Thursday, March 27, 2008

A Word From Gary-Bouchercon memories

Today's memory is from the man who gave me my first official Bouchercon memory. Gary Warren Niebuhr at the registration desk in Milwaukee 99. "G*##, Hey you don't mind being from Minnesota, do you?" There was a glitch in the badge printer, and Gary and Ted wanted everything to run smoothly. For the rest of the weekend he'd stop me and ask if I was enjoying myself. I'm going to do my best to emulate him this year as a host. He's written some of the genre's best reference books, he's had perhaps the best PI collection in the country, he works tirelessly in both our community and as a national advocate for adult literacy. And always, there is the spirit of a little kid. Each moment is unique and Gary embraces them all. He has indeed payed it forward.

My ultimate Bouchercon memory did not take place at a Bouchercon. It took place in the West Allis Public Library's Lincoln Branch when Mary Ann Grochowski walked into my place of work and asked if I wanted to help run the a mystery convention in Milwaukee in 1981.

That simple offer from an uber-fan to a neophyte like me is what set me on a course of commitment to the spirit of Bouchercon. All who are attending should remember that for the health of future Bouchercons and mystery fandom in general, reaching out a hand and helping someone into the "inner circle" is crucial. Pay it forward.

As to 1981, it was quite a convention. Can you believe that everyone who attended went to the same program all day long--yes, there was only one track of programming. Our guest of honor was Mickey Spillane, sponsored by Miller Brewery. Because Mickey was still a little controversial at the time, we had a young fan and writer shadow him the whole time to make sure his experience was great. That young man was Max Allan Collins.

One of the goals of Bouchercon way back then was to honor authors who had contributed to the genre but may have slipped from the mystery conscience. So we invite Helen McCloy, a fine writer on her own, but also the widow of Brett Halliday. Also on the docket was William Campbell Gault, a Milwaukee born mystery writer who always claimed he made more money on his children's fiction than his adult crime novels.

After 1981, I got involved with a local mystery book discussion group called The Cloak and Clue Society but it would be six years before I could afford to attend another Bouchercon. Since then, other than a London and Nottingham, I have made it to every Bouchercon. I even had the pleasure, in 1999, to co-host, with Ted Hertel, another Bouchercon in my hometown. My second best Bouchercon memory is receiving the invitation to be the Fan Guest of Honor at the 2004 Bouchercon in Toronto, something I consider the feather in my cap of two and one-half decades of fan activity.

So, maybe you could invite someone to attend the Bouchercon in Baltimore? Or, when you are there, maybe you could take some time to talk to someone new, someone lost, someone not in the "inner circle." They might be a person who someday will host a Bouchercon in a city somewhere where you will have a great time.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Welcome to Wednesday- Bouchercon Memories

Louise Penny is one of those special souls who when you meet them you feel as if you've known her forever. Her memory rather surprised me.... Really? I only met you in Madison? Of course we had the Ayo connection beforehand. Coming off of an extremely "Charmed" Year, Ms. Penny's newest book, THE CRUELEST MONTH has just been released in the U.S. For More on her work and life you can visit her at

My very first Bouchercon was in Madison, Wisconsin, and I was overwhelmed. Scared, intimidated, shy, my first book STILL LIFE only just out so I really felt like an imposter. It was, actually, our first mystery convention ever. My husband Michael and I bumbled around, smiling but feeling out-of-place. But suddenly that changed, and what made the difference was finding Julia Spencer-Fleming. I was on the prowl for her, to thank her for her kindness in blurbing STILL LIFE and promoting it. Extremely generous. Well, not only did I find her and her husband Ross, but they invited Michael and me out for dinner with Pat and Mary Lou, from The Raven Bookstore in Lawrence, Kansas. Suddenly we went from feeling very out of place to feeling very at home. An extraordinary transition, made possible through kindness. And the remarkable Julia Spencer-Fleming. It's the sort of generous act I hope never to forget, and will guide my own actions at all other conventions. To reach out to newcomers.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Bouchercon Memories. California Here We Come

Oline H. Cogdill is the mystery fiction columnist for the Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Her reviews also are picked up by about 250 newspapers around the world. Her blog is at That's Oline's bio. Short and Succient. It should be mentioned here that Oline is a reviewers' reviewer. Her insight into the books we read is amazing and her standards are high. And her love for crime fiction? Endless... Enjoy the weekend and I'll be back on Monday. Ruth

My first Bouchercon was the 1997 Monterrey conference chaired by the charming and gracious Toby and Bill Gottfried. I will never forget that lovely couple’s kindness to me and their ability to be the epitome of grace under pressure.

I had just been reviewing for about three or four years at that time and, frankly, didn’t really know Bouchercon was until an author explained it to me. (Keep in mind, this was a long time ago; I had just discovered the wonderful DorothyL!)

