This past weekend I,along with about 1800 other people, attended the World's biggest mystery and crime convention, Bouchercon, in Dallas Tx. Bouchercon as you know is named Anthony Boucher , esteemed mystery writer, editor, critic and if his photos are any indication a fan of bow-ties. Instead of a long winding and winsome epistle about the weekend I thought I'd just point out the top ten things that I enjoyed at the conference and one thing that pissed me the hell off but thankfully is happening less and less....
So here ....we.....go
1. Meeting my Facebook friends.
Events like Bouchercon are great for extroverted introverts like me who are not independently wealthy. I have dozens of friends on social media that I would like nothing more than to travel the country meeting like some platonic Lone Ranger but alas the price of gas and my dodgy vehicle precludes such activities. Therefore I save my funds and go to cons to meet people heretofore have only contacted me through a touch screen. I can't list everyone I met in the flesh for the first time but a few that stand out are ....
Chad Williamson, author of the Henry Malone series and Shamus nominee(don't worry we'll get back to the Shamus awards). Chad and I met in the bar...a lot. I'm happy to report he is just as kind and interesting with a odd sense of humor as I hoped he would be..
Hector Acosta...I was on the Noir at the Bar bill with Hector and his story was one of my favorites. Hector is funny, gracious and definitely the best practitioner of pro wrestling noir.
John Vercher....John is about to be literary thermite. He is going ot blow UP! He is as sharp and insightful as his debut novel 3/5. He can also kick my ass so I have nothing but good things to say bout him...
Rachel Howzell Hall....one of the best thriller writers in the game today and also a lovely person who didn't mind me intruding on her lunch. They All Fall Down is her latest and I think her greatest.
2. The Book Depository Museum. The hotel of Bouchercon was held was within in walking distance of the sight of the greatest crime of modern times. As a writer I would never have forgiven myself if I had gone to expirence the place where Camelot came to an end. I'm not going to offer my thoughts on any conspiracy theories but I will say.....nothing is impossible.
3. Joe R.Landsdale... If you were at Noir at the Bar Dallas you witnessed me going complete fanboy over Joe R. Landsdale. One of the most versatile and prolific writers around Joe has been one of my literary heroes for a long long time. I'm happy to report that he was as cool as the other side of the pillow and as sharp as a tack. I also got to see him at several panels and he is absolutely brilliant and does not suffer fools gladly...
4. The Bar..... as is usually the case with a conference or convention socializing was about fifty percent of the event. Every evening I found myself in the Bar talking , laughing and sharing with all the writers I knew and the ones I had met for the first time. One thing I really like about this bar is that it had a huge lounge area with sofas and chairs away from the main part of the bar. This was great for folks who just wanted to talk and not have to compete with us tipsy scribes
5. The Best Novel Panel....this was probably the panel I enjoyed the most. I was personal friends with some of the nominees and I was a great admirer of the other people on the panel. It was an incredibly informative and moving event where I walked away thinking about what I wanted out of my career and how I could be a better writer.
6. The Anthony Awards. So my story THE GRASS BENEATH MY FEET was nominated for best short story. I mean this from the bottom of my heart. It was a pleasure to be nominated along with Art Taylor, Holly West, Greg Herren and Barb Goffman. I come from a poor town and a family that struggled with poverty. My mom was disabled two weeks after I was born and her and my father separated not long after. Then our trailer burned down. If our dog had run away we could have written a sad country song. I had to drop out of college to help take care of my mom. I've worked hard labor intensive jobs most of my life and here I was nominated along side some of the best writers in the whole world. That was enough for me....I had no expectations of winning.
But...I did. And I still can't believe it.
Now for the awkward stuff.
For the last few years marginalized writers have made great strides in the crime writing community. We have worked hard to demand a seat at the table and share our skills with folks who in many instances couldn't care less about what we had to say. There were two instances over the weekend where we were reminded how far we still have to go.
At the Shamus awards Max Allan Collins made what he said was a joke that was frankly in bad taste.
At a workshop for SiNC Donald Maass used an insensitive writing prompt for his workshop that was insulting to Asian Canadians.
In both cases each man has offered an apology. Donald's seems heartfelt and genuine if somewhat bizarre(reference to topiary gardens...don't ask). Max's seems begrudgingly offered but ten years ago no apology would have been forthcoming and the individuals who spoke up might have blackballed.
There is progress. Albeit slow and painful, it's happening. At this years Bouchercon People of color , women, members of the LGTBQ community were the recipients of nominations and awards. Not because of some literary affirmative action but because they are phenomenal authors. As it should be. And in the end that is going to make the crime writing community stronger and more fascinating. When everyone has a voice the song is just that much sweeter.
Or to quote the Goonies...
ITS OUR TIME NOW.