Continuing on with my key Bouchercon experiences…
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 9
8:30 Matching Antagonist to Protagonist in Crime Fiction
Rhys Bowen had the best takeaway line from this panel: “A noble person may be called upon to do ignoble things.” Not that nothing else noteworthy was said. It was 8:30 in the morning after the first full-blown bar night at Bouchercon. Lots of good things got said. It’s my notes that aren’t worthy.
10:00 Real Police: Tactics and Guns
I wasn’t sure about this panel until after my own, where Jim was so entertaining as the moderator I figured this had to be a good time. Even though I can ask anything I want of several friends who are or were cops, it also occurred to me that Jim would present things I wouldn’t likely think of to ask. I was not disappointed on either count. A few key tips all crime writers—and some civilians—would do well to remember:
A person who drinks Gatorade in the morning is an experienced drinker.
More cops are off duty from back injuries caused by service belts than from criminal assaults.
Cops may carry their weapons in various places, but each cop always keeps his in the same place.
The most effective use of a shotgun is pumping the slide. Everyone knows what that sound is.
When a cop says to drop the gun, he means to drop it before he can pull the trigger. Do not lay it on the ground. Drop it whenever you are.
If a subject draws a gun, step to the side.
Two cops at a door, the partner stands 4 – 5 feet to the side, even if that means he can’t see. If the cop at the door feels uneasy, he’ll move his arm to brush against the gun. This reassures him and tells his partner something is up. If the cop at the door places his hand on his gun, the partner draws.
Time and distance are your friends.
Subjects will often think you’re behind cover when you’re only concealed. Jim told a story of a cop who held a newspaper in front of his face and the guy didn’t shoot.
Best use of a baton is to hit the subject between the knee and the ass. The shock wave may put him down for you. To get him to drop something, hit him just below the elbow and the hand will open.
Bullets may hit the target but he’ll show no immediate signs. This is why cops keep shooting. They either think they missed, or saw no effect.
There was more—a lot more—but get your own ass out of bed once in a while to get the good stuff. What am I, your research assistant? (Speaking of research, Jim served as Elmore Leonard’s weapons expert for 20 years.)
1:00 Bloody Foreigners
Another good panel, but everyone talked funny so I didn’t get notes that were as good as I’d have liked. The one that stuck in my mind came from moderator John McFetridge, who had a friend who said he’d never go to a movie that advertised as having something for everyone. Said he figured he’d have to sit through 80 minutes for everyone else to see the ten minutes for him.
2:30 Bangs and Booms
What red-blooded American boy can resist listening to John Gilstrap talk about blowing shit up? Funny and entertaining as always, John also had some sobering laws of physics we would all do well to remember, such as:
The overpressure from an explosion can be as dangerous as the shrapnel. Five psi can knock down a concrete block building, then the rarefaction wave tears things up.
Dynamite has been changed so it doesn’t sweat anymore. The sweat was nitroglycerine leaching out from the binders. It would crystallize and become extremely unstable. (Western writers are still okay using that old trick, but it won’t fly in a contemporary story.)
Threaded containers are a risk for unintended detonation. (Which can definitely come in handy when a plot twist is needed. No pun intended.)
4:00 Beyond The Wire, Bosch, and True Detective: TV Crime Evolves
Good, but could have been better. Lee Goldberg knows his stuff, but this could have been a better panel had he been a panelist and not the moderator, as he probably talked as much as all the panelists combined. Not that he wasn’t interesting and entertaining, but Megan Abbott, Christa Faust, Allison Gaylin, and Tim O’Mara ain’t chopped liver, either.
Megan Abbott: Noir is characters forced to act on their compulsions.
Network execs are looking for stories that have never been told before that they can tell as they have always been told.
Christa Faust on whether TV or books inspire violence: If you don’t like what you see in the mirror, don’t blame the mirror.
Lee Goldberg: A Netflix study showed viewers will give a show three episodes before deciding whether they like it or not.
Tim O’Mara had the Line of the Conference. When Lee mentioned “first-rate novelists” on the panel and stopped after Megan and Allison, Tim, seated next to Allison, said, “Lee, I’m sitting right here.” Broke up the whole room.
7:00 Private Eye Writers of America Banquet / Shamus Awards
As always, the PWA banquet was great fun. It’s a close-knit yet loose confederation of like-minded writers who get together to tell stories and celebrate what is, when done right, the highest form of crime fiction. (Think about it: When discussing the greatest crime fiction writers, whose names come up most often? Hammett, Chandler, Ross Macdonald, John D. MacDonald, Mickey Spillane, Robert B. Parker, Robert Crais, Dennis Lehane, George Pelecanos. What do they all have in common? They’re best known—or were first known—for writing PI fiction. Face it, Travis McGee was a PI.)
Many thanks to Bob Randisi and David Housewright for a great evening, and hearty congratulations to all the Shamus winners and nominees. I’ll leave this edition of my Bouchercon memories with the best comeback, from Sam Wiebe, author of the Shamus-nominated Last of the Independents. When last year’s winner of the best Indie PI story—the award for which I was nominated, but lost—stood to announce this year’s winner, I whispered to Sam, “I hear she slept with everyone on the panel to win the award.” (No I didn’t, and I’m sure she didn’t, but this is the kind of things bitter losers say after too many sweet teas.)
Sam looked at me and said, straight-faced, “Didn’t you?”
This is why I hang around PI writers.
Next time: Saturday.