My husband and I had just been married a year and decided to go. We both love California, especially the Monterrey area. Fortunately, he’s as big a mystery fan as I am. We first spent a lovely week first in San Jose where we saw a couple of plays (we are also theater people), then Monterrey, Carmel, the Hearst castle and wondering just what was the Bouchercon going to be.

It was going to be wonderful. I learned I was in a place I pretty much always wanted to be, surrounded by as many mystery authors, booksellers, etc., learning more about the genre, who the up-and-coming authors would be, why the ones who’ve been around for years were still turning out novels that we continue to love. I think that was one of the largest Bouchercons and I think (the Gottfrieds know better than I) that it may have topped 2,300? I remember the book room was so big that my husband and I lost each other for a couple of hours.

I also remember being thrilled to be asked to be on a panel that was moderated by Janet Rudolph. I actually couldn’t believe anyone knew who I was; I also remember having several panic attacks before because (a) it was my first panel; (b) I figured everyone else on the panel knew more than I and (c) why would anyone care what I had to say. I still thank Janet for allowing me to be on that panel.

My husband had been talking to Laura Lippman in the hall and, since they were both journalists talking about the state of newspapers, he mentioned that his wife was on the reviewers’ panel and she actually said, “Is your wife Oline Cogdill?” Like I said, I didn’t think anyone knew my name.

But what I most remember, and have taken bits from each Bouchercon since, is meeting the authors and hearing how they view their work. I still have the tapes from that conference and sometimes re-play them for some insight.

I remember meeting Harlan Coben for the first time. During our conversation a reader came over to congratulate him and instead of talking about the Shamus he had just won for Fade Away, he started talking about his new baby and how thrilled he and his wife were. I thought this guy was pretty cool. Harlan, of course, has gone on to write more novels, win more awards and, most importantly, have more children.

This was the Bouchercon where I met Val McDermid, Nevada Barr, Ian Rankin; had a long conversation with Julie Smith in the hall; talked to Sara Paretsky in the book room; told Charlaine Harris how much I enjoyed her Shakespeare series and she said that her local paper ran my review with the headline “Book readable.”? We still wish we’d taken up Michael Connelly’s offer to sit with him during the awards dinner where he won best novel for The Poet.

I’ve been to each Bouchercon since, except for Alaska and that was because we’d taken a family cruise there the year before, and plan to go to often in the future. My husband often still comes with me or, if it is in the Midwest, my best friend often comes. A few years ago, we started bringing my brother-in-law, Peter, who is high-functioning autistic and a huge fan of the genre. No matter how authors may feel about me (!), everyone is gracious to Peter and I thank them for that.

Each Bouchercon has reinforced my appreciation of the genre. While meeting an author will not influence whether I like the novel or not, it does let me peek behind the curtain. (And, please, don’t offer to buy me a drink or lunch; I’ll drink and eat with you, but I have to pay my own way.)

My reviews are pretty widely published now and the Sun-Sentinel’s Books Editor and I have a books blog ourselves at But what hasn’t changed is my appreciation of Bouchercon. Baltimore, for Bill, Peter and myself, here we come.

Friday, March 21, 2008

a one day delay in posting memories

Ruth made a joke about Milwaukee and snow and I think someone heard her.
Her flight back from Baltimore was diverted because the airport here in Milwaukee was shut down due to snow. So while I waited at the airport watching the landing time change a few times then disappear she was circling the city and finally landed in Chicago at Midway. Three hours later they promised a bus would be coming to take her to Milwaukee.

We'll see.....

Meanwhile after one day of wonderful spring our world here in Milwaukee is once again buried under piles of white wet snow as the skies continue to dump more and more....


Thursday, March 20, 2008

Ruth from Baltimore- Bouchercon 2008

Memories will return tomorrow.

Well that's it. This is the first trip to Baltimore where it's been a little chilly (high 50s) and a lot rainy. It's also the first time I've been to town when Laura Lippman was away. Coincidence?

You know what? I'm still having a great time. Cabs are inexpensive and available even in the rain and the hospitality of all in this city amazes me. After reading yesterday's
news I know Laura's having a pretty good time of it too.

So plans are forwarding for the big weekend in October. I received a head's up just this morning on two attractions I'd like to share. First, the Annual Fells Point Fun Festival will be held the weekend before Bouchercon this year. I know some of you are heading in on Sunday the 5th. By all means join Baltimore in one of its annual traditions. Do you want to celebrate The Wire while you're here? Beyond anything the programmers may have up their sleeves (and we know Jon and Judy have looong sleeves) Baltimore itself is celebrating Television's best show. The Baltimore Museum of Industry has an exhibit of artifacts from the show on display with plans to keep it until the end of the year.

This has been a great trip. I've seen friends and family and fallen a little more deeply in love with this city... So today we're off to scout again and tonight I'm meeting with potential volunteers. Tomorrow is an early start and home to Milwaukee. And Snow. Perhaps I'll pass Laura in the air.

