Saturday, September 09, 2023

Shooting San Diego

(Above) Bouchercon 2023 was held at the Marriott Marquis, a capacious and comfortable hotel on San Diego’s waterfront.

Until I took part last week in the 2023 Bouchercon, I hadn’t visited San Diego, California, in a very long while. Not since my sophomore year in college, when a friend and I sped through the city on our way to Tijuana, Mexico, and then on to a wedding in Phoenix. My strongest memories from that jaunt are of Tijuana—the only place I have ever watched a professional jai alai game, and the first of two towns where I’ve been offered the services of a prostitute within an hour of my arrival. (The second was Anchorage, Alaska.)

So I was jazzed to see more of “America’s Finest City,” and to reconnect with or make the acquaintance of several authors I expected to find at the convention. I hadn’t been to a Bouchercon since one was held in New Orleans back in 2016. But this time, I wouldn’t be in the company of my usual convention companion, Rap Sheet contributor Ali Karim, who—being far more social than I am—usually smooths the way for me to meet new and notable writers, and allows me to tag along as he bounces between publisher parties and small-group dinners. Ali had announced in April that, for an assortment of personal reasons, he could not make it to San Diego. I had considered backing out, too, in response, but ultimately didn’t. I am glad I persevered.

With a new camera in hand, I made the rounds of panel discussions, big-stage interviews with convention guests of honor, awards presentations, and intimate gatherings, most of which took place in or around the convention hotel, the Marriott Marquis. My highlights from the trip include: sharing a sidewalk-side dinner with short-story specialist Art Taylor, his novelist wife, Tara Laskowski, and their precocious son, Dash, along with multiple-award-winning British writer Martin Edwards; hanging out one evening at the hotel’s Marina Kitchen bar with novelists (and friends) Gary Phillips and Mark Coggins; meeting up with another pal, Kevin Burton Smith of The Thrilling Detective Web Site, and cabbing together to the oddly remote Shamus Awards dinner, where I talked at some length with local musician-turned-scribbler Corey Lynn Fayman, creator of the Rolly Waters gumshoe series; and being exposed to several writers whose work I haven’t read but whose presentations made me wish to change that, among them Katharine Beutner (Killingly) and best-selling Virginia writer David Baldacci, this convention’s Lifetime Guest of Honor.

Sadly, I never spotted authors Charles Todd, Alice Feeney, Scott Von Doviak, Sarah Weinman, Eriq La Salle (who I remember well from the TV series ER), Mark Pryor, or Elly Griffiths, all of whom I had hoped to speak with, if only briefly. And I was disappointed to hear that my CrimeReads editor, Dwyer Murphy—who I have never seen in the flesh—had to cancel his trip to Bouchercon for health reasons.

Oh well, maybe next time.

Although my journalism career has never required that I take photographs to accompany my stories, I think I collected some good shots over the course of this five-day conference. I need to become bolder about snapping close-up photos of people, but that may come with time and practice. Of 102 images in my camera, I have selected a small number to share, and have added to those three from Mark Coggins. Click on any of these to open enlargements.

The first panel discussion I attended, on Thursday morning, was called “You Can’t Kill Me—Why the P.I. Novel Won’t Die.” Left to right: Moderated by Kevin Burton Smith, founder and editor of that essential resource, The Thrilling Detective Web Site, it also featured Sara Paretsky, D.P. Lyle, Andrew Welsh-Higgins, David Housewright, and Janet Elizabeth Lynn.

Given my plain interest in book criticism, it was only to be expected that I should be in the audience for the presentation “Readers Panel: Book Clubs, Blogs, Reviewing, and Reading.” San Diego book-group organizer Lisa Benton (far left) moderated that talk, which incorporated Publishers Weekly contributor Katrina Nildas Holm, BOLO Books blogger Kristopher Zgorski, Deadly Pleasures Mystery Magazine editor George Easter, and Rich Ehisen, host of the podcast “Open Mic: Writers in Their Own Words.”

Los Angeles writer Ivy Pochoda (left) and Washington, D.C.-area fictionist E.A. Aymar were among five speakers taking part in a Thursday afternoon discussion titled “Strong Voice, Strong POV: Authors Talk Character, Voice, and POV.” Although I sought to limit my acquisition of new books during last week’s Bouchercon (due to limited extra space in my baggage), both of these authors impressed me, and I quickly grabbed up their latest releases—Sing Her Down and No Home for Killers, respectively.

There were many people I’d hoped to see and speak with during Bouchercon, but I just couldn’t make connections with everybody. I only saw renowned Virginia writer S.A. Cosby (All the Sinners Bleed, Razorblade Tears) in passing. Fortunately, though, author, photographer, and sometime Rap Sheet contributor Mark Coggins managed to take this wonderful candid shot of him.

