So it’s been about three weeks since I last checked in, but I have reasons. For example…
About three weeks ago (three weeks tomorrow, in fact), I woke up feeling queasy. I made it through my class before I (in the words of Monty Python’s “Australian Table Wines” sketch) “opened the sluices at both ends. By the next night, I was receiving two bags of IV fluid at Mondoville’s ER, and I’d get an extra bag at my primary physician’s office a day or two later — the details became quite blurry after a while. Fortunately, the last two days of that week were the college’s Fall Break. However, I was still unwell that Monday. I staggered back to work Tuesday, but that was too soon as well, and I missed more work as punishment for my hubris.
Things on that front settled down by the weekend of 25 Oct, which was good, as Bouchercon took place last week, so I could feel OK by then, right?
Nope. That’s when my annual autumn cold kicked in. I went from feeling awful from the ribcage down to feeling awful from the solar plexus up. This cold will often morph into bronchitis, and in really special years, pneumonia, but thus far it seems to lack ambition (reaches over, touches wood). Still, I’ve done a substantial amount of coughing and noseblowing. To add to my misery, our internet connection here at the Mid-Century Mondohaus left us high and dry for several days, and wasn’t repaired until last Wednesday morning.
But non-refundable fares and such are what they are, so last Wednesday, I found myself on a flight with Mr. Block from Real City to Dallas (fortunately for him, we were in different sections.) While I made it to a variety of sessions and events, I was still too weak/exhausted to do my usual convention blogging, so I’m only now getting around to it.
One of the highlights was a Noir at the Bar with another bravura performance by Shawn Cosby, doing the story he did at the Mondoville N@tB. “The Grass Beneath My Feet” was up for an Anthony award this year, and his performance certainly didn’t hurt his chances. There were numerous terrific readings, capped off by an essay on the nature of noir — East Texas style — by regional stud duck Joe R. Lansdale, who has shown up in these posts on past occasions. For fuller details, check out David Nemeth’s report here.
I also took in panels that included a discussion of the fifty most influential mysteries of the B’con era (which conveniently enough, marked its own fiftieth birthday.) Quite a few of them I haven’t read, primarily because my own tastes run in some fairly specific directions (e.g., hardboiled, P.I., and noir) while the genre, like Whitman, is large and contains multitudes.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Jeff Vorzimmer at this point. Jeff is the editor of The Best of Manhunt, a collection of stories from the classic crime magazine of the 1950s. It includes a foreword and a story from Ell Bee, along with an intro by Jeff and an afterword from Barry Malzberg. Jeff and I kept showing up at the same panels, and he was gracious enough to give me a signed copy of the collection, and to get a picture of the two of us.
The collection was my reading for my flight home, and it was eminently satisfactory. I recommend it strongly.
Still another highlight involved my friend, the aforementioned Mr. Cosby, who won the Anthony for his short story. It’s well deserved, and I was happy to see him rewarded for excellent work. Congratulations, big man!
Along the way, I was able to take a bow as one of the judges for the inaugural Bill Crider Prize for Short Fiction. The theme was “Deep in the Heart,” and I was delighted to do my bit in recognizing good writing, and saluting the memory of a major figure in mystery writing and fandom.
Although the main convention hotel was the Hyatt, I stayed at the nearby Omni, which offered a special rate for the con and was about a 15-minute walk away, even with my gimpy knee and general fatigue. It was a very nice place to stay, and I have nothing but good things to say about the folks working there.
In fact, when I checked in, the young woman at the desk asked why I was in town. I explained that I was there for Bouchercon — “It’s the World Mystery Convention, and there are a lot of fans and authors giving talks and such.”
“Are you a writer?”
“Well, to an extent. My day gig is as an English professor, but I’ve published a novel and a few stories.” She asked where she could read some, so after I got settled in, I jotted down the URLs to a couple that are online — she seemed genuinely pleased. I didn’t see her again that weekend, but I hope she got as much pleasure out of reading them as I got out of being asked about it.
Honestly, I have to admit that part of the joy I get from going to these events is the realization that other writers and readers occasionally recognize me, and find value in the work I do. Writing can be a isolated business, and feedback can take a while to get to you, if you get any at all. From time to time, you wonder if you’re dropping the work down a well, or if it matters at all that you’re doing it. (In the long run, of course, I suppose none of it does, because of The Heat Death of the Universe and such, but I think it’s sometimes OK to take a shorter time horizon.) But it means a lot when someone tells you they liked something you made, and that’s one reason I try to let folks know when I like their work, and why I so enjoy seeing the people I see from year to year.
Next year, B’con takes place in Sacramento, and then New Orleans and Minneapolis in the following years. I probably won’t go next year, but it isn’t because I don’t want to — I’m already committed to a panel at next year’s rebirth of NoirCon, and I can typically do only one of these a year (even through the grace of my employer, an advantage many other folks don’t have.) But wherever I am, there’s a part of me that will be at B’con, among the other members of my tribe.
Coming home carried its own challenge. The flight was as pleasant as one can hope for, but the back and forth between moist and dry air moving from the world to the artificial environment of the plane tends to play havoc with my sinuses, so in addition to the cold, I woke up today dealing with a couple of nosebleeds before class. But I seem to have survived, and I hope to get back into the swing of blogging in short order.
I’ll go ahead and sign off now, and as is my custom, I’ll leave you with a bit of music. As it happens, the Dallas-Ft. Worth area was a garage rock hotbed in the mid-60s, and given the travels of the past week, it seems fair to post a crime-themed song from the region. Larry and the Blue Notes had a regional hit in 1965 with the song “Night of the Phantom,” but that was not the title when the song was initially recorded. The original title was considered too dark and risque, but hey — I write and read crime fiction. Here’s the original version, which finally saw release in 2000.
See you soon!