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


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