

Rounding out the group was Michael Siverling (The Sorcerer’s Circle), who also has real experience in law enforcement, including cases involving homicide, child abduction, and other major crimes.

We had a good time talking about how technological developments are affecting the P.I. story and how much we all draw upon on the classic traditions of this subgenre. But we didn’t q-u-i-t-e get to a question Hunsicker contributed, which was “How would your P.I. take out Britney Spears?”

A comment from an audience member about science-fiction writers who place P.I.s even further into the future prompted me to tell the story about how Raymond Chandler parodied science fiction in a letter to a friend and in the process invented Google!


Jersey Jack said...

Mark took my photo today, too. I'm waiting.

Keith Raffel said...

Mark, For those who aren't there and wish we were, keep on blogging!

Barbara said...

Thanks for moderating the panel - and for the nice photo (wow, I didn't break your camera).

FYI - Mark's photos are featured in Runoff, at the start of every chapter, and they add a nice touch of color to the story - even though they are in elegant black and white.