16 November 2019

Boucherconnections, 2019

Two weeks ago I attended my sixth Bouchercon mystery convention, in Dallas. My wife Carolyn and I drove over from our home in Mississippi, partly because I don't fit well in airplane seats and partly because I just don't seem to have the patience anymore for all the mumbojumbo at the airport. (I really need to try to trade all those frequent-flyer miles left over from my IBM career for something more useful, like frequent-moviegoer tickets.) Anyhow, our mode of travel for this trip was private automobile instead of commercial aircraft, and except for running into a rainy cold front halfway there, we had a pleasant and enjoyable drive.

I also enjoyed the conference. I've heard some writers say they prefer smaller gatherings, but one reason I like Bouchercon is that it IS big, and therefore attracts a lot of writers, some of whom I know from earlier meetings and some from a computerful of emails and blog posts. I also like the fact that it includes readers as well as writers. I'm not saying I have a lot of groupies--my fans are mostly my publisher and my wife, and I'm not always sure about my wife--but it's impossible to write a lot for mystery magazines and not occasionally run into folks at a mystery conference who tell you they like your creations (whether they really mean it or not). And where else can you spot literary heroes like James Patterson, Sandra Brown, Lawrence Block, Elizabeth George, Laura Lippman, Robert Crais, and so on, in the wild? Or sit down and meet face-to-face with your editors? Very few of mine live in the sunny South.

Let me say one thing, up front. I don't go to Bouchercons for the panels and other events. I do attend them, and I always enjoy them and learn something, but that's not my primary reason. I go to Bouchercons to reconnect with old friends and meet new ones. I did a lot of both, this time.

Highlights of this year's conference, for me:

- Short-story panel. I was on only one panel this year, and I had fun there--probably because it was made up mostly of longtime friends. It was called "Short and Sweet--and Sometimes Dark," and featured me, James Lincoln Warren, R.T. Lawton, Mysti Berry, Michael Bracken, and (moderator) Barb Goffman. Four of us are current inmates at the SleuthSayers asylum and one (JLW) was my master and commander at SS's predecessor, Criminal Brief, for four years. NOTE: If there are better panel moderators anywhere than Barb Goffman, I have yet to meet them. She's wonderful.

- Catching up a bit with old friends. I won't try to list them here for fear I might leave someone out, but you know who you are. In this sense, Bouchercon always feels a little like coming back to school after summer vacation and seeing all your pals again.

- Meeting for the first time (in person) several longtime email or Facebook buddies: Kevin Tipple, Travis Richardson, Frank Zafiro, Kaye George, Alan Orloff, Rick Ollerman, Dixon Hill, William Dylan Powell, Sandra Murphy, etc.

- Signing of the 2019 Bouchercon anthology. I knew only the editor and two of the other contributors, one of whom was unable to attend B'con this year, but we had a good time at the "release party" and a big crowd in the signing line. Those of you who have done this in the past know it's a fun session, and this was also the first time I'd seen the new book, which is always a thrill. Several folks even brought copies of previous Bouchercon anthologies to be signed--I've been fortunate enough to be featured in the most recent four (this one, Florida Happens, Passport to Murder, and Blood on the Bayou).

- The book room. This is always a place to run into people you've been trying to catch, and I love browsing the shelves even though I already own far too many mysteries. I especially enjoyed visiting with Don and Jen Longmuir, who this time oversaw the bookroom but didn't represent their own store (Scene of the Crime Books in Ontario) and who have always been SO good to me in selling the books I bring to Bouchercons. I also had a great time talking with Joe R. Lansdale and his daughter Kasey, who are both wonderful writers, at their book tables--I thought I owned all of Joe's novels and story collections, but I found and bought a few more from him this trip. (Another reason I like Joe Lansdale: He's from East Texas, so I can understand him when he speaks.)

- Signing at the MWA tables. Those who participated were given a half-hour to sit and sign anything anyone brought to us--books, anthologies, magazines, programs, etc. This turned out to be (as expected) more of a visiting session than a signing, but I think it worked. I was seated beside Charles Salzberg and thoroughly enjoyed our time together. That's the great thing about this kind of event--I probably wouldn't have even met Charles otherwise. Thanks, Margery Flax, for assigning me a table.

