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.
– Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery
New Orleans is a city known for sin, drinking, and corruption; a perfect place for the 2016 Bouchercon where hundreds of crime novelists, publishers, and fans meet. I’ve been going solo to these things, but this time I was joined by my fellow MysteryPeople, newly named Director Of Suspense Molly Odintz and and MysteryPeople Blogger Meike Alana to divide and and conquer. That said, I was still exhausted after I was done.
Even the panels were more rollicking than usual. When Moderator Laura Lippman spoke on behalf of Megan Abbott on their “Real Housewives” discussion, panelist Greg Herren called up Megan to see if Laura was right. for the record, she was. On a panel on vigilante justice in crime fiction Stuart Neville questioned the authors who talked about the need for a vigilante hero, by saying it is a fascist trope. A panel on the use of violence got interesting when Taylor Stevens, author of The Informationist, talked about the need for it in her writings. “Our characters are gladiators in the arena and our readers want to see them get bloodied.”
Since the MysteryPeople crew will be in New Orleans next week at Bouchercon, we thought this week’s tale should be set there too. Luckily, we happened on one of our favorite writers, George Masters, who writes with a no-nonsense attitude that is compelling. From Akashics’ Monday’s Are Murder Section, he shows why the city is a perfect setting for crime.
Thirty-five minutes before kickoff, my brother Pat got a phone call at the Superdome from his wife Trudy.
Trudy was alone in the back of her antique store on Magazine. Pat walked in, and the bell on the door tinkled.
“What’s the problem?”
Trudy dropped a manila envelope on the counter. “Our daughter, the fucking movie star. No pun intended, and no, you don’t want to see it. Came in this morning’s mail. I want to kill somebody, and I’m not sure who.”’
Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator and Bouchercon Aficionado Scott Montgomery
Two things happen around this time of year: I get ready to go to Bouchercon, and a lot of people ask about what one on earth that is when I tell them what I’m preparing for. For the uninitiated who haven’t yet heard of the magic of this conference, I will address the three most frequently asked questions about it.
What is Bouchercon?
Bouchercon is the world’s largest mystery conference. Thousands of fans rub elbows with hundreds of crime fiction writers. It is held in a different city each year (this time, New Orleans). Themes match their locations – this year has been officially named the “Blood on the Bayou” Bouchercon. The conference celebrates the genre with at least three awards ceremonies, lots of parties, and tons of panels. It is put on by crime fiction fans for crime fiction fans.
Why is it called Bouchercon?
Bouchercon is named after sci-fi and mystery writer Anthony Boucher, who died in 1968, but whose legacy still shines. He had an impact on both genres as a book reviewer and editor for the San Francisco Chronicle. He celebrated the literary merit of scifi and mystery, and championed authors like Jim Thompson. The last awards, given out on Sunday, are known as The Anthonies.
Should I go?
Yes.You get to meet some of your favorite writers and get introduced to new ones. The panels can be an enlightening and they are always entertaining. I always find something in the book room that is filled with great booksellers and publishers. Also, if you are at an early panel you can see what the authors look like in the morning after they’ve been drinking.
Molly, Meike, and myself will be there in New Orleans September 15th through 18th. Say hi, and get ready for lots of stories when we return!
Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery gives us the low-down on this year’s Bouchercon, THE mystery convention.
I met Dashiell Hammett’s granddaughter. That will be my takeaway from this year’s Bouchercon. It made sense to meet her at this conference, held in the scarily clean city of Raleigh North Carolina. Organizers seemed to be interested in crime fiction’s past, present, and future.
Ali Karim should get credit for some of the best panels ever put together at a B-con. Reed Farrel Coleman was moderator for The Private Sector, a discussion of the PI genre that became a discussion about reality versus fiction when it came to the audience Q&A. Michael Koryta, a former private investigator, said he knows a writer is doing their work when they get surveillance right. He also suggested to research the job as if you were going into it as a profession. As detailed as it got, J.L. Abramo, author of the Jake Diamond series, put it all in perspective when he said, “Herman Melville wasn’t a whaler.”
With this years Bouchercon ongoing in Raleigh, North Carolina, we thought it would be fun to put up this story, set in nearby Asheville, first published in Akashic’s Mondays Are Murder series. Rosen takes an innocuous setting and with a little slow burn and dark satire, creates a fun, cleanly written,mini-thriller.
“How much is this?” the middle-aged man asked, irritated. He pointed a finger at a bunch of lacinato kale—fresh in, a chalk-marked sign indicated, from a farm outside Hickory. He had been waiting at the stand for five minutes, and was not about to wait a minute longer.
“Four-fifty,” said the man behind the table. He looked too old to still be farming, and he spoke softly. It was hard to hear him over the banjo playing nearby. The upright bass didn’t make it any easier. “That’s fresh in from Hick’ry.”
“That’s what the sign says!” replied the man as he stuffed two bunches into his tote. The WNCW logo covered the canvas bag in big blue letters that nobody could miss. “I usually do rainbow chard, but it’s disgusting this week. It looks like it’s from the SuperSaver.”