International Guest of Honor Ann Cleeves (The Raging Storm) was interviewed on Thursday evening by not one, but two fellow wordsmiths: Catriona McPherson (far left) and Lori Rader-Day (far right). Cleeves proved to be a most thoughtful and honest speaker, and her interrogators succeeded in drawing her out on subjects ranging from the significant to the gossipy.

Southern California crime-fictionist Naomi Hirahara (Clark and Division, Evergreen) admirably filled the role of Toastmaster at this year’s convention. Here she is entertaining the crowd at the Thursday night opening ceremonies.

If there was one thing attendees learned during the Friday afternoon panel conversation “Page to Screen (and Back): When My Book Becomes a TV Show or Film,” it was that author-screenwriter Lee Goldberg (center) is a delightful, humorous moderator. Seated on the left and right are his fellow speakers: Ann Cleeves, Tess Gerritsen, Matthew F. Quick, and Rae James.

Again, Mark Coggins showed himself to be a better portrait photographer than I am, capturing this image of prolific Wyoming writer C.J. Box, Bouchercon’s National Guest of Honor for 2023.

It’s long been tradition that the Private Eye Writers of America (PWA) organization has distributed its annual Shamus Awards during Bouchercon, though at a venue outside the convention hotel. This year’s Friday night event took place at Filippi’s Pizza Grotto on India Street, and was hosted by PWA founder Robert J. Randisi (left) and awards chairperson John Shepphird.

Long Island, New York, author Reed Farrel Coleman (Sleepless City) observes the PWA goings-on, malted beverage in hand.

This year’s Shamus Award for Best P.I. Hardcover went to The Wheel of Doll, Jonathan Ames’ second detective yarn starring L.A. cop-turned-private eye Hank “Happy” Doll. A full list of the 2023 Shamus winners can be found here.

“Noir at the Bar” events have been popping up nationwide ever since 2008, providing crime and mystery writers the opportunity to read excerpts from their work in supportive environments. But until the San Diego Bouchercon, I had never been on hand for one. Late last Friday night, I joined dozens of other people in a Marriott Marquis ballroom to listen to authors such as Gary Phillips (shown above) and Megan Abbott (below) belt out their prose in public.

The most highly anticipated event during Bouchercon 2023 was the Saturday evening presentation of this year’s Anthony Awards. Best Novel honors went to New Jersey native and former TV writer Kellye Garrett for her 2022 domestic suspense tale, Like a Sister. In this photo, she is shown receiving her prize from San Diego’s Matt Coyle, author of the Rick Cahill series. Click here to see the complete rundown of the latest Anthony recipients.

Sundays at Bouchercon are always quieter. Yet I fit in two more panel presentations that day, the most notable of which carried a real mouthful of a title, “The Things We (Don’t) Know: The Past and the Present (Secrets Characters Must Face or Historical Secrets).” It had Washington, D.C., mystery-maker and moderator Con Lehane (Murder by Definition) grilling novelists Linda Joffe Hull, T.M. Dunn, and Thomas Kies, along with Amulya Malladi (A Death in Denmark) and Christopher Huang (Unnatural Ends).

I found free time before and after the convention to see more of what San Diego has to offer. On my first full day there, I took a tour bus out to the Hotel del Coronado, a 135-year-old beachfront landmark located just across San Diego Bay. Ever since my first experience with photos of that mammoth wooden resort property as a boy, I’ve wanted to stay at the “Hotel Del,” but had never so much as visited before. Not only is the exterior stunning (above), but the main lobby (below) speaks of Victorian-era elegance.

Another historic gem—and one that caught me completely by surprise—was downtown’s Santa Fe Depot, designed by famous San Francisco architects Bakewell and Brown and opened in 1915 by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway to replace a Victorian station. The Santa Fe Depot welcomed tens of thousands of tourists coming to San Diego in 1915 and 1916 to attend the Panama–California Exposition, a world’s fair that celebrated completion of the Panama Canal. (Some of that fair’s Spanish Colonial Revival edifices are still standing in the city’s extensive Balboa Park.) Despite modifications over the decades, the Depot remains an attention-getter, both for its exterior and its interior. I wasn’t the only one wowed by its design; Mark Coggins took the two black-and-white photographs featured above and below.

In addition to its domed, redwood-beamed ceiling and chandeliers, the depot’s waiting room boasts a colorful ceramic tile wainscot, embedded with the Santa Fe’s historic “cross” emblem.

READ MORE:A Magical Time in San Diego,” by Martin Edwards (‘Do You Write Under Your Own Name?’); “Bouchercon 2023: Murder at the Marina—The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” by George Kelley.


Mark Coggins said...

Well shot, Jeff!

HonoluLou said...

A nice rundown, with cool pics! TXS for sharing. Lou

Art Taylor said...

Great photos—and great seeing you!