Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Midnight Looms-

Please join me first in celebrating the best Mystery has to offer. That's right, fresh off of Malice Domestic the mystery community has jumped into Edgar Week. Our own committee's Sarah Weinman will be live blogging from the Edgar Awards tomorrow night. I'm on pins and needles because this year's list is full of people whose work would stand up in any year.

And I don't like to interrupt but it is also the Deadline for Anthony Award Nominations tonight, so please if you haven't voted yet and would like to, do it now. We have ties in several categories. Don't remember where your ballot is? E-mail me and I'll send it to you, now.
Thank You for your time,
Ruth Jordan
co-chair Bouchercon 39 "CharmedtoDeath"

Monday, April 14, 2008

Bouchercon Memories- An ode to 1981

Today's guest is Max Allan Collins. What can one say of this man that hasn't been said. Having just finished STRIP FOR MURDER I felt this was a great time to put his memory up. You see, he did it to me again. I finished an entirely satisfying mystery and then had to go and google the protagonists in a quest for the parallels between the actual history and the fictional. As a result I now know more about the Joe Palooza strip than I ever intended. My question for Al as he stumbles upon this intro is what happened to the real Moe after he left the strip, I'm not finding anything. Okay so this intro was really an unnecessary tangent.

Collins memory is an example of just what can happen at Bouchercon... How life long friendships are formed and can last beyond the grave. So enjoy and remember you don't want to miss this year's event. See you next time,

Max Allan Collins
Here, predictably, is my biggest Bouchercon memory:

In 1981, because of my longtime defense of Mickey Spillane in mystery fandom, I was asked to be the con's liaison between it and Mickey when he was a special guest there, his very first appearance not just at a Bouchercon but at any mystery-fan event. I was very nervous, because Mickey had only answered one of my many, many letters to him, starting back in my junior high days. The one time he responded was when I sent him BAIT MONEY and BLOOD MONEY, in 1973 -- my first two novels (published simultaneously); he dropped me a warm letter welcoming me into the business as a fellow pro.

I'd heard some stories about Mickey being a handful, including turning on an interviewer who asked him something on a touchy subject, and also shooting up first editions sent to him for autographs and sending them back instead pocked with .45 slugs. The night before I barely slept -- if my idol had feet of clay, like the rest of us, I would be crushed.

So I was taken by Con organizers to Mickey's hotel room, where Mickey came out -- looking shorter than I'd expected but broad-shouldered and an intimidating figure -- and the con rep said, "Mickey, this is Max Collins." And Mickey said, "I know Max -- we've been corresponding for years!" To which I said, "That's right, Mickey -- one hundred letters from me, one letter from you." He roared with laughter and our great friendship began.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Free Tee Shirts- Bouchercon Memories

Tonight's memory comes from author Robert Levinson. Bob is one of those people who makes every room he enters a little more friendly, a lot more interesting. And his memory reiterates that Bouchercon is both circular and of a straight line. He attended his first B-Con two years before I even heard of the event and four before I started pronouncing it Bow-sure-con rather than the boo-che-con I assumed to be correct. My first Bouchercon was in fact the one where Bob felt at home and it took several more years for us to become friends.

You can find more on Bob at his website and be sure to read the new book, IN THE KEY OF DEATH.




Ancient history—the year I attended my first Bouchercon, obliging a pal from the Writers Guild of America, Craig Miller, who'd asked me to serve on a panel at this convention for mystery writers and fans in Pasadena, CA. That's it, all I knew, except that Pasadena was an easy freeway drive from the house, I'd be on stage with William Link, another WGA member and one of two convention guests of honor, I'd receive a free t-shirt by way of thanks, and, oh yeah—did I know anybody at a newspaper who might be willing to talk about crime?

I put in a call to Niesen Himmel at the Times, whom I knew from my own newspaper years. Himmel was a reporter's reporter. He'd covered the Black Dahlia day-and-date and ever since insisted the investigation was a cover-up by the police department of the day.
"What the hell's a Bouchercon?" he said. I told him what I knew. It sounded like the free t-shirt appealed to him. Anyway, he was in.

Came the day, my wife Sandra and I walked into the host hotel and confronted hundreds of faces that meant mostly nothing to us, except for Jonathan Kellerman, Lawrence Block and a few other authors we recognized from their book jacket photos. (Understand, I was reading mysteries, trying to get the hang of what they were all about before I tried writing one, but it would be eight years before I managed to get my first novel, "The Elvis and Marilyn Affair," written and published.)

We found Craig and his wife, Ginny, at the registration desk, got a badge and a book bag, checked for promised comp t-shirt, and killed some time over coffee in the author's green room, where we were introduced to the convention's other guest of honor, the remarkably prolific and now sorely-missed Ed Hoch. Was this fate or what? Ed's greatest fans were Sandra and our daughter, Deborah. I rustled up from somewhere copies of his anthology, "Leopold's Way," and a bibliography prepared for Bouchercon .22 and asked Ed to sign them. (He took visible delight at the request, breaking into the broad smile that I'd come to know as something of his trademark.)

Show time.

