Thursday, September 8, 2022

Bouchercon Memories

 Since I can’t be at Bouchercon in person this year, I thought I’d use this space to recap my favorite memories. The lost got ling, so not everything is here. If any strike your interest and you’d like more detail, let me know in the comments and I’ll dedicate a post to it/them.


Baltimore, 2008

My indoctrination began in earnest when Peter Rozovsky (one of three people I already knew going in) introduced me to Scott Phillips, who’d written one of my favorite books (The Ice Harvest).

Meeting Declan Hughes in the men’s room.

Speaking with Michael Black and learning that reading Connie Fletcher’s books, which I was already doing, was as good a way as any to understand cops and police work.

Zoe Sharp, who I knew only through the Murderati blog, asking me to sign a get well card for J.T. Ellison.


Indianapolis, 2009

Scott Phillips recognized me in the bar and asked if I’d like to get something to eat with the group he was with. Our only previous interaction had been when Peter introduced us in Baltimore.

Speaking with Max Allen Collins about his work with Mickey Spillane.


Cleveland, 2012

My first panel: “Murder in Small Towns,” moderated by Sandra Parshall,  with co-panelists Erika Chase and Brenda Chapman, all of whom made my first experience facing the audience not just a pleasure, but damned easy on my blood pressure.

Standing at the bar wearing my “What Would Al Swearengen Do?” tee shirt and having a stranger accost me with “I want that shirt.” This was the opening act of what became an enduring friendship with Tim O’Mara.


Albany, 2013

Panel: “Goodnight, My Angel: Hard-boiled, Noir, and the Reader's Love Affair With Both,” moderated by Peter Rozovsky, with Eric Beetner, Mike Dennis, Terrence McCauley, and Jonathan Woods. I was already friends with Peter, Eric, and Mike, and became friends with the others two, Terrence famously so..

Albany had what they called Author’s Choice slots, where individuals or groups could sign up for half hours to do whatever they wanted. I used my time to discuss Raymond Chandler’s ideal detective and established a bit of a footprint in the community, thanks to the substantial audience that remained after the Thuglit reading that preceded it. Thanks to Todd Robinson for packing them in for me.


Long Beach, 2014

Noir at the (Breakfast) Bar, featuring readings by Les Edgerton, Tim Hallinan, and John McFetridge.

My first Shamus dinner. The Beloved Spouse™ and I sat with Tim Hallinan; Tim and I were both nominated, though in different categories. Neither of us won, but I was down with the dinners forever after.

Running into the late Sue Grafton the morning after she received her lifetime achievement award at the Shamuses. I approached and got as far as “Hello, Ms. Grafton” before she interrupted with “Please, call me Sue” and chatted for a bit. A class act all the way.


Raleigh, 2015

Panel: “Just the Facts: The Police Procedural.” James O. Born moderated Colin Campbell, Stephanie Gayle, Larry Kelter, and me in a discussion of police methods and how best to portray them. This may be my favorite panel ever, as Jim took time after my first answer to tell folks that what I said was dead on. I floated out of there.

The next day Jim did a solo event on police tactics, and the escalation of force spectrum. J.D. Rhoades was there to answer the recurring question “Can I shoot him now?”

Chicken and hush puppies at Clyde Cooper’s.



New Orleans, 2016

My first moderator gig, with Heather Graham, Terrence McCauley, and a writer whose name I am keeping to myself for reasons those who were there will understand. I honest to God do not remember the topic and there’s nothing about the panel in my contemporaneous notes, so I guess I was fully in the moment.

Dinner with John McFetridge and Laurie Reid at the Chartres House.

My second Shamus nomination, and we sat at the Down & Out Books table with J.L. Abramo, nominated in the same category as I. To show what a good guy Joe is, he won, I lost, and we’re still friends.

Losing my wallet in my pants.


Toronto, 2017

Panel: “Heroes and Antiheroes: Are heroes possible even in fiction? Do we need them?” J. Kent Messum led a star-studded cast of Eric Campbell, Allison Gaylin, Stuart Neville, and David Swinson (and me) through what was likely the most elevated panel discussion I’ve been part of.

The Beloved Spouse™ and I spent a day at Niagara Falls on the way to Toronto and had a ball.

Korean Barbecue with John McFetridge and friends.


St. Petersburg, 2018

Terrence McCauley and his lovely wife Rita hosted a marvelous dinner for about twenty friends; The Beloved Spouse™ and I were honored they chose to include us. A truly special event.

TBS and I rode to the Shamus dinner in an actual Lincoln Town Car, not one of the compromised second drafts they’re passing off as Town Cars now. Our driver owned the car service and had worked as a stand-up comedian. We had a ball both going and coming.


Dallas, 2019

Noir at the Bar, hosted by Eryk Pruitt and featuring a hilarious and insightful reading by Joe Lansdale,.

The most memorable panel was one I was not a member of, on police procedurals. When asked by an audience member who was writing good procedurals today, both Frank Zafiro and Mark Bergin – retired cops, no less – called me out. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Dinner with James D.F. Hannah and Adam Plantinga, with apologies to Mark Bergin, with whom our wires got crossed.

Apologies to my co-panelists. My vision issues were at their worst in Dallas, and much of what happened there is a literal blur.


I’ll have no new memories this year, and San Diego is likely outside our comfortable travel radius. We’ll be loaded for bear in Nashville.

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