With Bouchercon, THE mystery convention of the United States, starting tomorrow in Raleigh, James Ziskin, author of the Ellie Stone series, offers this course for his fellow writers to prepare for it and other conferences.
This four-week course prepares authors for success at writers’ conferences, covering norms of professional and social behavior while offering insight into how to get the most out of the conference experience. Here’s what to do and what not to do at Bouchercon.
“Learn from my mistakes. I’ve done all of the things below!” – A not-so-famous writer
This weekend many of us crime fiction fans are in Long Beach, the site for the 2014 Bouchercon, the international mystery conference. This Crime Fiction Friday gives a nod to the conference with this story set in Long Beach by L.A. writer Gary Phillips. Phillips is one of our favorite writers here at MysteryPeople. The story first appeared in Akashic’s Mondays are Murder series.
“You’re it, Hank. Who the hell else could I lay this burden on?”
Mark coughs up more blood and I do my best to comfort my dying friend. He’s dressed in a suit I’m quite sure costs more than my parish generates in two months. His leaking blood creates a Rorschach test gone awry on his light blue shirt.
“The ambulance is coming.” I say this even though I don’t hear a siren. Which is ironic, given there’s always a peal around here, in the neighborhood where Mark and I grew up.
He smiles up at me with his red-stained teeth. “We both know that they’ll be too late. Sit me up, will you, and reach into my pocket.”
Albany is a quaint city, with rolling hills (I swear I was always walking uphill, even on the way back), historic buildings and friendly people who say, “Absolutely,” when you ask them for a favor. Into this bucolic atmosphere descended thousands of crime fiction writers, publishers, booksellers, and fans like a plague of dark, drunken, philosophical rats from September 19th – 22nd. I can say this because I was one of the them attending this year’s Bouchercon, the world’s largest mystery conference.
Debate went into high gear during the New Noir panel. Moderator Reed Farrel Coleman introduced the idea that there are now two different kinds of noir fiction. One is traditional that relies more on mood and psychology. The newer form relies on violence and shock value. It was probably the most engaging discussion at the conference, with Duane Swierczynski defending the new form along with Jason Starr admitting that his works tend to fall into this category. The discussion wrapped up with a few jokes about Reed’s age and a quip from Hilary Davidson that would make any femme fatale proud.
Les Edgerton’s Pulp Fiction, Baby! panel also discussed playing on the dark and moody side of the street. As happened last year, Les had the best line of the year: “Paint your character black and the light will shine through.”
Josh Stalling talked about how he enjoyed hiding real ideas and social commentary in pulp fiction. He also cited James Crumley’s Dancing Bear and the original Winnie The Pooh as the books most influential in his process. When asked which Pooh character he relates the most with, he answered, “I’m always Eeyore.”
The Shameless Dead Cats & Bad Girls panel hosted by Laura Lippman dealt with taboos in crime fiction. Megan Abbott cited Gone Girlas proof that the mainstream has embraced the type of dark fiction that was more marginalized in the past.
Discussion of what is taboo in noir fiction was the theme amongst most panels at Bouchercon. Taking advantage of that, David Corbett turned his I Go To Extremes panel into a drinking game with the words, “noir,” “taboo,” “transgressive,” and “Tarantino.” Unfortunately for David, he forgot Todd Robinson, Glenn Gray, and I were in attendance. We’re three guys known for being loud and opinionated even when we’re sober.
The panels definitely covered a lot outside the question of what has become taboo.
I learned more about Austin author Mark Pryor at The Liar’s panel, where they played a game with the audience to guess when Mark was telling a lie, the truth, or a half-truth.
At the WW2 and Sons panel, Martin Limon spoke about how the culture clash he witnessed as a GI stationed in Korea between the locals and the US military lead to writing the Sueno & Bascome series.
In a discussion about writing unreliable narrators, Megan Abbott talked about how she believes noir protagonists will always be unreliable, since they are always attempting to justify their actions. Laura Lippman agreed, adding that the
y are also trying to convince the reader that they would have done the same.
You couldn’t let this group of dark, philosophical rats go without a night of revelry. On the first night of the con, authors Reed Farrell Coleman, Tom Schreck and Crimespree magazine’s Jon and Ruth Jordan threw a spectacular party. The Franklin Towers Bar was all shook up with classic rock n’ roll covers flowing from the stage, with Johnny Rebel And The Jail House Rockers at the helm. It was overwhelming to see such a who’s who in crime fiction. The place was so packed, even the sidewalk outside was crowded.
I would love to share more details, but it might be a little too risqué for the blogosphere.
I hung on until the bitter end, so I was able to see every dark nook and cranny of this year’s Buchercon. I went to the annual Dead Dog Dinner with those left over on Sunday night. Then, the next morning, it was breakfast and sightseeing with author RJ Ellory and bloggers Ali Karim and Peter Rozovsky before we had to catch our trains.
I don’t know if we attendees ever answered the question about whether or not we’ve gone too far in noir fiction. Maybe we have.
But over the weekend he sent us these photos from Bouchercon 2013. If anyone sees him, please let him know we’re looking for him. We saw some photos on facebook and are concerned he might have had way too good a time and is never coming back. There are books to sell here, Scott. Let’s go.