Our panel played to about fifty people packed into a room designed for two hundred and fifty. The world has little noted or long remembered what was said there that morning. I do recall Himmel and I fielding a few comments, but audience focus was understandably on the iconic Bill Link and the murders he wrote (and produced) for his creations Jessica Fletcher and Columbo, along with other writing that landed him in the TV Hall of Fame.

Afterward, consoling Himmel, whose L t-shirt wasn't going to make it on his XL body, and taking a fast spin around the book room and the lobby, Sandra and I hit the freeway for home. It wouldn't be until Bouchercon '99, "Murder in the Midwest," in Milwaukee, that I attended with a sense of belonging, looking forward to my spot on the "first-time authors" panel, and experiencing everything else a Bouchercon had to offer.

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Monday, April 07, 2008

"What is it, a website?" Bouchercon Memories

Today's Memory comes from Rae Helmsworth. Rae is someone who found Bouchercon more recently than many who have posted on the blog so far but has the bug just as badly as anyone who's ever attended. Maybe someday she'll share the secret of how she looks just as refreshed on Sunday as on Thursday.

This year I’ll be attending my fifth Bouchercon, and have the privilege, thanks to the wonderful Jordans and the fabulous Judy Bobalik, of helping a bit. Or at least they’re letting me tell myself I’m helping.

Bouchercon appeared on my horizon in 2003. I had stumbled into Lee Child’s Forum earlier that year, and had found the regulars there to be nice, intelligent, and, well, normal. And then they started talking about this thing called Bouchercon. I had no idea what it was: A website? A book store? A club? I finally figured out that it was a gathering of crime fiction fans, and that it was to be held in Las Vegas that year. It looked to be pretty interesting, but I didn’t have enough nerve to attend. Afterwards though, I started hearing about how much fun it had been,
and decided that, darn it, I was going to Toronto in 2004.

I registered, and immediately started regretting it. What if it wasn’t fun? What if the people weren’t nice? Ack!

Then, a few weeks before I boarded the plane to Toronto, Janine Wilson, an ORC (Original Reacher Creature) and bookseller extraordinaire (Seattle Mystery Bookshop) emailed and asked if I’d like to join some of the Reacher Creatures for dinner one night. I began to think it might all be OK.

And it was. As a matter of fact, it wasn’t just OK, it was great. I met people who have become real friends, and have loved every Bouchercon since.

I have a mental scrapbook full of wonderful B’Con memories; the conversations, the panels, the dinners, the special moments that will stay with me forever: that dinner with the Reacher Creatures in Toronto; sitting with Cornelia Read on the patio of a bar in Chicago; lunch with a gang of people in Madison; seeing Alaska’s governor give a humor-filled welcome speech in Anchorage.

Every Bouchercon is different; each one has its own distinct personality. But every Bouchercon is also the same; hosted by dedicated volunteers; attended by book enthusiasts who are ready to play;
inclusive, exhausting, and exhilarating.

I can’t wait to get to Baltimore.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

The case of the lethal librarian-Bouchercon memories

Today's guest is a good friend and true champion of mystery. Penny Halle is tireless in her quest for a good read and not nearly as chameleon as she thinks she is. She'll be in Baltimore unless that first grandchild comes early, in fact the whole family including son Tim and daughter Christy are going to try and convince the obstetrician that a trip to Baltimore the week before your due date is a good idea....

When Bouchercon came to my hometown, Milwaukee, in 1999, I was determined to attend. I had heard about this great convention and thought this would be as close to Nirvana as I would ever get. Mysteries had always been my literature of choice and the mere thought of being with like minded readers and authors who create these fine stories made me light headed. Although popular belief is I was born short stacked.

By the time the great day arrived, I'd selected 8 books to get signed from my small but growing private library, a sweater for over air-conditioned rooms and a small lunch of cheese, crackers and fruit. I stowed everything in my "Give a Mouse a Cookie" book bag (later to be renamed "killer") and packed every other possible necessity in my purse.

I practiced my chameleon skills, blending in to any background, silently moving from one spot to the next, listening with rapt attention and trying not to stare. I had envisioned the day, authors hovering inches above the floor, gliding in pools of celestial light, the faint echo of heralding trumpets as they moved in and out of rooms, and if not pearls of wisdom at least conversations more interesting than Cataloging 101, or the current condition of a grandchild's diaper rash. And I would be privy to all of this! Little did I know what lay in store for me that fateful week end.

My long suffering husband chauffeured me to the front doors of the magnificent Hilton Hotel (I really am a disaster driving downtown.). I waved good-bye and whirled around only to bump, what an understatement, I crashed, over-stuffed purse and loaded book bag smack into a very large man. I didn't knock him over but I did stagger the poor guy. At the time I didn't know who it was I brought so close to the Grim Reaper, but I soon learned. After that near miss, I carefully made my way to registration only to be given another weapon, a wonderful and fully stuffed book bag/brief case!