And I have a question for all who are reading this blog..... a poll if you will. Do you want a seperate author's page? We'll tally responses until the end of the month.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Thursday's Memory from Bertil Falk

The weekend before I left for Alaska this year we had a mini World Mystery event at our home. Bertil Falk, a Swedish author came for a visit. It was a great weekend. Bertil is joining everyone in Baltimore this year and I asked him for his Bouchercon Memory. Here he tells it like it is about someone who will be sadly missed at this year’s Bouchercon. Ed Hoch remains a giant and yes we know he’s still on the list of attendees. After all he’ll be there this year and forever

Ed Hoch and Bouchercon
Over the years I have been attending three big mystery conventions. One in Sweden, when Stockholm was swamped with American mystery writers. I think it was in 1980. The other two were Bouchercons, the first took place in Philadelphia in a past century, the other one in Milwaukee a couple of years ago. One thing these three conventions had in common for me was that I met Pat and Ed Hoch at all three occasions. I had known them since the beginning of the 1970's when Hans Stefan Santesson, who once upon a time was the editor of The Saint Mystery Magazine, introduced me to them. I had no idea then what a prolific and great short story writer Ed was. The fact is that it was not until the death of Hans Stefan that I began reading the Simon Ark-stories. Hooked on them I went on reading Nick Velvet-stories, Rand-stories and stories with all the other great characters Ed Hoch dreamed up. I translated a couple of them into Swedish and they were many years later published. In Philadelphia I interviewed him on camera and he told me that he always had been interested in problem solving and got his incredibly good ideas from various sources. Once he asked me what the Swedish word SLUT meant. I told him that if he saw an Ingmar Bergman movie, the word SLUT would most probably be at the end of the story. SLUT in Swedish is the same thing as THE END in English language movies. Based on the different meanings in English and Swedish, Ed created a story. I saw on the Bouchercon home page that Pat and Ed Hoch would be in Baltimore this year. I had looked forward to see them and was as so many other of his admirers shocked at the message about his unexpected demise. In my opinion, Edward D. Hoch is one of the great mystery writers, on the same level as Carr and Chesterton. And that opinion is for sure shared by many people.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Tuesday with Attitude- Bouchercon Memories

Ah the Irish in me continues to rejoice. And no, I do not have a green tongue today. While the scent of boiled cabbage continues to linger in American homes everywhere and the Irish themselves wonder why we celebrate the holiday with a boiled dinner, I am enjoying a book. Written by today’s guest.

It’s very cool when authors turn you on to other writers. I “found” this guy through John Connolly, and loved his first book. This “newbie” continues to deliver work that surprises, energizes and says something unique in our genre. His first two books have been hailed by the American Crime Fiction community. The winner of 2007’s Shamus award for best First Novel, Declan Hughes’ third novel in the Ed Loy series, THE PRICE OF BLOOD is out today. It is a great read. So go ahead and get your Irish on. And you can visit
  • Declan’s Blog

  • - Ruth

  • At Madison, I remember a lot of singing - Laura Lippman's bachelorette party, where we sang show tunes, much to John Connolly's dismay, and the last night in a dive bar called, perhaps to avoid confusion, The Pub, where
    John, Laura, David Corbett, Cornelia Read, Dan Fesperman, Michael Robotham and I took turns to get beaten at pool by Mark Billingham and Jon Wood, and between times sang along to the Stones and Steve Earle on the jukebox. Was there drink taken? Quite possibly. I remember feeling a little trepidatious in a first-day-at-university way on the Thursday, and I remember how quickly this was dispelled, largely by the good agencies of the Jordan clan, who are like some informal Bouchercon Diplomatic Service: Jon presented me with a badge he had made from the cover of my first novel, Ruth steered me through the rigours of my first panel and Jen went from handshake to piss take in record time .

    I remember sharing the flight from Minneapolis to Anchorage with the indomitable Ruth Dudley Edwards, so in fairness it's a miracle I can remember anything else at all. But thre were award ceremonies and a lot of parties and I got slung out of a Karoke bar for swaying, which ranks fairly low on the bad-behaviour scale in Dublin, but different strokes and so on. Most of all, I remember going into the hotel bar on the first night in Anchorage and being greeted warmly by a dozen people I hadn't even met a year before, but who now felt like old friends. And that's a very good memory indeed.


    Monday, March 17, 2008

    Happy St. Pat's- A Bouchercon memory

    A yes, 'tis the day when America celebrates little green men and throws food coloring in their Miller High Life. We're a little spazzy here in the USA. I have fond memories of a recent St.Patty's day shared with today's guest. Ken Bruen is the author of the Brandt and Jack Taylor series. His latest book stateside is CROSS. So get your green on, everyone and I'll be back.....

