After wishing the lovely Mrs. M a happy 22nd anniversary via phone (Love you, dear!), I got to the convention hotels this morning in time for the ten a.m. session. I picked a session about the enduring appeal of the hardboiled mystery. Steve Hamilton moderated, and the panel included Rick Mofina, Philip Reed, Matt Coyle, and Robert K. Lewis. The discussion was pleasant and lively, and emphasized the idea that the private eye’s heroism isn’t necessarily his power and ability to triumph, but his ability to endure setbacks both physical and emotional.
Next, I chatted with some new-found friends in the hospitality suite before grabbing lunch from a Mediterranean joint near the hotel. The kafta kebab and fries were ample fuel for the afternoon sessions. First up was a discussion of “tough stories for tough readers”, moderated by Eric Beetner (who is a fine book cover designer in addition to being a skilled noir writer) and including military novelist Tom Young, thriller writer Chris Pavone, police writer Trey R. Barker, and the outlaw-turned-noirist Les Edgerton. Everyone was terrific, but Les stole the show with his anecdotes from his life in the demimonde, and his comment that each night as he falls asleep, the last thing his wife tells him is “Go to the light, Les.” Ask him sometime about his shootout one night at a middle school.
That session was followed by one on the authors who have influenced some of today’s best crime writers. Mark Coggins moderated, and the panel included bestseller Karin Slaughter, Bill Crider, Spawn favorite Megan Abbott, and some guy named Larry who could really go places in this business. As it happens, this Larry fellow also has a recent book that talks a lot about some important figures in the history of the mystery genre, which dovetailed wonderfully with the session.
I finally got to meet Megan Abbott in real life (as the kids say) after the session, although we’ve been chatting back and forth online for several years. She’s as delightful in person as she is on the page, and there’s a very good reason she has skyrocketed onto the crime fiction scene. She’s a tremendous writer, and a lovely person.
From there I caught the last session of the day, a discussion of the uneasy frontier between crime fiction and mainstream/”literary” fiction. The writers included Elaine Viets (who introduces a new character in the current Hitchcock’s), author/publisher Chris Knopf, cozy specialist Sheila Connolly, and author/publisher Katy Munger. At one point, Ms. Viets asked how many folks in the audience had heard of a list of of 19th-C. American authors along the lines of William Dean Howells. Few hands went up (ahem). She pointed out that they were the leading literary lights of their day, while their buddy Mark Twain was considered to be a “mere” popular fictioneer. Reputations change. (Ms. Viets saw me in the hallway later, and mentioned that it’s rare that anyone recognizes any of those folks. I told her it was an occupational hazard.)
A little later, I ran into Mr. Block as he relaxed in the hallway. We talked a bit, and then I sat nearby and watched him deal with fans, who seemed to approach him with a certain amount of awe. He dealt graciously with each and every one. One fan told him, “I’ve been reading your work almost as long as Agatha.” Later, I pointed out to him that he must be doing pretty well, given that Agatha had a considerable head start.
After dinner at a Chinese place, I hung out in the lobby of one of the hotels and then went to the basement of the other one, meeting Ed Kurtz and his Intended along the way. We were bound for a podcast of noir writers hosted by Tom Pitts, featuring the previously mentioned Edgerton and Spinetingler magazine’s Jack Getze. At least, I thought that was what I was going to. I was startled to be included in the discussion, which turned into a raucous and funny discussion of neo-noir, crime writing in general, tailoring one’s work to an audience, and about 47 other things. I made several comments, and generally played the Poindexter — it’s my role, after all. Other participants included S.W. Lauden, Joe Clifford (who is up for multiple Anthony awards this year), and Danny Gardner (whose book A Negro and an Ofay is generating a hell of a lot of buzz), along with a host of others. You should have been there — but if you couldn’t be, I’ll try to post a link soon.
So, it was a loud, long, and lovely day here in Bouchercon. I’m tired, but eager for tomorrow. Catch you later!