I carefully considered the morning line-up and chose the panels I wanted to attend. I found a seat for the first group and unloaded. Pioneers heading west didn't carry as much as
I did that day. I was perusing the room when I noticed the authors for the panel filing in. Horror of horrors, who should be leading the pack but man I nearly turned into road kill.
Frantically, I looked for an exit. How was I supposed to gracefully leave with two fully loaded book bags, an over stuffed purse and to top it all, I was sitting in the middle of the
second row,so much for chameleon techniques. I was trapped! About the same time I came to realize I was doomed, the big man spotted me, pointed and shook his head. All through the introductions he kept eye contact and every so often rubbed the very spot on his chest that I pummeled. I squirmed and turned purple. But that is not the end to this story, I tried once again at the Madison Bouchercon to flatten him. This time I'm blaming the uber- crowd at the Crimespree party. During the course of that first Bouchercon, I rammed several other authors and ended up knocking down and sitting on another. A killer book bag is my story and I'm sticking to it. I never really apologized to my first victim, so, Mr. Gary Phillips, I'm so very sorry. If
you don't remember, that is just fine with me.

That first Bouchercon taught me a lot. There is no angelic light or whispering trumpet music. The authors really do want to talk to people like me (with or without book bags). Readers want to talk about the books they're reading. Everyone is interested and interesting. Stand still for a minute or sit down for a drink and someone will begin a conversation. I'm still a bit of a chameleon, fading away to lurk and listen but now I don't carry a fully loaded book bag.

Penny Halle
Muskego Public Library
Chair Murder and Mayhem In Muskego

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Those were some cool f#*@ing Chairs- Bouchercon Memories

Hello All,
As you know if you’ve been checking in I’ve been slacking on the Bouchercon Memory front. Poor Graham over at Crime Spot. He puts me on his list and I go down to twice a week. The truth is I’ve been busy. But I’m back and motivated. Baltimore is coming fast. For all of our friends and acquaintances who’ve been waiting for an e-mail asking for a memory, please go ahead and just send me one at A little business first and then on to an appropriate and great memory. You’ll see in just a minute…

About the Anthony Awards… Please if you’ve received a ballot, take a minute and fill it out. If you want to save the price of a stamp e-mail John Purcell. His e-mail is at the top of your ballot and he’ll send you to fill out via computer if you so choose.

Also, for those 100 or so people who e-mailed us last year asking where to submit your book for consideration for the Anthony… I’ve talked about it on this blog, you’ve heard it at and within different venues but the Anthony is, and always was, the People’s Choice Award of the Mystery World. If a person has attended the previous convention or is registered to attend the current convention by the cut off date, they are sent a blank ballot and asked to submit their five favorites in every category. Don’t have five? Send the ones you do… they will count. The Anthony is not a committee award but an award that comes from your community. This is what makes it special… We’ve only got 15 days left people, so if you want to be part of the process, register for Charmed to Death by April 15th. Remember a pool of about 3,000 people who read every day are responsible for these nominations.

And now, on to the show….

Today’s guest is one of mystery’s most generous people. He’d tell you differently. He likes to think he’s a hardboiled guy and pictures of him smiling are rare. Anthony Neil Smith is one of our great souls, a teacher by day, an author hungry to write the best novel out there by night. He is a harsh critic and a great teacher. The web site Plots with Guns produced some of the first stories from authors everyone talks about today. Neil is an amazing editor, giving Plots with Guns a quest for substance that outweighs many “in-print” anthologies. I’m happy to report it’s back. Better yet? The book YELLOW MEDICINE is surreal and excellently executed. If anyone had told me I’d ever read a book about Meth and Terrorism set in the cold Midwest without having to reach far, far into my suspension of disbelief, I’d have given them “the look”. You all know “the look”. Neil embraces “the look”. But in what is both a marriage of and an evolutionary leap from his first two published novels, Neil puts the yellow back into the snow and the medicinal effects back into mystery. Humorous, Frightening and altogether Real, YELLOW MEDICINE stands out. He’s going to hate my fragmented sentences, but one woman’s opinion……

"My first Bouchercon was D.C., 2001. Flew into Reagan National about six weeks after 9/11. And it was touch and-go on if the airport would even be open, but it was--alas with armed National Guard brigades.

What I'll never forget is how, within the first few hours of arriving on Thursday, Victor Gischler and I had settled in at the bar and started gathering people over to have a drink with us. Several PWG writers, plus Vicki Hendricks and my friend Martin Hegwood, which led to Vicki introducing us to Michael Connelly, which eventually led to us meeting Sean Doolittle, coming over to crime from the horror clique right as DIRT had been published. What surprised us was how it all felt so comfortable. Still a little star-struck, but not so much. We were finding our place in the crime fiction community, and having a good time drinking as we did.

I swear I met at least thirty or forty people I'd only known through email before. And it started to show us that, yes, folks were reading the stuff we were writing. Then we got to hobnob with the guys from Uglytown, Jim and Tom treating several of their authors (and me) to dinner at a Korean barbecue joint.

Gischler and I also took a whirlwind tour of the Mall, stumbling across a Smithsonian exhibit of some famous furniture maker. Those were some cool fucking chairs."

Until next time… don’t change that channel….
Ruth & Neil

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