With my panel behind me and a fairly relaxing evening at the bar under my belt, Friday showed great potential. It did not disappoint.
Friday October 13
10:00 Urban Noir: City Settings where, despite the light pollution, there is darkness
Susan Calder did a nice job navigating through a challenge for any moderator: a panelist who rambles and forgets there are four other people up there. The rest of the panel picked their spots well and made it an educational and entertaining hour. To wit:
Tim O’Mara: If you own you call his neighborhood Clinton; it you rent it’s Hell’s Kitchen.
Michael Harvey wondered why most psychological thrillers are set in the suburbs. Gary Dvorkin: The suburbs may have taken over noir as the cities Disney-fied themselves.
Tim O’Mara: The street people who left Times Square had to go somewhere. Many of them wound up in his neighborhood.
Tim O’Mara grew up in Long Island and knew his first black person in college. His daughter grows up amidst far more diversity and has far fewer fears.
Tim O’Mara: In New York, “Writer’s block” means 2 or 3 writers live there.
Michael Harvey: “Urban noir” is the accumulation of individuals’ small evils.
Michael Harvey: When asked what something in his book means, he says that’s up to the readers, who must filter everything through their own experience.
Michael Harvey: There’s great ambiguity in life and people are too interested in putting labels on things, especially in America. You don’t know anything until you understand you know nothing.
This provoked a general back and forth on how impulses we’ve all had are based on potentially misinterpreting situations can inform what our characters do. In a book things can happen you’d wait the extra beat for in real life.
Michael Harvey: Genre labels have gone too far. There’s only good writing and bad. That’s how books should be shelved: “Good Writing” and Shitty Writing.”
11:30 Sweet Revenge: Writers who have used revenge as a motivation for their work.
Well, damn, people. We write crime. Who hasn’t used revenge, both as a character’s motivation and as a way to get back at the jackass who took the last Cinnabon at the airport? Mike McCrary hit a good balance of darkness and wit in leading an excellent panel through more than its share of thought-provoking comments.
Stuart Neville: Revenge is a flawed concept. It never works and just feeds on itself.
Stuart Neville: Plot is the consequence of characters’ desires. Revenge is always a strong motivator and its results always have consequences.
Stuart Neville: Revenge as character motivation is almost always about self-worth. Could just be a matter of someone feeling shamed.
Michael Wiley: The best revenge may be for the person to always have to look over their shoulder. Used The Last Good Kiss as an example.
Stuart Neville: Revenge takes many forms. In Ratlines, it’s the hero telling Otto Skorczeny he knows Skorczeny is a phony.
Stuart Neville: Trading Places is a great revenge story.
Stuart Neville: The IRA now lets the highest-level informants alone because the press would be too bad.
Victoria Helen Stone: It’s easier for a betrayed spouse to project his or her anger and desire for revenge onto the other man/woman instead of onto the spouse, who is the person who actually betrayed them.
Stuart Neville: The Irish exchanged justice for peace and a lot of people were put off because acknowledged killers got away with it and ended up in good positions.
Elizabeth Heiter: A funny revenge story can work. (Especially is the person seeking revenge isn’t very good at it.)
2:00 Mysteries of Toronto: Get to know the blood-soaked streets on Toronto
Okay, so not as blood-soaked as we might have been led to believe. An all-Toronto panel spoke to a mostly Toronto audience about crime in—you guessed it—Toronto. While the panel was fun and informative, most of the comments were of a “you had to be there” nature. One that stuck out came during a discussion of media coverage, from John McFetridge: People involved in newsworthy events always remark on how incomplete the coverage was, yet people form firm opinions based on those accounts.
3:30 Government Agencies: Authors writing about military or other government agencies
Who says people associated with government agencies have no sense of humor? Lots of good insights delivered with tongues often planted firmly in cheeks. Joseph Finder set the tone by admitting he made a gun mistake in a book once.
Gwen Florio: That’s the worst mistake you can make.
Joseph Finder: Second worst. The worst is killing a dog.
J. J. Hensley: Bolt-Action Remedy is the best-selling biathlon mystery in the world. Unless one of you publishes one tonight.
Mike Maden (seconded by JJH): You don’t study counterfeit money to identify it; you study real money. That way you can testify about what’s wrong with the counterfeit, as there a million ways to do it wrong. (Original comment by Maden was intended to show why to read the best fiction in your genre.)
This was a good panel but I had to leave early to make it to
4:20 20 on the 20s: Scott Adlerberg
Scott spoke about his new book, Jack Waters. Scott is one of those guys you’re never quite sure what the next project will be like, and this one is another departure, a historical novel about a man who, quite frankly, doesn’t seem to give a fuck. If you’ve never had the pleasure of seeing Scott speak or read in person, rectify it. You’ll thank me.
4:40 20 on the 20s: Montreal Noir
Akashic continues its series of [Your City Here] Noir anthologies with Montreal, edited by John McFetridge and Jacques Filippi. A mix of stories, half of which written by Anglo authors and half by Francophones intended to capture the multicultural vibe of the city. McFetridge and Filippi know what they’re doing, the authors on hand knew what they were about, so it looks like another success for Akashic.
By then I was exhausted, and the serious drinking was yet to come. More on that later.