    ..............................My first B'con was in Las Vegas, I wasn't a registered attendee and only went literally 24 hours before
    I flew from Galway to Dublin to London to LA to Las Vegas with an English Publisher, we had 19 hours together! He wrote a long account of it for the UK posh papers and mentioned everyone save me...........Jesus, how much had I bored the poor bollix?
    The previous time I'd been in Vegas was 20 years before to get married and no, not by elvis
    We had no money so it was just us and a female minister who looked uncannily like shirley bassey.............should have known that was an omen right there
    2nd day in, I'm standing at the bar, with CJ Box..........I knew not one single American mystery writer before going and I hear my Name called, turn around and it's Jim Crumley, we grabbed an alcove and spoke for 4 hours staight, I was uber fan..........still am
    And.............walking down a corridor, having won 250 bucks on blackjack, I met a lady who asked
    are you K.B?
    It was Donna Moore and the beginning of one of the best friendships of my life
    I saw Janet Evanovich coming out of the swimming pool and wanted to go dry her
    Meeting Jen Jordan who was promoting Ugly Town and didn't realise I'd met one third of the family who would grace my life in every way there is

    Sunday, March 16, 2008

    Sunday Serenade- Bouchercon Memories

    The Mystery Community- By now everyone who visits this blog knows I'm a fan. I was introduced to the community via the internet. Bouchercon was my first Convention. But the people who kept me coming back were undoubtablly the Wisconsin Contingent. In our state we have a group of people so special and encouraging once they pull you in you will never get out. Beth Fedyn is one of those people and today she's sharing her memory with us. See you tomorrow,

    I was the Auction Chair for the 1999 Milwaukee Bouchercon. Maggie Mason,San Diego book dealer, one of the Fan Guests of Honor that year, and a good friend, helped me to get a script as an auction item from Bill Fitzhugh, a relative unknown in the mystery community at the time. His second book -and my personal favorite - Organ Grinders had come out the year before so we also asked him for a character donation for the auction. Bill was reluctant because he didn't think anyone would bid. Of course Maggie and I
    assured him that there would be lots of interest.

    And there was. Not only did the script bring in a pretty penny but the character item auction evolved into a ferocious bidding war between two fans. As the bids went higher and higher, Ted Hertel (Bouchercon co-chair) leaned over and whispered to me, "Who IS this guy?" When the bids got up over $600., Gary Warren Niebuhr (Bouchercon co-chair and auctioneer) remarked that Bill Fitzhugh was standing in the back of the hall. He was indeed and very graciously offered TWO character donations to accommodate
    the battling bidders. This resulted in over $1200. for our charity and Bill(and Sandy) Herron and Frances Neagley found immortality in his next book Fender Benders.

    Maggie and I have attended many more Bouchercons and Bill Fitzhugh has gone on to write more wonderful books - most recently The Adventures of Slim & Howdy by Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn with Bill Fitzhugh, which comes out in May 2008.

    Friday, March 14, 2008

    Friday's Final- A bouchercon Memory

    Today's visitor is Natasha Cooper. When I read the following memory I was amazed. Why? Well it seems like this wonderful woman has always been a part of my Bouchercon experience. Time is optional it seems when it comes to the big show. I'm really happy I'll be seeing her this year.
    Her next novel, A POISONED MIND will be published in the summer. American Guest of Honor Laura Lippman says of the book,'Simply gorgeous - a smart, complex, grown-up entertainment that rewards the reader on every page. Intricate in plotting, deft in characterization, it is one of the best legal thrillers I have ever read.' You can find Natasha

    Natasha Cooper:
    My first Bouchercon was Denver. The matchless Barbara Peters had told me that, as chair of the British Crime Writers' Association, I really had to go to Bouchercon. Full of trepidation, sure that in the thousands there I would sit on the sidelines like a stranger at a party, I booked, arrived, registered and shiveringly entered the fray.The first thing that happened was that a fan peered at my name tag and almost shrieked: 'Natasha Cooper! That's great!' She proceeded to tell me which of my novels she'd most liked and why. We were soon joined by other readers and writers and I felt instantly at home.Later, I discovered my signing table was next to Lee Child's and trepidation started all over again. But again I was in for a lovely
    surprise: a long, long line of people with books they wanted signed.I felt welcomed, warmed, and wanted. Fabulous! I can't wait for Baltimore, a city I've never yet visited. See you there, I hope.

    See you on the weekend,

    Thursday, March 13, 2008

    We Interrupt this Blog

    Hi all,

    Ruth here, from the trenches. Actually from the comfy office chair but trenches sounds better doesn't it. Today I'm going to take a moment to share the career of one of our attendees.

    Wyma Rogers is passionate about books and she's shared her passion with the entire community of Newport News. To Read her story click on her picture. Her heart will always be in the mystery section.
    See you tomorrow,

  • Wednesday, March 12, 2008

    Wednesday's Words- A Bouchercon Memory

    Laurie King is the author of eighteen novels which have won or been nominated for most of the world's mystery prizes, her own blog can be found at Laurie King's blog

    BoucherCon Memories

    My first two BoucherCons were English, which is a little odd because I don’t live in England and BoucherCon only met there twice (London in 1990 and Nottingham in 1995.) And yes, I know it looks like I was jumping on any excuse to go to England, but honest, it just happened. Honest.

