Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Beer and Roaming in Albany, Part Two

Friday, September 20

10:20 Goodnight, My Angel: Hard-boiled, noir, and the reader’s love affair with both.

For some reason I have no notes on this panel. I know I was there. I’d ask around, but Reed Farrel Coleman was moderating a panel on “The New Noir” with Hilary Davidson, Dick Lochte, John Rector, Todd Robinson, Jason Starr, and Duane Swierczynski at the same time, which siphoned off a lot of people I might otherwise have asked. Peter Rozovsky might know; he’s good about keeping up with stuff like that.

12:30 Until the Night: The art of writing the PI novel

PI pull me in the way road kill attracts a crow, especially with an A List moderator like Ali Karim, and one of my favorite PI writers (Jack Bludis) on the agenda. All of the writers had at least been nominated for a Shamus, and the audience was full of their peers. Definitely a meat and potatoes group in their tastes, citing Chandler, Hammett, John D. Macdonald, and Robert Parker among their primary influences. Baron Birtcher and Charles Salzman stood out to me as needing further investigation. The all-male panel gave props to standout female PI writers, notably Sara Paretsky and Julie Smith.

Funniest moment (at least for me) came when Baron Birtcher—who bears more than a passing resemblance to The Dude—made a comment that incorporated The Eagles when discussing the pros and cons of continuing series begun by others. Each writer had his own perspective. Most said they’d at least consider it, though they all made mention of pitfalls to be aware of.

1:50 Entertainer: Keeping the reader’s attention

Never borrow a coin from Terrence McCauley if you need it to decide which panel to attend. I lasted ten minutes in the room where his dime sent me—no, I’m not going to name the panel—before ending up standing near the back while Catriona McPherson led this group through a thoroughly enjoyable session. Standout moments came from Simon Wood, who, when asked to come up with a name for a badly conceived character, proposed “Jose Cuervo, MD.” Russell McLean told a great tale of finding the leather mask of a woman’s face attached to a closet wall in his new home, along with a note warning them not to remove it, and noting the McLeans were the fifth family to receive it. If you’re ever in doubt as to which panel to attend and Catriona McPherson is one of the moderators, don’t bother tossing a coin.

3:10 A Matter of Trust: Is all fair when it comes to keeping the reader guessing?

Maybe the best panel I saw. Megan Abbott, Laura Lippman, and the third author whose name I didn’t catch (either Jennifer McMahon or Lori Roy; one was absent the I was too far back to read the name cards) clearly knew and liked each other. Moderator Clair Lamb knew to kick off a topic and stand back to let the three talk among themselves. Informative, insightful, and laugh out loud funny.


Using a child’s point of view allows you to build suspense because the reader inherently when something that makes perfect sense to the character is a really bad idea.

Laura Lippman notes the only truly reliable narrators are the dead (Sunset Boulevard), and those who are confessing (Double Indemnity, The Postman Always Rings Twice). Everyone else has their own perspectives and potential axes to grind.

Lippman considers the Hannibal Lector stories to be cozies in their way, as deep down everyone knows the chances of meeting such a man are nil. The stories that scare her are everyday things that might happen in her Baltimore neighborhood.

Everyone agreed that among the primary enticements of crime fiction is getting the reader to wonder what he or she would do in a similar situation. We all like to think we’d make better decisions, but would we cover up evidence of a crime our child had committed?

* * *

I kidded above, but it’s hard to imagine having more fun than I did in the 10:20 panel moderated. Peter Rozovsky ran the usual entertaining and informative operation, and Eric Beetner, Mike Dennis, Terrence McCauley, and Jonathan Woods were up to every challenge. I don’t know how panels are picked (stay tuned for interviews over the next few weeks that delve into that), but I’m grateful to whoever put me in with that fine and talented group.

The day concluded with the Three Ds of Bouchercon: Dining, Drinking, and Debauchery.

Dinner: Back to Legends for another Breakfast burger. Why else do I take those statins?

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