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.
MEMORIES OF MY FIRST BOUCHERCON
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.)
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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