Oddly Bloodless Words
I had some fun -- no doubt about that -- and I hooked up with some old pals, and may have even set the groundwork for some new ones.
It was great to see Mary Jane Maffini (Guest of Honour) again, and Michael Blair and Rick Moffina and Linda and J.D. from Prime Crime and Sleuth of Baker Street respectively, and to meet, however briefly, Anthony Bidulka (writes a soft-boiled series about a globetrotting Saskatoon P.I. who reminds me, at times, of a gay Shell Scott as written by Agatha Christie), International Guest of Honour Stuart "The Man" Kaminsky and Giles Blunt, author of the truly amazing Cardinal/Delorme police procedurals, set in Algonquin Bay in Northern Ontario. Blunt's one of those rare Canadian mystery writers who not only writes crackerjack mysteries but manages to really evoke this crazy mixed-up nation, touching on things far too many shy away from, in the eternal ROC fear of "alienating" American readers.
Sorry, but the Canadian crime scene doesn't need more bland, polite, colourless, chinless mysteries that pander to a bland, colourless clientele, no matter how well they may sell in the States -- we need passionate, well-written mysteries that aren't afraid to stand up and say "I am Canadian!" Giles Blunt writes those kind of mysteries, literate, thrilling and definitely and defiantly Canadian. You ask me, any Canadian writer who isn't ready to drop the gloves should just get off the frigging ice.
And of course, it's always good to be breathing the air once more in the True North, strong and free (even if it is Toronto).
And, as far as these things go, the hotel was clean, the staff polite and the convention itself was well-run and organized (unlike, say, the hell on earth that was the Vegas Bouchercon).
But... Where was the blood?
By almost any yardstick (or metrestick, I guess) this year's conference was decidedly tilted to the cozy side of the genre, despite the guests of honour (both of whom, ironically, have had more than a little experience getting down and dirty in their fiction -- in often surprising ways. Panel topics veered away for the most part (except for the obligatory forensics stuff) from anything remotely connected to the harder side of the genre. No panels on P.I.s, noir, hard-boiled lit or anything remotely close to it.
No wonder old HB pals in the know gave this one a skip.
And, as is becoming depressingly familiar and heartbreaking in any Canadian crime convention (including the most recent Bouchercon in toronto), there was zero recognition or participation or even mention of Quebec's vibrant crime fiction. Typical knee-jerk behaviour, possibly from both sides, but if they don't get invited they won't come. As an anglo from Montreal, I see this issue from both sides, and it's just about enough to make me wanna cry.
Also a little disturbing was the fact the dealer's room this year was positively skimpy this year. I mean, candy? Jewelery? Clothing? What happened to, well, you know... books?
But perhaps most shocking of all was the lack of an actual designated convention bar. I mean, what's a beer-quaffing, book-hunting, yakaholic private eye fan to do?
Hopefully, next year's BLOODY WORDS will be an improvement. It'll be in Victoria, a truly beautiful city I haven't visited for far too long (I wonder if Spinnaker's Brew Pub is still there?) and far from the Torontonistas that regularly dominate the annual crimefest, for better or worse, every year.
Even better, though, is that the promised theme is private eyes. Heck, even the Canadian Guest of Honour is a P.I. writer, Anthony Bidulka himself, although with only a hattrick of books under his (white) belt so far it seems, perhaps, a little premature. Still, you never know -- maybe we can corner him in B.C. and convince him to toughen up his gumshoe a little, get him to give us a little more Joseph Hansen and a little less Cage Aux Folles.
Victoria's also a little closer for me than T.O., so there's a very good chance I'll be heading there.
(This is being written very quickly in a Starbuck's overlooking Taschereau Boulevard. I'm off to my beloved Montreal soon with my daughter. Smoked meat may be consumed.)
Talk to you guys soon...