Monday, October 18, 2010

Miscellaneous: Bouchercon, Recapped

The question was put to me several times over the course of the weekend, and I never came up with a satisfactory answer. No, I have no idea why I’d never been to Bouchercon, the annual gathering of crime fiction writers and readers, before. But attending this year’s shindig was a no-brainer. It was in San Francisco, a city I will use any excuse to visit. And it always helps when the toastmaster is a friend.

Primary regret: I brought not one but two cameras with me, and took neither out of my bag. I have a camera in my phone and never used that, either. I have absolutely no photographic record of my attendance. So permit me to illustrate this recap with a picture of me steering a paddleboat down the Lake Washington Ship Canal.

Rosemarie and I arrived in San Francisco on Wednesday to get an early start. I began quoting High Anxiety, partially filmed in the convention hotel, in earnest and didn’t let up ‘til Sunday. We started with Neapolitan pizza in North Beach with David Corbett and Leslie “Lu” Schwerin. Next, drinks with Hilary Davidson and a revolving cast of other writers including eventual Anthony Award winner Sophie Littlefield. Then to the hotel bar where my secret sister, the divine Christa Faust, introduced us to Martyn Waites, Russel D. McLean, John Rector and Stephen Blackmoore.

Remember, this was the easy day.

Rosemarie and I divvied up the panels and events as best we could. Scattered highlights:

Toastmaster Eddie Muller, interviewed by Jacqueline Winspear, called Ben Hecht “the complete unheralded genius of twentieth century American letters” and announced good news about the Film Noir Foundation’s efforts to restore 1950’s The Sound of Fury, aka Try and Get Me!

The Subterranean SF “Litanies of Noir” reading in a secret location, featuring performances by Eddie, Corbett, Megan Abbott, Craig Clevenger and many more, plus live music and a tableful of Maker’s Mark.

Paul Levine recounting a producer’s definition of “the process” for a novelist who’d sold the rights to his work. “You owned a car. You sold us the car. Now you want to drive the car. You can’t drive the car. I drive the car. And you get to wave as it goes by.”

Lee Goldberg interviewing William Link, co-creator of Columbo. Link’s great regret was never asking Orson Welles to be a villain on the show.

Duane Swiercyznski on adapting your own work: “You have to see your novel as a body on a slab.”

A particularly strong politics panel moderated by David Corbett inspired by this post from Barry Eisler on the embrace of thrillers by right-wing media outlets.

Domenic Stansberry on the overlap of noir and tragedy: “You can’t have hubris if you know you’re going to fuck up.”

Discovering that some giveaway book bags had ARCs of A Drop of the Hard Stuff, the new Matt Scudder novel by Lawrence Block, and having Megan Abbott insist that I take hers. Which I did.

Going out of my way to shake hands with the one and only Bill Crider, the man whose blog I have been shamelessly aping for years.

Jesus, why didn’t I take pictures? To make up for it, here’s one of me lying on a cot at the Intrepid Museum.

Eavesdropping on and occasionally contributing to a conversation between Tony Broadbent and John Lawton about Beyond the Fringe.

Watching Lee Child take generosity to deranged heights by buying the entire con drinks at his Reacher Creature Party, a bash that gave me a chance to meet Eric Beetner and Parnell Hall.

The gigolo accent deployed by International Guest of Honor Denise Mina as she recounted a horrible Scandinavian book tour culminating in a live television interview in which she was asked the single question, “So ... your books are of crime?”

The staged reading of I Can’t Get Started, Declan Hughes’ play about Dashiell Hammett and Lillian Hellman. A terrific piece of work that made a lovely change from the usual panels featuring an all-star cast of crime writers including Martyn Waites as Dash, Alison Gaylin as Lilly, Brett Battles as a shamus and Mark Billingham and Christa FFFFaust in a variety of roles.

And finally, the opportunity to reconnect with writers I’d already had the pleasure of meeting like Marcus Sakey and Sue Ann Jaffarian and to introduce myself to others whose work I admire like Steve Brewer, Gar Anthony Haywood, Stuart Neville and Scott Phillips.

The Rap Sheet recaps the awards action. A thousand thanks to Rae Helmsworth and her volunteers for doing such a tremendous job. Rosemarie and I are already discussing a trip to next year’s event in St. Louis. The hook is in but deep, people. And who knows? Next time I might even take pictures.