    My first BoucherCon experience was at King’s College London, a cold and confusing building where you had to go down a flight of stairs and around half a mile of frigid corridor to get a cup of weak coffee in the linoleum-and-formica dining hall. These posh English colleges.

    I knew no one, recognized few of the names on the name badges, had no idea how to answer the standard question, which was not “Where are you from?” but “Are you a writer or a reader?” Well, both, I guess: If I wrote but hadn’t been published yet, did that mean I wasn’t a writer?

    Two high points for me were hearing Robert Barnard (I’m pretty sure that’s who it was) referring to “ABC: Agatha Bloody Christie,” and not being lynched by the audience. Wow, I thought, I didn’t know you could do that, be rude about Dame Agatha—and on her home turf, yet.

    The other great moment was when P. D. James, the guest of honor, was being interviewed and time came for questions from the audience. Up shoots this figure that I had seen (really, you couldn’t miss her) stalking the halls in a full-length houndstooth check cape and deerstalker cap, and begins to rummage in her enormous soft handbag (at which point the entire audience goes very still, and even Phyllis James, seated on the stage in her flowered dress with her own stiff-sided handbag tucked in the chair beneath her, seems to raise one eyebrow, just a shade.) At last, the woman triumphantly yanks out an object that makes everyone draw a breath of relief, because it isn’t hard and shiny. She works what appears to be a sock with a nose over her right hand, holds said hand up towards James (a hundred feet away and with the lights in her eyes,) and announces, “Sherlock Hound wants to know—”

    I swear to God this woman was not from my home town of Santa Cruz, although she would have fit in as a nice counterpoint with our pink-umbrella man. Apparently she was a regular at BoucherCon, which she made her annual holiday. I’m not sure if this explains why I didn’t return for a while, or why I knew BoucherCon was just the place for me. Maybe a little of both.

    And P.D. James? She became my hero that day, by being so utterly unflappable, even when asked a question by a sock puppet. I regret to say the Hound lady no longer comes to BoucherCon, or at least, if she does she’s changed her style considerably. I have yet to be asked a question by a hand-puppet hound.


    Where have all the sock puppets gone? Have a groovy Wednesday. Ruth


    Tuesday, March 11, 2008

    Tuesday's Tale- A Bouchercon Memory

    Carolyn Hart is known in the mystery community for both her grace and her wicked sense of humor. Gearing up for the release of DEATH WALKED IN: A DEATH ON DEMAND MYSTERY March 25th, today she's sharing a Bouchercon memory with us.

    My greatest memories of Bouchercon are the London Bouchercon in 1990 in honor of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Agatha Christie. Nancy Pickard and I were roommates on the QEII as part of a traveling mystery skit en route to BCon and we had such fun. At the Anthony Awards presentation (as I recall it wasn't part of a dinner, rather an afternoon event in an auditorium, but I may misremember), Honeymoon with Murder won the Anthony for Best Paperback Original. Three previous year Something Wicked won the Anthony for Best Paperback Original. To win two years in a row seemed absolutely golden. I was thrilled both times and hugely grateful. I felt I'd received the best recommendations in the world to mystery readers. I am still hugely grateful.

    See you tomorrow,

    Monday, March 10, 2008

    Bouchercon Memories -The Monday Edition

    Today is the first day post "The Wire". I'm feeling especially close to Baltimore today and wanted to share the memories of someone from there. So today's memory comes from Dave Magayna. Dave is one of mystery's biggest fans and a hell of a reviewer too. Enjoy and we'll see everyone tomorrow- Ruth

    In 1997, Cindy Tambourine (then my fiance, now my wife and always a source of inspiration and fascination)and I were vacationing on the Left Coast. We started in Napa Valley, stayed a few days in San Francisco,and then headed down to Monterey for Bouchercon.

    After checking into our room at the conference hotel,we went in search of friendly faces. We found Chris Aldrich and Lynn Kazcmarek in a bustling room with long tables covered with books and people engaged in a chaotic maelstrom of activity. Once I introducedCindy, we were encouraged by Chris and Lynn to pitch in and help stuff book bags. We worked side-by-sidewith the other mystery-crazed volunteers until the stacks of books had become stuffed book bags and wewere exhausted. It was a great introduction to Bouchercon and the community of mystery readers/volunteers that make it great year after year.

    Then we went and grabbed a few beers, another great Bouchercon tradition.

