Thanks to an invitation from Iowa novelist Max Allan Collins, I spent part of this last Saturday at the Westin Hotel in downtown Seattle, participating in On the Lam, a near-secret conference sponsored (at no small cost) by Amazon Publishing for the crime, mystery, and thriller authors whose works appear under its Thomas & Mercer imprint. Strangely, although I live in Seattle and report on many of those very fictionists, I wasn’t originally on the guest list for On the Lam. Neither, it seemed, were other local critics, though T&M did allow the participating authors to ask their friends in the area to take part.
It turned out to be a very pleasant, if not large, gathering. I believe there were only eight panel discussions held, some of them concurrently. But there were also plenty of opportunities for readers to question authors about their work or ask for their autographs. Free copies of T&M books were arrayed on a table in the hallway between the basement meeting rooms, and the conference’s organizers--especially T&M’s cute marketing manager, Jacque Ben-Zekry--were extremely helpful in providing author introductions and finding extra copies of titles that had been snatched up by others.
Before things got started, I spent an entertaining half hour or so talking with Lee Goldberg about our mutual interest in vintage (read “obscure”) TV crime dramas. Later, Max Collins and I walked across Fifth Avenue to the Icon Grill for lunch and a chat about the late Mickey Spillane, Max’s recent editorial efforts, and the impact of Amazon.com on small, independent bookstores. After lunch, I had some time before the next set of panel discussions to visit with Brian Thornton, Northwest Chapter president of the Mystery Writers of America, his lovely wife, Robyn, and their friend,
author Simon Wood. I’d like to have spent
that entire sunny day meeting and talking with T&M authors, a number of who
were new to me, but I had previously obligated myself to the task of completing
The Rap Sheet’s two-part tribute (here and here) to Elmore Leonard.
With any luck, this edition of On the Lam will provide T&M the confidence to try scheduling another, perhaps more public event next year. It isn’t often enough that bevies of name-brand crime novelists wash up in my damp and distant corner of the country.
READ MORE: “Laughing on the Lam,” by Max Allan Collins; “On the Lam,” by Lee Goldberg.