Monday, September 24, 2018

Bouchercon 2018: Friday's Panels

Today is the second installment of my Bouchercon review. As always, comments were retrieved from inexpertly taken notes that were more impaired as the weekend progressed. I have tried to capture the essence of what everyone quoted said, but I make no claims that these are word-for-word, and apologize if I misinterpreted anything. No malice is intended. (So you can forget that suing for libel bullshit right now.)

10:00 Talking Tough—Writing Hard-Boiled and Noir
Ted Fitzgerald (M), Ragnar Jonasson, Rick Ollerman, Caro Ramsey, John Shepphird

I don’t have notes from this panel, me being on it and all. I just want to send my sincere thanks and appreciation to Ted, Ragnar, Rick, Caro, and John for being such outstanding panel mates and great fun. My Bouchercon streak is intact, as once again, I scored a panel that carried me.

11:00 Holding Out for a Hero—Criminal Protagonists
Penni Jones (M), Eric Beetner, Charles Salzberg, Josh Stallings, David Swinson, Rebecca Drake

This panel fell immediately after mine, so I got there late. It was still worth making the effort, as a good discussion broke out right after I got there. A condensed version is below.

Charles Salzberg: Criminality is relative. There are things that are illegal and there are things like breaking hearts and betraying trusts that are crimes against people even though they are not illegal.

David Swinson: The definition of criminal is someone who commits an arrestable offense.

Josh Stallings noted his father went to jail for protesting a war. Was he a criminal? Meanwhile, people in different, more elevated stations of life commit “arrestable offenses” every day but arrest is never contemplated.

(A little later) Swinson: Would I arrest Hunter S. Thompson? No. (Said with an inflection that is impossible to capture in writing. May easily be interpreted as, “Fuck no.”)

12:00 Capitol Crimes—Political Thrillers
Matthew FitzSimmons (M), Jack Carr, Joseph Finder, Christina Kovac, Terrence McCauley, Tom Rosenstiel

Christina Kovac: We’ve all seen the origins of political thrillers on the playground.

Terrence McCauley (following up): Political thrillers don’t have to be about “politics.” Any kind of human interaction qualifies.

McCauley: The most violent movie he’s ever seen is Glengarry, Glen Ross. The language is used as a weapon.

Tom Rosenstiel: Political stories often give us the politics we want but don’t get. The West Wing gave us a better Clinton, then showed the differences with Bush,

Joseph Finder: Conspiracy thrillers came of age after Watergate and Vietnam.

Jack Carr mentioned the Church hearings. His novel’s premise at the time was, “What if someone didn’t get that memo, that we weren’t doing those things anymore?”

Carr (On why people read political thrillers): This country was founded on a mistrust of government.

Rosenstiel (Same question): Political thrillers show a broken situation where the system puts things back together but in a slightly different form.

Kovac: From a woman’s perspective, it’s an examination of the fear that comes with being a “smaller mammal” and the social elements involved.

McCauley: Political thrillers address our fears so people can work through them to gain a different perspective other than fear alone.

Rosenstiel: Political thrillers are about the criminals on the front page while criminal thrillers are about people inside the paper.

FitzSimmons: The best political thriller writers are working for free on Reddit.

McCauley wants to make the thriller more personal by focusing on the one item everyone has the most exposure on. (He then pulled off the most masterful marketing coup I’ve ever seen at Bouchercon by holding up as an example his cell phone, which has a cover featuring Terrence’s new Western, Where the Bullets Fly. Brilliant.)

Carr: Cell phones are surveillance devices that also make phone calls.

1:00 Blue Collars—Writing the Working Class without Condescension
Mike McCrary (M), Elizabeth Mundy, Steph Post, Eryk Pruitt

Eryk Pruitt: Most of my stories are about how shitty I was as a drug dealer. (He follows his father around to get the voice he wants when he has trouble capturing it.)

Steph Post: The working class works. They’re not the stereotypes they’re too often made out to be.

Pruitt: The whole thing’s going to hell pretty soon so we’re all going to be working class.

Post: The rhythms of a character’s speech convey more than changing words or dropping Gs.

4:00 Fight Me! Authors Discuss Unpopular Opinions About Crime/Mystery
Kristen Sullivan (M), Christa Faust, Danny Gardner, Renee Pickup, Kieran Shea

Danny Gardner: We’ve been sleeping together since the Mayflower, so we should be able to get along. We do get along well enough to make babies.

Christa Faust is looking for the day when you can write marginalized characters as fuck ups. Then we’ll be where we need to be.

Kieran Shea: Raising money for a law school is like raising money for cancer. One percent of lawyers ever see the inside of a courtroom. The rest are embittered and angry people.

Renee Pickup: If you’re not a veteran, don’t give me another “veteran hit man” story unless you want me to become a veteran hit man.

Faust: Lots of people ask me for “neutral” stories. They don’t want to read social issues. (Pickup, interjecting: “How can you write crime without social issues?”) When people say not to add politics what they really mean is to add their politics.

(A question from the audience about cultural appropriation)
Gardner: Get to know some black folks and you can write black folks.

Faust: If you are respectful and get to know folks you can write about them.

Shea: Remember that everyone has humanity. Understand but don’t make assumptions.

Gardner never does anything to a character he wouldn’t do to a cousin, using the black definition of “cousin,” which can extend out quite a ways, leaving open plenty of opportunity for mayhem.

Shea: Everyone is being screwed over by their definition of The Man.

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