- An informal get-together of the contributors to Michael Bracken's new P.I. anthology, The Eyes of Texas (which takes the prize, I think, for the best title I've ever seen for an anthology, along with Barb's upcoming Crime Travel antho). About half the authors in Eyes of TX were there, and it was great seeing the ones I knew and meeting the ones I didn't. I admire them all. Some of us even had dinner together the first night and lunch the next day.

Overall, I thought this was one of the best Bouchercons I've been to. The hotel, the events, the guests of honor, the location, the food, everything--except maybe the weather, the first couple days--was excellent. I've heard some horror stories about some of the B'cons I missed, over the years, and I'm glad this one worked so well.

As for regrets, I have only two. One is that I missed seeing several people I had really hoped to meet or reconnect with: Jan Grape, Jim Wilsky, Cathy Pickens, Paul Marks, Jane Lee, Earl Staggs, Greg Herren, Marcia Preston, Dennis Palumbo, a few others, Maybe next time. My other regret is that the Bouchercon anthology signing happened to be scheduled in the same time slot as several other sessions I would have enjoyed attending: the presentation of the Derringer Awards, a Bill Crider tribute, and an Elizabeth George interview. I missed all three, but (as I mentioned) I had a good time at the signing.

So, those are my observations. Did you attend this year? If so, what did you think? Have you also attended Bourchercons in the past? How many? Which of those do you think were the best? Do you plan to make Sacramento next year?

As for this year's conference, I thought it was a great four or five days, spent in the company of friends and acquaintances and my wife and 1800 writers and readers who love mysteries. What could be better than that?


  1. Great recap there, John! We missed too much of that (only in town for less than a day and a half) but was so glad to sit down and talk with you a bit. Look forward to seeing you again soon!

  2. You too, Art--thanks. And congratulations once again on your award!

  3. I'm sorry I missed it and meeting up with you, John. I had been registered and had hotel and plane reservations, etc., but had to cancel out. Very unfortunately. But it sounds like you had a great time. And I'm hoping to make it to Sacramento. Hopefully you'll be there, too.

  4. I know what you mean, Paul--I had to back out of going to St. Pete last year, though I'd registered and planned to make it.

    My first thought when I missed you in Dallas was that the fires in the L.A. area might've interfered with your plans. Hope you guys are okay and that all is well. Take care!

  5. Glad to meet you and spend some time with you, John. Lots of fun.


    Got this linked to SMFS blog.

  6. I was sure glad you could make it, Kevin. I'm already looking forward to New Orleans in 2021--that's practically in my back yard. Hope you'll be able to drive over for that one.

  7. John, Dallas was a great conference. Enjoyed the short story panel we were on together with the other four excellent writers. It's always fun to meet up with new friends you've heard about and whose writings you've read, along with reconnecting with old friends from prior conferences.

    Kiti and I have been to three Left Coast Crime Conferences and at least ten Bouchercons, starting with Austin, Texas. We won't go to Sacramento, but will probably make the New Orleans one again. Hope to see you there.

  8. Sounds like a great time, John. Would love to have listened to what your short story panel had to say. Hope to see ya in Sacramento for the next one!

  9. R.T., it's always good to see you, and Kiti too. I think we first met in Cleveland, or maybe Raleigh, and I remember it was as if we just picked up where we left off in our most recent email conversation. I've found that to be the case with most email/blog friends--it's almost as if we already know each other even before meeting face-to-face.

    I've not been to any Left Coast Crime conferences, but I've heard they're always good. If I don't see you in Sacramento, hopefully in New Wallins again.

    Larry, we did have a lot of fun. I'm not sure how much wisdom was imparted during our panel, but we had a good time there too. Keep me posted!!

  10. I'm one of those people who finds Bouchercon too big, John, but the main reason I'm sorry I didn't go this year was that I missed the opportunity to hang out with good folks such as yourself....


  11. You were missed, Josh! Especially by me, at the Bouchercon anthology signing. With you absent, I think Angela Crider Neary was the only other author I previously knew, there--but I did meet some great folks, and that was fun.

    Yes, it is a big, big conference--I heard someone say the attendance at New Orleans several years ago was the largest, but this one seemed huge too, especially when the panels let out. I've not really attended other mystery conferences, so I'm not a good judge--I suspect I would like the smaller ones also, if I'd just go.

