by John M. Floyd
A week ago today, at Bouchercon, something happened that I'd been looking forward to for several years: I met fellow SleuthSayer Rob Lopresti for the first time. Rob was one of half a dozen writers at the former Criminal Brief mystery blog (Leigh Lundin was another) who invited me in 2007 to join their ranks, and since then Rob and I have swapped so many emails and read so many (hundreds) of each other's blog posts, it seemed as if I knew him already. But we'd never met face-to-face until last Saturday, when I caught him hurrying down a hallway in the conference hotel, carrying a sheaf of papers and looking appropriately librariany.
That, to me, is the most appealing thing about Bouchercon. It's a rare opportunity to not only make new friends in the literary world, but to put faces to familiar names that I've corresponded with or seen many times in bylines or on bookcovers. That's also the way I met Leigh (at the Baltimore B'con in 2008), and, over the years, most of the other Criminal Briefers and SleuthSayers as well.
Other highlights of my trip to Raleigh included a delightful group lunch with members of the Short Mystery Fiction Society; an afternoon meeting with EQMM editor Janet Hutchings and Canadian writer Rob Brunet (who turned out to know my fellow SleuthSayer Melodie Campbell); a long and high-decibel bar conversation with Joe D'Agnese, his wife Denise Kiernan, Reavis Wortham, Tom Pluck, and John Gilstrap; pecan pie and ice cream with Strand editor Andrew Gulli and screenwriter David Rich (who will always be my hero for having written several episodes of MacGyver); and dinner with author and friend Josh Pachter. Josh, if you're reading this, I bought your book the following day and I still need you to autograph it for me.
I was also able to reconnect with several other editors and old buddies I'd met at previous conferences--Linda Landrigan, Terrie Moran, Cathy Pickens, Steve Hamilton, Bill Crider, Austin Camacho, Barb Goffman, and others (in that sense B'con always feels like old home week)--and to meet a number of writers and readers I'd never even spoken with before. And I should mention that the panels were, as usual, interesting and informative. My favorite was the panel of contributors to this year's Bouchercon anthology, Murder Under the Oaks. Several SleuthSayers and other friends were among the 21 authors, and Art Taylor did a great job of moderating.
One more thing about Bouchercons, in general. Unlike many mystery conferences, B'con is for fans as well as for writers. It's easy to lose sight of the fact that none of what we authors create would ever be published without readers to read it, and I'm always able to meet (and learn from) some of the huge number of mystery fans in attendance. They're quick to tell me what they like and what they don't and why they like it or not, and as writers we'd be crazy not to listen to those opinions.
In closing, let me say that I'm already planning to go to Bouchercon 2016, in New Orleans. Otto Penzler told me he expects the attendance to be the largest in years--the location itself will be a big draw, and many attendees will probably bring their spouses. Besides, it's a no-brainer for me, since New Orleans is less than three hours from where I live. The only problem is that it might be hard to corral audiences for the panels. Let's see . . . on the one hand you have a hotel meeting-room full of writers and readers, and on the other hand you have a French Quarter bar, also full of writers and readers. Where would you rather be?
By the way, Otto also said that next year will be his 41st Bouchercon. I've been to four, he's been to forty. But I'll tell you this: I have enjoyed each one more than the last.
I hope to see you in N.O.