    Sunday, March 09, 2008

    Sunday's Serenade- A Bouchercon Memory

    People often ask me, Why Bouchercon? I've tried for a cohesive answer over the years and sometimes "because it's the best!" just doesn't work. When Ali Karem, reviewer and contributor to Shots and January Magazine turned in the following memory of his Vegas Experience I realized that Bouchercon truly is amazing. Five years later and his enthusiasm is still as energizing as it was that long weekend.

    My Bouchercon Memory from 2003 by Ali Karim

    In 2003 I turned 40 and was considering what to do in order to celebrate this event. I had been thinking about attending a US convention for a while; but with a wife and three kids I considered it unfair to leave them for two weeks as well as the cost implications, leave from work etc. I considered that perhaps for my 40th I could swing it.

    I hadn’t been back to the US since the 1980’s when I studied in the Mid-West so I really wanted to attend for old times’ sake. My wife was not interested as the long 11 hour flight put her off as she is a nervous flyer. Then my school friend and Shots webmaster ‘Grog’ who was also a big mystery reader told me “Hey, it’s being held in Las Vegas, we gotta go Man!” So it was settled and after some persuasion and bribery, my wife finally agreed I could go [even though she was concerned that I would be chaperoned by wild-man Grog]. So the first task was Grog and I started to save our money into a Vegas fund, well a Beer fund.

    We combined the Bouchercon 2003 experience with a vacation taking in the sights of the American South West as well as exploring California’s Death Valley – taking a lot of photographs – click here to see Ali and Grog’s Adventures.

    Grog and I had such a great time with so many the highlights that it’s hard to name them all – but the most crucial was meeting so many people we’d only corresponded with via the Internet. There was a little worry for me as crime-writer Mark Billingham warned me that when I finally met Jon Jordan in the flesh, there could be a problem. In physics terms, [the scientist in] Billingham considered it to be analogous to Matter and Anti-Matter coming into contact. He was right, as meeting Jon was like meeting a long lost brother – we both drank coffee like it was medication, smoked like it was oxygen and talked books, comics, films like our lives depended on them. Meeting the people from the mystery newsgroup RAM was unreal – as I was finally face-to-face with people who I communicated with such as Judi, Karen Slaughter, John Purcell, Annie Chernow, Patricia and her late husband Soren, Woodstock, Mark Miller, Fran Read, Vicki Ball, Beth and her Husband. It was particularly emotional meeting Beth as we both had damp eyes when we hugged. Damn, there goes my hard-boiled reputation! The same was true when it was time to leave as Ruth and Jennifer Jordan gave Grog and I about 6 cases of beer as a farewell present, as they hadn’t got through them – and hugging everyone goodbye was very sad, but we made so many friends.

    Particular highlights – Drinking with Ken Bruen and facing the consequences, getting my copy of Jon Jordan’s ‘Interrogations’ signed and hear him whisper to me about an idea that became Crimespree Magazine, meeting David Morrell and introducing him to Gayle Lynds and Lee Child and seeing ITW form the following year, meeting Max A Collins and Robert Randisi at the Shamus Awards, Pissed at The Peppermill, meeting the Deadly Pleasures Gang, the January Magazine Reviewers, Interviewing Lee Child, seeing Ian Rankin with the Jordan Gang, moderating a panel after two days of sleep deprivation, talking to James Crumley, fear at the top of the Stratosphere Tower, supporting the Orion Writers at the Top if the Riv – Man! I could go on, and on as everyone was there!

    But instead, why not read my report on what I got up to there at Bouchercon 34 in 2003 and make your own plans for Bouchercon 2008.

    And finally that Last Night Photo before we all went our separate ways was strange, as I was so happy to meet everyone, but so sad to say farewell until next time - Now I gotta figure a plan to sweet-talk my wife and kids as to why I need to get to Baltimore for my 45th Birthday – I can’t believe it’s been five years since Las Vegas.

    Ali Karim
    Writer for and
    Reviewer and Writer for ,, and
    Interviewer and Blogger for

    Friday, March 07, 2008

    Whose got the Biggest Balls of Them All- B-con Memories

    One of Bouchercon's greatest tradition's, The Annual Pick-up Basketball Game is a testament to the playfulness and competitiveness of our community. Started and organized by S.J. Rozan it gives everyone a timeout from the rigors of Conventioning. Friday at 2:00 in Baltimore. But let's have others share.

    Jeff Tindall declares, "I always like playing in the B'con basketball game. Old people and small people, bold people and tall people. It's an eclectic mix, there's lots of laughing and not too much in the way of sore muscles afterwards because nobody (except Reed) tries that hard. Plus, it provides one with a somewhat legitimate excuse to go slam some beers."

