Friday picked up right where Thursday left off, which is not surprising when one considers Thursday didn’t end for me until 2:00 AM on Friday.
9:30 Fan Guests of Honor Jon and Ruth Jordan Interviewed by Charles Todd and Caroline Todd
It’s good to remember people like Jon and Ruth Jordan are the reason there are such things as Bouchercons. We writers—even regular-sized writers—are only able to get together because three times as many readers pony up and travel great distances to visit with us, and few people are more responsible for keeping those fires stoked than the Jordans. For as much as writers like to
discuss how difficult it is to balance jobs and lives and still find time to
write, I guaran-damn-tee you none of us puts in more time than the Jordans.
They’re charming and unassuming and one would never guess they, and others like
them, are what make everything we get to do possible. The interview covered a
wide range of topics, from Jordan family history to the origins of Crimespree
Magazine to anecdotes about writers they’ve come to know, and they know everybody. A delightful 50 minutes,
though co-interviewer Charles Todd needed coffee badly. Very badly. Bubbles on The Wire never jonesed harder for a fix
than Charles Todd did for his coffee that morning.
11:00 Better Him Than Me: Criminal Protagonists. Dwayne Swierczynski, moderator.
Dwayne Swierczynski stepped in when original moderator Todd “Big Daddy Thug” Robinson was unable to attend. Dwayne never skipped a beat, keeping a first-rate panel moving on a topic they were all more than qualified for.
John McFetridge refers to his Toronto series of books that focus on the motorcycle gang the Saints of Hell as “criminal procedurals.” As one of his characters said, “I don’t understand serial killers. It’s a crime with no profit.” (Gordon Brown also fails to see the appeal of fictional serial killers, and thinks it’s the vicarious danger that appeals to readers.) John also mentioned that killing an animal is lazy writing if the only purpose is to establish how bad the bad guy is.
Nik Korpon feels the same way about rape. Placing women in danger is too easy, and Nik has no background in how the women feel, which makes it almost impossible to describe more than half a rape.
Nik also told a story of author Angel Luis Colon, who used to hang with former IRA guys in New York City after the Troubles. Colon was later appalled when he realized he’d been spending enjoyable time with bombers and murderers and had difficulty reconciling the things they’d done with their apparently genial natures.
Shawn McDaniel strongly recommends a non-fiction book, The Sociopath Next Door, as a way to get inside criminal protagonists. Shawn believes people are drawn to characters like Tony Soprano because of the character’s passion for what they do.
2:00 On the Nickel: PIs Jan Grape, moderator.
Sean Lynch, a former cop who writes a series about PIs who take on police corruption: How many cops does it take to push a guy down the stairs? None. He fell.
David Housewright doesn’t think of setting as a character, but as how it forms and informs the human characters. He’ll let his PI go outside the rules, but there are always consequences.
Corey Lynn Fayman once had a PI tell him if he ever came up against a man with a gun in the course of an investigation, he’d step back and call the police.
Sean Lynch: The antagonistic relationship often depicted between fictional cops and PIs isn’t generally accurate. They get along and can help each other 90% of the time, and it drives him crazy to see cop shows where the cops have only one case at a time. If a PI has a way to help and isn’t a jerk about it, most cops will be happy to cooperate. This relationship works both ways as each side utilizes the better skills of the other. One condition: the PI must agree to share everything and understand the cop can’t do the same. In his experience, cops who are dismissive and hostile toward PIs who can help them aren’t usually good cops in general.
3:30 The Boxer: Writing Violence. Zoe Sharp, moderator.
This panel differed from other violence panels I’ve seen as the discussion focused less on the mechanics of violence and more on the psychology. All of the panelists agreed they get much more grief from readers over the swearing in their books than because of the violence.
Sheila Redling: How does physical size affect your character’s sense of risk or preparation for violence? Are physically smaller characters more attuned to physical threats?
Sheila Redling quoting from The Onion: The average man is 5000% less effective at fighting than he imagines.
Zoe Sharp: Male authors focus more on the mechanics of sex and violence; women more on the emotions.
Taylor Stevens: The middle course is to be inside the character’s head and see what that person is thinking or experiencing.
Zoe Sharp: You don’t need to spell out everything that happens. Readers will fill in their own blanks. (She then referenced the shower scene from Psycho, where at no time does the audience ever see a knife contact skin.)
Quote attributed to Dennis Lehane (by who I don’t remember): Everything he knows about writing violence came from reading the Parker novels by Richard Stark (Donald Westlake). Zoe Sharp got a lot of pointers from the sparse prose used in Robert B. Parker’s novels.
7:00 Private Eye Writers of America Banquet.
The PWA Banquet is always fun, and this year’s even more than usual. Lawrence Block spoke of his time as president, and several other long-time members spoke and presented awards. The evening concluded with the presentation of the Shamus Awards, which went to:
- Best Private Eye Novel: Brutality by Ingrid Thoft
- Best First Private Eye Novel: The Do-Right by Lisa Sandlin
- Best Original Private Eye Paperback: Circling the Runway by J.L. Abramo
- Best Private Eye Short Story: "The Dead Client" by Parnell Hall (Dark City Lights: New York Stories)
The lifetime achievement award went once again to someone who had more than earned the honor, S.J. Rozan. Congratulations to all the winners, even Joe Abramo, who beat me for best paperback original. I’d like to hate him, but he’s such a nice guy, fine writer, and gracious winner I couldn’t be happier if I had won myself. Well, maybe a little.
Special thanks to Bob Randisi for not only putting on his standard great party, but for taking time from his own dinner to make sure The Beloved Spouse and I had a meal that wouldn’t kill us. I’m not a joiner, but every year I’m reminded how glad I am to be a part of PWA.
Next Monday on the blog: Day Three.