Saturday, October 13, 2012

Bouchercon 2013: The Panels

I intended to blog about Bouchercon as soon as I got back, but that whole “life is what happens while you’re making other plans” thing bit me in the ass and I’ve done no writing at all since returning on Monday. We spent an extra day visiting the ancestral home, things have been a zoo at work, I brought back a bad case of the Crud that has kept me less than fully ambulatory; really, it’s not my fault: 

The original plan was to spice up the comments with some pithy interjections, but the window has closed for that kind of frolic. Below are the main takeaways from the panels I attended. (Apologies in advance for unattributed comments. Most notes were hastily written, and I couldn’t always see who said what.)

Several Canadian authors had their books turned back at the border and were left with nothing to sign. Most likely due to sympathetic descriptions of socialized medicine and short prison sentences. (A later panel indicated the Canadian government has stopped shipments of maple syrup and back bacon in retaliation.)

Dana Haynes sometimes casts an actor as a character, then posts a picture of said actor where he can see it while he writes and will look at it when he’s stuck for what that character would do or say next.

The difference between “blond” and “blonde” is not adjective vs. noun, as I had thought; it’s gender. It’s just that men are rarely referred to as “blonds.” (Thanks to Peter Rozovsky, a beacon for the diminishing number of people who still care about such things.)

Everyone on the “What Would Rockford Do?” panel has their PIs to do things they’d like to do, but don’t. Such as throw an unruly rider off a bus. (This put my mind at ease, as that’s pretty much all my PI does.)

What makes PI stories work: “Everyone is corrupt. They have done something they don’t want to see in the papers.”

The panel spoke of the allure and danger of falling into Self-Destructive Guy Syndrome, where the hero is unable to sustain relationships with women and sometimes even routine friendships with men. None of them use particularly damaged heroes, but essentially normal guys with the same issues anyone might have, who are routinely faced with extraordinary circumstances.

Cops don’t always make the best PIs because they aren’t always sure how to react when someone tells them to take a hike and they don’t have a badge to back them up. Actors and accountants might be preferable, depending on the circumstances.
When writing a morally challenged hero, find the line he will not cross and see what it will take to get him to cross it.

A morally challenged hero has to have some redeeming feature the reader can hang his empathy on.

If the main character is a bad guy, there have to be worse guys in the story to make him at least relatively sympathetic.

Some morally challenged heroes see the situation with a clarity that allows them to cut through the BS. This is something a reader can admire at some level.

The weakness in the psycho ex machina sidekick (Reed Farrell Coleman’s term) is he removes the difficult moral choice from the protagonist.

The difference between noir and crime fiction: in noir, everyone is dirty. (Attributed to Dennis Lehane.)

“Bollocks” signifies something bad, but “the dog’s bollocks” is high praise, similar to “the bee’s knees.”

“Wanker” is an insult, but “right wanker” is not.

There were only a few hundred other things deserving of mention; time and space prohibit describing them all in the detail they deserve.

No discussion of the panels I attended would be complete without mention of moderator Sandra Parshall,  and co-panelists Erika Chase and Brenda Chapman, who made my first experience facing the audience not just a pleasure, but damned easy on my blood pressure. Many thanks, ladies.

In our next exciting installment, we’ll discuss the social elements of this year’s conference.


pattinase (abbott) said...

That social element thing has always been enigmatic to me.

Peter Rozovsky said...


Cops don’t always make the best PIs because they aren’t always sure how to react when someone tells them to take a hike and they don’t have a badge to back them up. Actors and accountants might be preferable...

Thanks for reminding me of that. It was one of my favorite remarks of the convention. Was it Howard Shrier who said -- one of my fellow Canadians? Good thing the Americans didn't turn him back.

I'm not sure I'd agree with the remark attributed to Dennis Lehans. I shall have to give the matter further thought.

Patti: This was in one respect an Earth 2, alternate-universe Bouchercon: no Abbotts, just one Jordan, no Scott Phillips.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

Dana King said...

I'm not sure I agree with Lehane, either. I like the comment Christa Faust gave in Indianapolis, when asked the difference between noir and hard-boiled. In hard-boiled, the landscape is fucker, but you'll probably come out okay. In noir, the landscape is fucked, and so are you.

Peter Rozovsky said...

Right. Everyone is screwed makes more sense to me than everyone is dirty.