    And from author Michael Kortya

    The memory of my first Bouchercon that probably makes the best story isn't exactly one that boosts my ego, but what the hell. I'd arrived in Vegas for Bouchercon about two months after learning Tonight I Said
    Goodbye would be published, and about a month after turning 21. It was a pretty good stretch. So I'm standing in the hotel outside of the main conference area, taking it all in, feeling big time, Michael Koryta the crime writer. The basketball game group is getting ready to depart (at this point I'd already taken a cab to a mall to buy shoes, shorts, T-shirts...we Hoosiers do not miss basketball opportunities) and it becomes clear that some kids are wanting to go along with the group. These kids are, I believe, about 12. That might be optimistic. They could have been 10. And as I'm standing there watching them, a woman turns to me, smiles, and says, "It's nice to see so many young people at a Bouchercon." This is my first said con, of course, but I nod enthusiastically and say that it sure is nice to see them. And then she hits me with the stiletto follow-up: "Are you here with your parents?" Ah, yes. Michael Koryta the crime writer, indeed. There were so many good moments from that conference -- basketball with Steve Hamilton and SJ Rozan and Co., Heineken with George Pelecanos, (and, yes, I was still young enough that the beer itself was exciting, let alone George as a drinking companion) meeting David Hale Smith, who became my agent, meeting so many great writers and great people...but good moments never tell quite as good stories as embarrassing ones, do they?.

    Poor Michael, he'll always look about twelve to the rest of us, but his writing is timeless. He is indeed Michael Kortya "the crime writer".
    See you all Saturday

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    Thursday, March 06, 2008

    Terrific Thursday- B-Con Memories

    Today featuring our Lifetime Achievement Honorees.
    Barbara Peters $ Robert Rosenwald are an amazing team when it comes to Poisoned Pen Press but when I received their memories and they converged, I had an ahhhhh moment for this truly dynamic and Mysterious Couple.

    Robert Rosenwald:
    At the first several Bouchercons I attended (we're talking 1990 or so, just after The Poisoned Pen had opened and before either of us was broadly known in the mystery community) I changed my name badge from "Robert Rosenwald" to "Mr. Barbara Peters" because I knew that some people might be looking for Barbara and I was a complete unknown. I got into an elevator one day and these two sweet, little ladies got in and looked at my name badge and just were so excited and one of them bubbled over and with wide eyes said "Are you really?" Their level of enthusiasm was so high that it became almost instantly clear that they thought I was married to Barbara Mertz/Elizabeth Peters.

    Barbara Peters:
    I still remember the 1988 Bouchercon in San Diego because, thinking of opening The Poisoned Pen, I took My Mother, the serious critic along. It was a great size for intimacy, about 600, and a number of icons like Jonathan Gash and Elizabeth Peters attended. In fact, a lunch was set up for Elizabeth Peters (aka Barbara Michaels/Barbara Mertz, the latter her real name), which MM and I attended.
    The subject of a mystery bookstore for Scottsdale arose, and Ms Peters, drawing deeply on her cigarette and looking wise, counseled me to abandon so hopeless a project and look for other work…..
    She often mentions to me that the lunch convinced her that her powers as a seer were limited.
    In either 1990 or 1991, at the Seattle Bouchercon of that year, we stood side by side in the bar. A fan rushed up to me and began to gush about how much she loved my terrific books about Egypt. Knowing them all nearly by heart, I jumped right in and engaged her in dialogue while The Author quietly steamed alongside me. Finally, the pressure built and she blew, stepping forward to shake her fan’s hand and saying, “Hello, I’m Barbara Peters and I own a great mystery bookstore in Scottsdale, Arizona.”
    The poor fan never did understand why the two Barbaras fell into fits of laughter as soon as she turned away.

    Tomorrow the Hoopsters Chime in,

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    Wednesday, March 05, 2008

    The Hump Day Edition- B-Con Memories

    Today's memory comes from the "Grandfather of Tartan Noir". Ian Rankin is the acclaimed writer of the John Rebus series. The last book in that series, EXIT MUSIC, will be released Stateside in the fall of 2008. As everyone knows Sir Ian figures like Mt Rushmore in Ruth and Jon's B-Con memories but here he kindly shares a few of his own.

    "I'll never forget my first Bouchercon. It was Toronto in 1992. I'd won that year's Chandler-Fulbright Fellowship, which allowed me to travel in North America for six months. I came to Toronto with my wife and our 9-month old son Jack. They stayed in the hotel room while I took my first tentative steps into B'con-mania. Walking into the bar, a woman walked over to me. 'You look lost,' she said. 'Let me introduce you to a few people.' She was the kind and wonderful K K Beck, and the people she introduced me to included Mary Higgins Clark - not a bad start! Later on, I took Jack with me to the dealer room, and let him crawl on the floor while I made some purchases. A woman asked if she could pick him up. We got talking and her husband turned out to be Otto Penzler. She introduced me to him and we eventually did a six-book deal for US rights. All in all, not a bad weekend..."

    Tune in tomorrow,
    (Photo curtosy of Mary Reagan) Ian getting a hug from Val after winning the Edgar Award for best novel... A Very Good Birthday

    Tuesday, March 04, 2008

    Two for Tuesday

    I missed posting yesterrday so I have two memories for everyone today.

