(Editor’s note: There are no photographs of the dignitaries mentioned in this and subsequent Bouchercon-related posts. Between Witness Protection and wanted posters, many of those described are leery of any attempt to distribute their likeness.)
The Raleigh Bouchercon is over. For me, it was the best of the half dozen I’ve attended. I know more people now, so the ice breaking issues that made my first couple awkward are past. I also bring The Beloved Spouse with me, and she’ll talk to an aardvark. A lot went on those four days, and I could only be one place at a time, so let’s get to my personal highlights.
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 8
Here’s how author speed dating works: authors are paired up and spend six minutes at each of 15 tables over the course of an hour and a half, talking to anywhere from one to six people at each table. (The numbers were lower than expected due to bad weather south of Raleigh, and, just possibly, people realizing it was eight o’clock in the goddamn morning.) Given the rate things moved, it was more like an author drive-by. Speed dating implies two-way communication. A drive-by is more unidirectional.
They paired me with Ed Aymar, which was good. (For me, at least.) I know and like Ed, so I was comfortable. He’s also drop-dead funny. He handed out goody bags to our readers that contained sunglasses (so you can look cool while you read his book), temporary tattoos (so you can look tough while you read his book), a mask (so you can do some of the crimes described in his book), and a paddle ball (so you can take a break). Also included, a pen that lit up and flashed, which he guaranteed to produce seizures inside of 30 seconds.
Was it worth it? It was fun, though exhausting. I did sell one book for sure because of it. On the other hand, a woman who was in my last group asked me for directions 15 minutes later and had no idea who I was. Probably too much drinking from the fire hose for everyone.
11:30 True Criminals / True Detectives
One researcher claims women read true crime to put themselves in the victim’s place in the hope of recognizing things to be aware of. Some apparently use things learned there to get out of bad situations.
Carla Norton gives rides to hitchhikers, along with copies of her book The Perfect Victim as a caution.
If a person “confesses” to a clergyman in a non-confessional setting—say a place where they could be overheard—that if not a privileged conversation.
1:00 Just the Facts: The Police Procedural
My favorite panel of the weekend, though my impartiality is questionable because I was on it. Jim Born did a great job of keeping things entertaining and moving, while panelists Colin Campbell, Stephanie Gayle, and Larry Kelter did yeomen’s work in carrying me. I’d learned to seek out Colin’s panels because he’s always fun, so it was a treat to get to sit next to him. Jim Born was a revelation. Funny, and someone it’s about impossible to feel uneasy around. (Unless maybe you’re a crook.) That’s not to take anything away from Stephanie and Larry, who were more than up to the challenge.
I was brought back to earth in the signing room, where alphabetical order put me next to Michael Koryta. I signed one book while he signed at least 50. The Beloved Spouse worked hard to photograph me from the opposite side of Michael’s line, so it looks like those people were there to see me. The she crossed over when things calmed down and took a few shots to make it appear I’m sitting there chatting with my close personal friend Michael Koryta. The good news from that arrangement was getting to talk with him a bit, and finding out he’s writing PI stories again.
2:30 Beyond Hammett, Chandler, Macdonald, and Spillane
This was a Peter Rozovsky panel. He’s the best moderator there is, so the organizers gave him a sow’s ear of a panel from which to make a silk purse: Jordan Foster, Laura Lippmann, Kevin Burton Smith, and Sarah Weinman. (Imagine what he could do with a worthy panel.) Each discussed a favorite author the general public may not be aware of.
Laura Lippmann’s description of Dare Me may have summed up why I am the only person who read the book and didn’t like it: these are things girls do that boys have no concept of. She also described Chandler as a “mean boy,” for how he talked behind people’s backs, and was overly critical of his closest competitors. (Much as I love Chandler’s writing, the more I learn about him as a person, the more I agree with her evaluation.)
Sarah Weinman explained how often writers fall off the radar because the heirs either can’t be found, or they can’t agree among themselves about how to handle the rights.
Neither The Beloved Spouse nor I had eaten all day, so we wandered off early and found Clyde Cooper’s on Wilmington Street, not three blocks from the hotel. Best fired chicken I can remember eating, and without question the best hush puppies. Well worth a trip if you’re in Raleigh and hungry.
After that it was off to Common 414 for Noir at the Bar. Eryk Pruitt put this one together, and he did himself proud. The venue was perfect, the crowd was as raucous as was necessary and no more, and the readings were dead on. The only people who didn’t have a good time were those who weren’t there. I hate to single anyone out—everyone was worthy—but, looking back several days, Eric Beetner, Jedidiah Ayres, and Johnny Shaw stood out among even this cast of luminaries.
After that it was off to the Marriott bar. Recollections are hazy, though one sticks out. Heartfelt thanks to the den mother of crime writers, Michelle Turlock Isler, for introducing me to Eric Campbell. I asked her if that was him, she said why, I said I’m supposed to find him and now I know what he looks like, and she grabbed my arm and drug me over to meet him right now.
(Come back Monday for more.)