    Keep in touch, old friend--thanks for commenting.

  12. Hi, John. It was so lovely seeing you and your wife in Dallas. And thank you for your kind words about our panel. I love moderating!

    I also love seeing old friends and meeting new ones at conventions, as well as going to panels. This year for the first time I brought a notebook with me and took notes, and it turns out I learned a lot--things I likely wouldn't have remembered afterward without the notes since, after a while, the panels always seem to run together. I'm definitely going to carry a notebook in the future.

    I hope to see you at a future Bouchercon! And to be sharing space in some anthologies/magazines in the meanwhile.

  13. Thanks, Barb. I admire you for the notebook idea--it sounds like the kind of thing I need to do but would forget to do. As for anthologies, I'm really looking forward to the release of CRIME TRAVEL. You're not only a great writer and moderator, you're a great editor!!

  14. That Anthology signing was my highlight. People kept coming so we had to extend the time. Rick Ollerman (our editor) is awesome.

  15. Finally getting to meet the man, the legend at Bouchercon was a thrill. Hope to see you next year in Sacramento.

  16. Shepp, I too was happy to see so many folks lined up to get the book signed. Very honored to have been included. And yes, Rick is a fantastic editor.

    Brian, thank you--it was indeed a thrill to finally meet you and others I so admire. Please keep in touch!

  17. Wish I could have been there, but Left Coast Crime Vancouver took all my travel money! Thanks for the recap.

  18. Believe me, Judy, Bouchercon took all mine! Thanks for stopping in, here.

  19. John, thanks so much for the report on the convention! I had been hoping to drive there, but wasn't able to go! You are right about conventions being wonderful places to connect! I have fond memories of meeting you in Cleveland in 2012 (I think that was the year!) That's the thing about conventions; people who rarely connect face-to-face will fall in like old friends!

  20. Jeff, you're so right. When we met, it wasn't really as if we were meeting for the first time, because we'd already corresponded for a number of years. And yep, it was Cleveland, in 2012. I think we met right after a panel I was on with, of all people, Barb Goffman! Hard to believe it's been that long. Sure wish you could've been in Dallas.

    Thanks as always, for commenting, and take care!


  21. John, I'm still crying because I had to cancel for health reasons and miss an opportunity to meet you and so many others in the flesh, so to speak. Especially since it was only a half hour from home. San Francisco? New Orleans? Maybe. We'll see and we'll hope.

  22. John, you may not know how much wisdom you folks imparted during your panel, but I had MY notebook out -- and I've got a lot of very useful notes in there, which I took while listening to it. So: wonder no more, buddy!

    And, you're right about Barb Goffman: of all the panels I attended, she was -- hands down! -- the best moderator I saw.

    It was great to finally meet you in the flesh. I didn't get to spend as much time with you as I did with R.T. and Kiti, but I hope to see you more at next year's Bouchercon. I'll be there, since that was my prize for coming in fourth in the Bill Crider contest. I had only been to one LCC conference, because that one was in Phoenix, and felt a little shaky about what I should be doing. But, with the suggestions I got from you and R.T. (and Kiti), in Dallas, I think i'm beginning to understand the value much more.


    P.S. Am I the only one whose room window looked out over Dealey Plaza? I was shocked, when I realized. I was thinking: "That looks like 'the grassy knoll.' Is that the Texas School Book Depository?" Then I looked a few things up and realized,"That's the window Oswald fired from!" FREAKY!

  23. Hey Earl! I'm sorry also that you didn't get to make it this time--same thing happened to me last year when it was at St. Petersburg, which isn't that far from my home. But I'm hoping our paths will cross one day, at a Bcon or some other gathering. Meanwhile, get well and keep writing.

    Dixon, I too am so glad we got to meet, this trip, and I'm honored that you chose to sit in on our panel session. I'm not at all sure how much wisdom was imparted, but we sure had a good time. Happy to hear you enjoyed the panel and the conference too! (As for your historic view, our window was facing the other direction, so we got to see the interstate and a lot of warehouses.) Keep in touch, and take care!

    Thanks, both of you, for stopping in here and commenting.


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