29 November 2017

Bouchercon Babbling


Carolyn Tillery, Janet Randolph, Charles Salzberg, Sarah Byrne, Himself, Aubrey Hamilton
by Robert Lopresti

Counting on my fingers here: I think Toronto last month was my seventh Bouchercon.  (The first was New York, back in 1983, a much smaller affair.)

I want to tell you about the highlights but I am mostly thinking ahead.  If you have not gone in recent years and might go in the future, bookmark this page for future reference.

Melodie Campbell, Some American
Of course, one of the great treats at these events is running into old friends, people you only know from email or social media, or people you have admired but never had the chance to say so.  You will see some pictures  here of me with my fellow SleuthSayers, some of whom I met for the first time.

Naturally it's a joy to be on a panel.  I was on "Readers Recommends," and frankly I didn't think anyone would attend, considering the competition.  But we had close to seventy people in the audience.  The picture on the top of this page shows our little group.  For some reason we all look like our best friend died and didn't leave us a cent, but we were all having a good time.  Moderator Carolyn Tillery did a fine job.

The funniest event I saw was the Liar's Panel. Five authors each tell stories about something that happened in their own lives.  Contestants have to guess which stories are true.  Luckily I was not a contestant because I was wrong on seven out of ten stories.  As you can imagine, some of these were hilarious.  Reese Hirsch's story about vampires was true?  And the only lie in Danny Gardner's story was the murderer getting caught.  Quite an hour.


Another don't-miss event is Speed Dating.  You get a free breakfast, sit down at a table, and every six minutes two authors plop down next to you to tell you why you should buy their books.  It's hectic and fun (and having been on both sides I can tell you, it's more enjoyable to listen than to be one of the authors prattling at full speed).

The highlight of the Speed Dating for me was when Twist Phelan and Zoe Quick arrived together.  They are both FB friends of mine but we had never met in person.  We had a six-minute mutual admiration society, and then they hurried on.

Barb Goffman, What's-His-Name
After my panel I went to the dealer's room to sign books, except I hadn't brought any.  The bother of getting them past the border and then back home (and we were not flying straight home either), combined with the difficulty of finding a vendor willing to take them on consignment just didn't seem worth it.  This decision appeared to be confirmed when I saw Danny Gardner carrying an armful of his own books and complaining that the customs people had inspected each one like they were bricks of cocaine.  Nonetheless I wound up signing books: four different anthologies.

Michael Bracken, Art Taylor, Unidentified
Another favorite event is the Librarian's Tea.  We bookpushers and our loved ones get free tea and cookies, some free books, and a talk from famous authors that tends to lean heavily toward how wonderful libraries are.  (Hey, you have to know your audience.)  Now as it happens, Hank Phillippi Ryan was at our table.  My wife doesn't read a lot of mysteries so I had to explain "You're sitting with royalty."

It turned out Hank was moderating the panel.  That didn't go so well, but it wasn't her fault.  About fifteen minutes after it started a fire alarm went off.  In that fancy hotel the alarm sounded like someone whacking a xylophone every few seconds.  Then a voice on the PA announced that an alarm had been pulled in the parking garage.  Someone was investigating and the fire department was on its way.

Melissa Yi, Robert Me
As near as I could tell everyone stayed.  (Librarians are tough.)  Soldiering on, Hank asked, through the alarms and repeated announcements, how the panelists would incorporate this sort of scene into one of their books?  The clear winner was Linwood Barclay who said the victim would be whoever was ringing that damned bell.

Eventually the PA announced that the fire department had declared everything was okay.  Then they announced it again.  Then they announced they were resetting the alarm.  (Why would we care?)  Then they announced that again.  We still didn't care.

There was a special event honoring Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, with Art Taylor interviewing editor Janet Hutchings, followed by a long line of authors talking about how EQMM had touched their lives and careers.  Quite moving.  There are few American magazines that have survived as long as this one and the stunning thing that in 75 years there have only been three editors.

On the SleuthSayers front, Art Taylor won the Macavity Award for best short story and the late great B.K. Stevens won the Anthony Award for best novella.

The Macavity Award for Best Nonfiction went to Margaret Kinsman for her book Sara Paretsky: A Companion to the Mystery Fiction.  However, the author wasn't present so the award was accepted by Sara Paretsky!  Yes, the subject of the book accepted the award.  When was the last time that happened?

Next time I will include my favorite quotations from Bouchercon.  Here's a sample: 

"In Scotland we have an unarmed police force.  Well, no firearms.  Just batons and sarcasm." - Caro Ramsay






10 comments:

janice law said...

Sounds like a great conference and I love the concluding quote.

Art Taylor said...

Enjoyed the recap here and the photos too--and the photo captions! Great seeing you in Toronto, and thanks again for joining our side of the speed dating wall. Appreciate the shout-out here too!

Melodie Campbell said...

Such fun! Both the con and the post here, Rob. I was in a daze for most of the con, working it as part of the committee. I'm trying to remember what was said right before that pix was taken of us - your expression is worth a thousand words!

Eve Fisher said...

Batons and sarcasm do it for me!

Michael Bracken said...

You, Art, and I look like ZZTop: The Early Years. A little more beard growth and we'd be superstars!

John Floyd said...

What a great post.

Rob, I would've loved being there with you guys!

O'Neil De Noux said...

Now that was interesting.

NOTE: In the future if y'all do not see a comment from me, it doesn't mean I'm not reading SleuthSayers. SleuthSayers is the first place I go to when I go online in the morning. I'm just tired of trying to convince Lucifer - the patron saint of Google Blogs I AM NOT A ROBOT. Thanks Michael for your advice but it doesn't work for me. I find things like this online on the time, being a Macintosh - Safari user. Hell, I can't even register a copyright online without switching to Firefox. The US Copywright office tells Apple Macintosh and Safari are too advanced and keep updating and they can't keep up. So I'll always read your wisdom but comments, well, we'll see.

Just now I had to go through 6 screens to prove I'm not a robot.

Leigh Lundin said...

Great photos, Rob. It's fun seeing casual shots. (For a moment, I thought everyone was wearing Home Depot aprons.) Great comments too.

O'Neil, hard to imagine, but this commenting mechanism is a couple of steps up from the frustrating and very, very buggy earlier versions. (sigh)

Jeff Baker said...

I wish---I really, really wish!---I could have been there! At Bouchercon in Cleveland in 2012 the panel on short-stories was very well attended, despite a "celebrity panel" at the same time!

Robert Lopresti said...

Thanks for all the kind words. It was a pleasure putting faces to so many names! For those who like the quotation I have bad news. I thought of a different related topic for next week. THe quotes will wait until December 20, but they will be worth it.