Ready to get debauched?
There are many mystery and crime conventions: Left Coast Crime, Deadly Ink, NoirCon, Killer Nashville, Sleuthfest, Malice Domestic, Thrillerfest, Bloody Scotland, Crimefest, Thrillerfest, and Theakston Old Peculier's (aka Harrogate). Bouchercon, named after Anthony Boucher, is the big one.
First held in 1970 when Robert Bloch (of Psycho fame) was the guest of honor, the World Mystery Convention as it calls itself, hops from city to city, run by local fans who court crime, cozy, noir, and mystery writers and fans alike. I was lured to going to the St. Louis event in 2011 by mystery lover Sabrina Ogden (who the Feeding Kate anthology was written for) and I've gone every year since. I've been lucky enough to be able to find the time and cash to make it, driving or flying, making it that year's vacation when necessary, because I've made so many friends in the crime fiction community and that's the place I get to see them all.
So as a writer, why should you go?
No matter what you call your writing, if there's a criminal element, it has a home here. Domestic suspense? Psychological horror and serial killer noir? Craft cozy?
It's all rock 'n roll to me. And yes, that includes cat cozies. One of my favorite series was Barbara Block's pet-store sleuth. I can enjoy those and the hardest stuff, like Ben Whitmer's Pike for instance.
We're all mad here. Come play with us. Play with us forever, Danny!
When I first went, the "noir" writers felt like they were left out, there was always "the noir panel" but not a lot else; that has changed, and this year I am moderating the "hardboiled vs. cozy" panel called Leather & Lace, on Friday at 11am. It's going to be played for fun, we have Dave Putnam, with a law enforcement background; Clea Simon, a cat cozy master who is now writing harder-edged novels as well; Linda Rodriguez, whose Skeet Bannion series features a half-Cherokee ex-Kansas City homicide detective; Chris Knopf, who writes series that are both hardboiled and lighter; and Linda Joffe Hull, author of the Mrs. Frugalicious mysteries and more. I'll be there as referee, to keep the gats in their holsters and the cat claws sheathed...
One author said to skip the panels and hang at the bar, but let's be honest. How many people are you going to meet at the bar in one night? You should do both of these things. Go to panels if you're not on one, to see what the market is like, and what other authors are doing. And if you're chosen for a panel, yes there may be a big or a small audience, but it's an audience. Take advantage of it to let them know what you're about. The moderator will tell them about your books; here's your chance to reach like-minded fans. Hopefully you're a fan of your genre, and not one of those smug types who think their books "transcend" it? (And if you are, shut your pie hole. Or your Harry Hole).
At the bar you'll make friends, but not everyone hangs out there. It's expensive, and daunting for some, to approach writers who are talking to other people. So you'll be missing some of your audience if you blow off moderating or attending panels. Bookish people like us aren't always the most socially adept. It might take being handed the mike for Q&A for them to talk to you, or the comfort of joining the crowd after the panel to shake hands, or that brief, private moment in the signing line. Then again, they might need the social lubricant of booze before they gush and blush! Don't drink? Get a club soda, no one will notice or care, and you'll save a few bucks. One of the best lessons I learned was from Lawrence Block, at Noir at the Bar Queens, hosted by Alex Segura and Scott Adlerberg. LB doesn't drink, but that didn't stop him from reading; while us newbies were spending bank on expensive cocktails, he was selling books off an iPhone with a Square account. It's a business; have fun, but don't drink away all the profits.
This, coming from the guy who's avatar has him holding a beer stein, who's current work in progress is a "craft beer neo-Nazi hipster cozy." The IRS won't let me write it off as research, you know. And don't worry, I may be writing a cozy, but I'm also a member of "The Boxer" panel moderated by Zoe Sharp, about writing violence. That's on Friday at 3:50pm, and I volunteered to be the punching bag for any demonstrations, so come watch me bleed.
This year the con is in New Orleans, which bodes direly for the "bar." Who's gonna hang out at the Marriott bar when the French Quarter beckons? You want a cheap local dive, go to Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop. Want to be a tourist? Grab a hurricane on Bourbon Street. Music, go to Frenchman Street. Craft beer goons like me will be at Barcadia and World of Beers, and St. Lawrence's on Decatur. Have a sazerac at the Hotel Monteleone carousel bar. No booze? The Cafe du Monde is a must, for coffee and begneits, Community Coffee is better than Starbuck's, and food? You can't go wrong. My faves?
Cafe Begneit for breakfast; also the Ruby Slipper. The buffet places tend to be tourist traps. Lunch, po'boys at Mother's or Johnny's. Dinner at St. Lawrence, Mulate's if you want the Cajun experience, or if you want fancy, Arnaud's or Galatoire's. Cochon is a bit of a ride, but worth it. And on the cheap? a Lucky dog from a hot dog stand, just like Ignatius Reilly sold in A Confederacy of Dunces, are filling and delicious. (Twelve inches of paradise indeed.) There's a lot more than I can detail here, but a cab ride to Treme for chicken at Willie Mae's Scotch House, or a trip out to Mosca's Italian eatery, an old mob joint, won't be soon forgotten. Charley's steakhouse is another classic, no-nonsense place, and it features in my story "Gumbo Weather" in the Bouchercon Blood on the Bayou anthology!
I'll also be at the Anthony Awards, as Protectors 2: Heroes is nominated twice- once for best anthology, and again for Holly West's story "Don't Fear the Ripper," which is nominated for best short story. Scene of the Crime books will have the paperback, and the e-book has the price reduced for a limited time, in honor of the Anthony nom.
Ping me on Twitter at @thomaspluck if you want to join me on any excursions. My guess is the bar will be hottest around 5pm and then late-night when people wander back from enjoying the city. Got an early morning panel? My condolences!
Laissez les bon temps roulez...