Monday, October 19, 2009

Stick a Fork in Indy--It’s Done

Trying to compete with Jim Winter’s video dispatches from Bouchercon 40 would be a fool’s task, so this Rap Sheet correspondent will go with a low-tech approach (hell, I didn’t even take my BlackBerry to Indianapolis, for which I will pay dearly when I arrive back at work this week).

This last weekend’s convention was my seventh Bouchercon since 1996 and was far and away the best of those I have attended. It was flawlessly organized and ran like a Swiss watch from start to finish. Conference organizers Jim Huang and Mike Bursaw deserve a standing ovation from all 1,500 attendees.

Author Michael Connelly served as the Guest of Honor, and he acquitted himself superbly during a live interview (right) conducted by rising star Michael Koryta (The Silent Hour) in a cavernous room at the Indianapolis Convention Center. Koryta has joined Connelly as a Little, Brown author, and the publisher saw this as an opportunity to hand out advance copies of Koryta’s 2010 standalone, So Cold the River. My wife, Leslie, devoured the book in under 24 hours and reports that it is a gripping read.

For me, the conference was frosted with a touch of sadness, as this was the final Bouchercon at which Mystery News will play a part. As reported here earlier, Lynn Kaczmarek and Chris Aldrich are bringing the curtain down on that bi-monthly tabloid. At several points during this conference, Aldrich and Kaczmarek were besieged by well-wishers hoping that both would re-surface in visible roles within the mystery world soon. I have it on good authority that neither woman has any plans to fade from view.

Bouchercon, for me, is always a collection of small moments. Here are some of my favorites from the last few days:

Harlan Coben, in his opening comment at the “What Do You Need to Know in Order to Write a Crime Novel?” panel, mentioned that it was a singular honor to appear as a panelist with Gary Phillips. As Coben told it, “When I was a young boy, I used to sit on my father’s knee and he would read me Gary Phillips stories.” This brought out a thunderous laugh from the overflow crowd, none louder than from the not-so-old Phillips himself.

Craig McDonald, discussing the current requirement that authors attend conferences and signings in order to promote their work, remarked that he couldn’t imagine Ernest Hemingway on Facebook or Twitter, and if forced to do so, Papa “would have picked up the shotgun a decade earlier.”

Loren D. Estleman telling the “Changing Gears” audience that he sometimes listens to audio versions of his books before going on tour so he “doesn’t have to read the damn thing again.”

S. J. Rozan holding the Anthony Awards crowd in the palm of her hand, eliciting laughter by constantly having to adjust the microphone downward after each award recipient departed the podium. Earlier, in her warm-up, Rozan said that she had figured out a way to close the American detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba--turn it into an independent bookstore.

Short-story master Clark Howard winning the re-christened Edward D. Hoch Memorial Golden Derringer Award for Lifetime Achievement. Ed Hoch was a friend of Howard’s for more than 30 years, and Howard regaled his listeners with the story about how neither he nor Hoch thought they were particularly skilled writers, but they were excellent storytellers.

And, of course, Bouchercon is always about the people, too. Although I wasn’t able to connect with Jim Winter, I was able to meet up with my fellow Rap Sheet contributors Mark Coggins, Megan Abbott (having just flown in from New York, where she attended the launch party for her husband Joshua Gaylord’s new novel, Hummingbirds), and the force of nature that is Ali Karim, resplendent in his Tom Ripley suit and black shades at the Little, Brown party.

Now that this Bouchercon is in the record books, our eyes turn westward to 2010’s Bouchercon by the Bay, to be held at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco, from October 14 to 17. I can already hear the cable cars clanging down the hills.

(Top photograph by Mark Coggins; bottom photograph by Leslie Hutchings Miller)

READ MORE:Top 10 Things I Learned at Bouchercon,” by Jen Forbus (Jen’s Book Thoughts); “Bouchercon Panel Report: More Noir Than You Are,” by Donna Moore (Big Beat from Badsville); “Bouchercon VI: Post-con Post, Part I,” by Peter Rozovsky (Detectives Beyond Borders); “Back from Bouchercon, Ready to Boogie,” by Keith Raffel (Dot Dead Diary); “On the Road Again: Bouchercon Indianapolis,” by Mark Van Name (Mark’s Journal); “Indianapolis Bouchercon Highlights,” by George Kelley.


Anonymous said...

You are so right when you say "Bouchercon is always about the people." I haven't been able to attend in years, but I so enjoy reading the stories shared afterward about who did what to whom, or some such. It's those moments that shine most brightly in years to come.

I still remember Maggie Mason accepting an award in Milwaukee and thanking Harlan Coben, and only he knew why. This, of course, sparked a real life mystery so, I for one, just had to know the answer to that infamous quote! Turns out Harlan had helped Maggie carry some boxes of books, so she publicly thanked him, leaving the "what for" to the listeners' imagination.

Or, if I may indulge in another memory, my husband accompanied me to Milwaukee. He doesn't read a whole lot, but he loves Bill Fitzhugh's comic tales. We shared lunch with Bill one cold afternoon, and he drilled us for opinions on all sorts of topics. The charity auction was held that evening. The original manuscript for Fitzhugh's saga PEST CONTROL which was written first as a screenplay, and then re-written into a novel when the story didn't sell. The book was later optioned for a movie! In any case, the manuscript came up for bid, and I bought it for my hubby, and Bill inscribed it right then and there. Toward the end of the auction, the right to be a character in Fitzhugh's next novel came up for bid. Rumor had it later than some women in the front rows had worked out a deal with each other on who would win the prize. As soon as the auctioneer offered the item, I shot my hand up and bid, much to their surprise. Well, one of the women wanted that prize just as much as I did, and we got the price up to $500, and I believe we would have gone higher, but Bill Fitzhugh stopped the auctioneer to discuss the matter. The decision was made to offer BOTH of us the right to be a character for $500 EACH. Bill did indeed include both my husband and the woman; however, she had a small part. My husband was thrilled to be one of the "bad guys" who came upon the scene as "Big Bill Herron" quite early in the story, and he lasted until he was blown up on national TV! The fun we had, and still have, with this honor was well worth the price, and then some.

So that's just another memory of the people at Bouchercon many years ago.

Sandie Herron in Sarasota, FL

Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks for the link, and applause to the organizers for the programming at Indy.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"