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



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