So it occurred to me this morning that I had forgotten to post my report from yesterday. “That’s okay,” thought I, “I’ll just double up tonight.” And so here we go, in the standard Saturday Potpourri format.
Friday’s panels began at 8:30 yesterday morning, so I got up at 6, hit the hotel buffet for breakfast, and walked the few blocks to the Sheraton in time to see a panel on violence in crime fiction. The panel was moderated by Thomas Pluck (with whom I share space in the forthcoming Alive in Shape and Color — Have you ordered your copy yet?), and included Chris Holm (whose Collector series I recommend) and Joe Clifford (who is making waves with his Jay Porter series.) One of the interesting points that came up was that all the authors emphasize that in their work, violence is never a pat solution to problems, and almost always takes a toll on the ones administering it, as well as those receiving it. I also was struck by a question from the audience about whether the authors would let their kids read their books, and at what age. The Spawn was in her mid-teens when Broken Glass Waltzes came out the first time, and while she has never read more than the opening scene, that’s her choice — she doesn’t like thinking about stuff like that crawling out of her dad’s head.
Next up was a session on comedic mysteries, and then a panel on revenge as a motivation in crime stories — from the characters’ standpoints, although I think the authorial end of it might have been interesting as well. It was also a good time because I encountered Eryk Pruitt and Kate Pilarcik, doing some catching up and chatting about upcoming projects; Kate and I have stories in Betrayed, a charity anthology that comes out on Monday, and I’ll be reading with Eryk at a Noir at the Bar in Durham, NC on Pearl Harbor Day.
I then headed outside into the grey midday, and had a couple of hot dogs at Nathan Phillips Square, one of my Toronto traditions.
After lunch, it was time to take in a panel on tough/hard-boiled characters, moderated by British ex-cop Colin Campbell and featuring Zoe Sharp, who pressed on despite the beginnings of a migraine. I ducked out after that and spent a little time unwinding at my hotel, followed by a walk around Queen West, which I think of as “my old neighborhood,” including the hotel where Mrs. M, the Spawn, and I stayed on several of our vacations. In fact, because I’ve visited Toronto so many times over the years, I found myself offering advice to numerous convention friends on cool places to check out, good cheap eats, and other such tourist info. By the time I got back to the Sheraton, however, my knees were bugging me, so I trudged the last few blocks to my hotel and packed it in.
Apparently the travel caught up with me a bit, because I overslept a bit this morning. OK — I overslept by two hours, but still made it to the Sheraton in time for a panel on social issues in crime fiction, with panelists who live and work in Southeast Asia, as well as writers who explore issues like human trafficking and political corruption. Fellow Down & Out author Ian Truman got off a comment that I found terrifically apt — he noted that he simply writes about life in the working-class neighborhood of Montreal where grew up; what outsiders call social problems, he said, were just part of getting by.
I picked up a copy of Truman’s Grand Trunk and Shearer, as well as an old Shell Scott novel, in the book room, and did a bit of schmoozing, gladhanding, and other fancy stuff until 1 p.m., when I saw a panel where Eryk and several other writers talked about setting crime fiction in small towns. After that, I had a quick meeting with Eric Campbell and Lance Wright from Down & Out, grabbed a drink, and returned to the presentations.
The afternoon panels included a discussion between cozy and hard-boiled writers, where each discussed the positives of the other subgenre. After that, I saw my speed dating tag-team partner Dale T. Phillips in a panel on darkness (in mood and morality) in the stuff we read and write. Interestingly, all the panelists mentioned that they try to leave at least a scintilla of positivity in their work. I spoke to Dale afterwards, and said, “Man, you’re gonna hate my book.”
The last panel of the day was on noir, and as usual, the panelists acknowledged that noir is far easier to identify than it is to define. Still, the discussion was lively and fun. A question that came up in each of the last two panels was how the authors manage to resist going full-tilt nihilist when they write this stuff — how do they pull away after spending imaginative time in some seriously nasty places? Nearly all of them acknowledged that they had to do that from time to time, with coping strategies ranging from playing with the kids to walking the dog. And that brings us back to something I’ve noticed before — pretty much every crime writer I’ve met has been a sweetheart. Yay, catharsis!
At last things were wrapping up, so I walked out of the hotel and into a steady rain. Rather than get drenched, I caught a cab to a poutinerie for dinner, and a second one to my hotel.
So here we are, and I have one more day to go. Stick around, huh?