Woke up a bit earlier today, as the distaff members of Clan Mondo had an early train to catch for their visit to New York City. After they departed, I performed my morning ablutions and then had breakfast at the same greasy spoon I visited the day before. From there, I walked to the Hotel Brotherhood building, arriving about 15 minutes before the morning’s program started. Andrew Nette gave a fascinating presentation on the history of pulp novels in mid-20th-C. Australia (a subject he’s researching for his Ph.D.), and he was followed by a panel about the late, influential Southern writer, Larry Brown.
After that, it was time for lunch, which took the form of a grilled cheese sandwich with bacon at a nifty little restaurant about a block from the convention site. I joined Eric Campbell, the publisher of Down and Out Books, and Lono Waiwaiole, a crime fictioneer from Portland, OR. (And of course, when I realized I was having lunch on South Street in Philadelphia, I thought of these guys. Go figure.)
After lunch, we heard from Charles Ardai, publisher of Hard Case Crime, who then stayed on stage for a discussion of Jewish Noir. In the course of that discussion, it was suggested that the fact that a significant number of noir writers (e.g., David Goodis, the motivating spirit behind this convention) are or were Jewish may be connected to the sense of alienation that marks a great deal of work in the genre. While I’m not Jewish, I certainly can see the connection between the alienation I felt through my youth and my attraction to this kind of fiction.
Next up was Aurelien Masson of Serie Noire, who talked with great enthusiasm about his (continuing) work to keep the line vital, interesting, and uncomfortable. His sense that readers and writers of noir are a community that is both ghettoized and strengthened by the genre’s disturbing aspects struck a chord with me, perhaps in part because of the business I just mentioned from the preceding panel. Afterwards, I said to him, “You want to be Lemmy, don’t you?” He lit up as I continued — turns out he has a portrait of Lemmy in his office. “Lemmy never seemed to worry much about the larger audience — he just did what he wanted to do without apology. The people who didn’t get it could take off, but the people who did were fanatically loyal.” Having been part of musical subcultures like metal and now garage/psych, it makes a great deal of sense to me. And in a way, this convention has been very much like finding members of my tribe.
After a quick stop at the hotel, Eric, Lono and I took a cab to the convention’s awards banquet, which was held at a union hall at Penn’s Landing, and which featured a really nice spread — no rubber chicken here, folks. I didn’t win anything in the raffle, but I felt like a winner just by being there.
Now I’m back in the hotel, waiting for the girls to get back, which will be in an hour or so, I hope. And in the morning, it’s my turn to appear on a panel. Here’s hoping the winning streak continues.