Still more Bouchercon. I promise to finish my 2015 recap before the 2016 conference.
SATURDAY OCTOBER 10
8:30 Special Event: inside the mind and work of Dashiell Hammett: a conversation with his granddaughter and biographer.
Peter Rozovsky for the win. As fine a Bouchercon event as I have ever attended. As moderator, Peter had all anyone could to want to work with. Julie Rivett is Hammett’s granddaughter, quite likely the only person at the conference who had ever met him. (She was a small child.) Richard Layman as an esteemed Hammett biographer and probably knows as much about Hammett and his work as anyone alive. Fifty minutes that flew by like fifteen. I would gladly have listened to them for an hour and a half. Rivett and Layman have done this gig before, and the three of them had chatted the previous day, though nothing too detailed was agreed upon. It showed, and in the best way. The discussion never lagged, no one fumbled for an answer, but nothing ever seemed to be rehearsed. If you’re thinking of buying any of the conference audio CDs and have any interest in Hammett, this is the recording to get.
Aside from a wealth of texture and a far better feel for Hammett as both a writer and a person, I had two major takeaways. I was unaware of Nathan Ward’s The Lost Detective, which focuses on the direct relationship of Hammett’s life as a detective to his career as a writer. Just as exciting was the news that all of the Continental Op stories will be released in a single volume sometime in 2016.
10:00 Keeping it Moving: Maintaining Pace in the Narrative
This was one of those panels that are educational as much for validation as for learning anything new. It was good to hear from successful authors that the things I use to keep my stories moving are, by and large, what they do.
Two examples: S.J. Rozan highly recommended Richard Price’s Coppers, which I had added to the reading list not two weeks earlier.
A quote from Michael Connelly (not on the panel; my apologies to whoever provided it, as it ties in perfectly with what I’m trying to do with my PI character): A good mystery doesn’t just show how the detective works on the case, but how the case works on the detective.
Knowing we couldn’t swing a dead cat and not hit an excellent restaurant, The Beloved Spouse and I couldn’t resist going back to Clyde Cooper’s for fried chicken again, knowing they’d be closed by suppertime. I showed my willingness to experiment by getting dark meat this time.
1:00 The Mechanics of Writing Violent Fiction
The Penns River series is introducing some female cops, so getting a chance to hear Zoe Sharp and others on a panel about writing violence was not to be missed. I felt good that I’d already figured out some of what the panel had to say, though there were several things that had not occurred to me. To wit:
Zoe Sharp: The objective in a street fight is to finish as quickly as possible and protect your hands as much as possible. Your hands are vulnerable and you need them to drive, shoot, and just about everything else.
Jamie Freveletti: The safest thing to do is run. Remember, an untrained person is likely to lose the fight before they can figure out how to use the available weapons.
Taylor Stevens: Use as few words as possible so the reader can create their own movie.
John Billheimer: If you need to crash a small plane, aim between two trees. That slows you down and will leave the fuel behind when the wings come off. (Not that I can imagine ever needing to use that, but it was cool to hear him tell the story.)
2:30 Over the Border: The Canadian Crime and Mystery World
This panel marked the completion of the John McFetridge Hat Trick, as he participated as a volunteer, a moderator, and, finally, as a panelist, all in the same Bouchercon. Specific to this panel, John noted his topics are becoming darker as he does more period research. Not because he’s more interested in the darkness. He’s more interested in the reality.
The fact that Canadian crime fiction is such a relatively recent phenomenon is not for lack of crime or corruption in Canada until recently. Montreal whorehouses used to have two doors, one of which opened onto nothing but a brick wall. That’s the one the police boarded up when they had to make a raid because they were compelled to “do something.” Oh, Canada.
4:00 The Facets of “Character” That Remain in a Reader’s Psyche
An excellent panel with potential to have been extraordinary, with one tweak. The moderator was Alifair Burke, a former prosecutor. The panelists included Allison Leotta (another prosecutor), David Swinson (a cop), David Putnam (another cop), and Heather Graham (written more books than most people have read). The exchanges were informative and entertaining and everyone more than justified their place and made their character chops evident, but I couldn’t help but shake the idea that if Heather had been moderator there would have been a panel with two cops and two prosecutors, perfect for talking about how those two branches of law enforcement actually work together. Maybe next year.
Speaking of how law enforcement actually works (as opposed to how we see it on television), David Swinson pointed out cops are always looking for something they have in common with a suspect so they’ll have something to talk about with him. Getting them talking—about anything—is the key.
Eight of us convened at the Mecca Restaurant for a last shot at a genuine Southern-cooked meal and were not disappointed. Even better than the food was the company: The Beloved Spouse, Peter Rozovsky, Jacques Filippi, Rich Goodfellow, J.D. Rhoades, Terrence McCauley and his lovely wife Rita. (Don’t be fooled by Terrence’s looks. He’s not an asshole. And that officially retires that gag.) Food and company of such high caliber even The Beloved Spouse was enticed back to the Marriott bar for a while. Unfortunately, I hit the wall at midnight, almost literally in the middle of a sentence with John Shepphird. I had to excuse myself and wandered back through the Marriott lobby, past scads off people I knew and wished I had more time to spend with, but completely worn out. I was asleep before the pillow was warm.
Next time, Sunday and parting thoughts.