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.


Blogger Bill Crider said...

That was one of the great Bouchercons, Gary. I still have the book I got signed by both Spillane and Collins. And Bill Gault was there. Those were the days.

Friday, March 28, 2008 8:03:00 AM  
Blogger Ruth Jordan said...

All Bouchercons are special but whenever I hear memories of the first Milwaukee Convention, I'm wondering what I was doing in 1981..
I mean, I was only 30 miles away....

Tuesday, April 01, 2008 11:16:00 PM  

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