- Post by Director of Suspense Molly Odintz
If you’ve noticed a bit of radio silence on our blog these past couple weeks, that’s because MysteryPeople’s Scott Montgomery, Meike Alana, and I took a road trip to the Big Easy for the “Blood on the Bayou” Bouchercon, one of the world’s largest gathering of mystery writers, fans, bloggers, agents, editors, marketers, librarians, booksellers and publishers. The breath of those titles pales in comparison to the diversity of day jobs talked about, past and present. Poison experts mingled with ex-cops, ex-cons, ex-journalists, and expert martial artists. This year’s conference, due to its desirable locale, was busier than most, so trust me when I say that the memories I’ve brought back represent a small slice of the enormous number of great experiences had over the weekend at Bouchercon.
Bouchercon exists on many levels. First, there are the official events: the panels, the awards, the signings, the book room; in short, plenty to entertain a mystery lover. There’s also plenty of behind the scenes industry action, as publishers celebrate anniversaries, authors celebrate book releases, and meetings galore happen across the city. Then, there’s that special camaraderie that only occurs from geeking out about mystery with folks just as weird as we are. That part seems to happen mainly in the hotel bar.
I tried to engage in all of these activities as much as time and experience would allow, but for now, I’ll just tell y’all about the panels. There’s nothing like a panel discussion on forgotten classics to show a mystery fan how much she has left to learn about the genre. The first panel I attended at the conference, “Beyond Chandler and Hammett: Lesser Known Writers of the Pulp and Paperback Era” featured four authors, each promoting their favorite forgotten pulp writer, moderated by Peter Rozofsky of “Detectives Without Borders” fame.
Next up, I zipped over to the “All The Critics Love You In New York,” where prominent critics, bloggers and reviewers talked about their recent picks and gave new writers some advice on getting noticed. After that, I headed over to the “State of the Industry: Agents and Editors” panel, which featured reviewers, agents, editors and publishers discussing their favorite picks of the past couple years and industry trends of note. The panel’s moderator, Juliet Grames of SoHo Press, asked the folks on the panel what they’d like to see in the genre that they haven’t seen before. The panelists concluded that, whatever the next big thing out there is, someone’s probably at home, already working on it.
“Sherlock Says Relax: The Challenge of LGBTQ Mysteries,” moderated by Catriona McPherson, turned out to be the most affecting and inspiring panel I attended. When asked about inspirations for her novels, panelist Jessi Chandler turned to fellow panelist R. Jean Reid and (to paraphrase) let her know that she had started writing because she had run out of books by Reid, and couldn’t bear waiting for the next one. R. Jean Reid then brought us all to a standing ovation when she discussed fleeing Katrina with a half-completed manuscript and picking her series right back up again. Also of note, Christa Faust’s discussion of kinky books, and Stephanie Gayle’s vision of a nerdier book world future.
At the “Women Taking Shots with Lee Child” discussion, panelists and audience members alike dissected the male dislike of reading fiction, especially fiction by women, yet ended on a hopeful note as the few men in the room swore they had read quite a few books by women recently, and panelist Sara Blaedel assured us women crime writers had no shortage of male fans in Scandinavia. The “Writing Violence” panel I attended, moderated by the very cool Zoe Sharp, also approached the topic of gender with a thought provoking generalization – men write the mechanics of violence, while women write the emotions of violence. One panelist quickly proved there are plenty of exceptions to that rule – as a martial artist, she blocks out every fight scene.
The “Thrift Shop” panel, moderated by Lori Rader-Day, led the audience on a tour of where ideas come from. A discussion of “dancing” (electrified) chickens was just one of this panel’s many delightful moments. I finished the fest attending a panel on social justice in detective fiction, a thought-provoking and inspiring discussion.
And that’s just the panels! I won’t say too much about the parties (what happens in New Orleans stays in New Orleans). I would like to extend a hearty congratulations to SoHo Crime on 25 years of international crime fiction publishing, Mulholland Books on 5 great years of noir publishing, and all the Anthony Award nominees and winners. Thanks to everyone who didn’t laugh when I introduced myself as Director of Suspense (my new title, dreamt up for the occasion) and just as much thanks to those who did laugh. Alas, it is still almost a year until next year’s Bouchercon festivities. Toronto, I’m coming for ya!