    Up first our ToastMaster. Mark Billingham is an international best selling author.

    “In the bit of my brain which I hope will be the last to go, there are no shortage of great Bouchercon memories: Laura Lippman’s bachelorette party; meeting Jim Crumley; the bowling alley in Chicago; seeing John Connolly on a horse...and I know that Baltimore will be responsible for plenty more. THIS was at the Toronto Bouchercon which I thoroughly enjoyed. Actually...I’ve thoroughly enjoyed pretty much all of them, thinking about it.

    I was having breakfast one morning with Simon Kernick and Chris Mooney, and Simon was telling us about this horrible nightmare he’d had the night before. He’d dreamt that someone called him at home and told him people were on their way to kill him. He told us how vivid it was, the terrible feeling of dread and horror that went with knowing someone was coming to your house to kill you. Chris and I looked at one another and told him that it would be a great start to a book. Simon looked shifty suddenly. “It was MY dream,” he said. Chris and I spent the rest of the day winding him up, kidding him that each of us was planning to use the dream in a book. Of course, we didn’t and Simon did and it turned out to be the opening of “Relentless” which was picked up by the Richard & Judy Book Club (the UK equivalent of Oprah’s Book Club) and sold a phenomenal number of copies. I STILL think Kernick owes Mooney and I some money...”

    Today we also have a memory from Libby Hellmann. Libby has a new book out from Bleakhouse this month.

    My most vivid memories -- both the highs and the lows -- are of my first Bouchercon -- 1999 in Milwaukee.
    I was unpublished, but had “won” a short story contest that Ted and Gary and the rest of the gang sponsored. As the winner, I was invited to go to a pre-Bcon boat ride on Lake Michigan Wednesday night. That was the year Max Allan Collins was the GOH, and I was thrilled to rub elbows with him, his wife Barbara, and people like Jerry Healy…. Gary Niehbur… Cap’n Bob…. even Ted Hertel… What a rush for a wannabee!! To tell the truth I was feeling pretty smug that night.
    I should have known it wouldn’t last.
    The next day I had a turkey sandwich in the hotel. By that night I had food poisoning. I managed to eke out the night, but by noon the following day, I was scared, dehydrated, and feeling pretty shitty. My friend Mary Harris took me to the ER where they gave me an IV and told me to wait. Imagine my surprise three hours later when Jerry Healy and SJ Rozan showed up in my cubicle, wanting to know how I was doing. I couldn’t believe it -- they’d come to the hospital just for me? Then I found out that Al Abramson had broken his ankle during the basketball game and was in an adjoining cubicle. When they came for him, someone told them another mystery “person” was there, and they stopped in to see how I was doing.
    As it turned out, both SJ and Jerry were incredibly concerned and sympathetic, and I felt very much a part of this wonderful and strange community. I still do… but I hope no one else has to spend 8 hours in the ER to find that out.

    See you tomorrow,

    Saturday, March 01, 2008

    Bouchercon Memories- The Weekend Edition

    Today's memory is from Charles Ardai. Author, Editor,Publisher.... Charles is a true Renaissance Man.

    "Back in 1994 -- can it be 14 years ago already? -- I found myself nominated for the Shamus Award for one of my short stories, and since the Shamuses were due to be given out at the Bouchercon in Seattle, I found myself registering for Bouchercon and flying to Seattle. Three firsts for me: first Shamus nomination, first trip to Seattle, first Bouchercon. I'd been to science fiction conventions before but never to a mystery convention, so I wasn't sure what to expect. Would there be people dressed up in costume wandering the aisles of a mammoth dealer's room? Answer: no. Ordinary people, dressed in normal clothes, and a pretty modest dealer's room. But what treasures that room contained! Books I'd heard about but never seen (remember, this was before the Internet boomed and made finding any out-of-print title you might want trivially easy), strange and wonderful oddities like the Phillip Marlowe board game, and people -- booksellers, fellow readers, fellow writers -- who turned out to be smart and funny and gracious and a pleasure to talk to, some of whom became and remain among my closest friends. I remember the Shamus banquet, where I lost the award to Lawrence Block (he deserved it; and if you've got to lose, at least you should lose to the best). And I remember the poker game afterwards, where authors I'd read and admired since I'd been a pup -- Block, Westlake, Grafton? these are three I think participated -- donned green eyeshades, rolled up their sleeves, and threw down antes and pasteboards and quips with equal vigor. Did this poker game really happen? Or is my memory playing tricks on me? Could anyone really -- literally -- have worn a green eyeshade, like some sort of extra from 'The Sting'? I don't know; 14 years is a long time. But I *remember* the green eyeshade, and I remember the poker (I also remember being too nervous to ask for a seat at the table, not because I was afraid of the stakes or of losing, just because I was in awe of the greats of the field who were playing there). And I remember the Bouchercon. I've been to others since, but as they say, you never forget your first."