Jiggetty Jig (Bouchercon 2006 Part One)
I never thought I'd say it -- or at least out loud -- but it's good to be back in Palmdale. After the whirlwind tour that was Bouchercon 2006 in Madison, Wisconsin, I'm put in mind of "Home for a Rest" by Canadian Celtic rabble rousers Spirit of the West:
"You'll have to excuse me
I'm not at my best
I've been gone for a month
I've been drunk since I left."
Not that I was actually gone for a month, or that I was even drunk for the four days and change that comprised Bouchercon 2006 -- it just felt that way by the time the cab finally dropped the lovely and talented D.L. Browne (AKA Diana Killian, AKA The Girl Detective, AKA Mrs. Thrilling) and I off late Sunday night.
In fact, I don't think I ever got more than a slight buzz on. But there was sure a hell of a lot of social (some of it very social) drinking there. Because for many of us, the bar is the de facto heart of these things. It's where you meet friends and agents and publishers and the like, catch a quick bite, sit and sort out your schedule or your book bag in between the numerous panels, appointments, parties, dealer's rooms and award ceremonies. And, of course, have a drink.
But hey, it was good beer (local brew Capital Amber Ale on tap is more than decent). And the company was even better.
It was great to see so many old pals, and even make a couple of new ones, including the elusive Tribe (a dynamite writer who's been MIA from TD and elsewhere for far too long), Shannon Clute (of Out of the Past podcast fame) and Declan Hughes (possibly the illegitimate child of Ken Bruen and Ross Macdonald).
One of the few disappointments (besides the stunning lack of people wearing cheese on their heads) was the non-show of Dave White, having been arrested on some sort of New Jersey morals charge involving squirrels and rubber undergarments or something that prevented him from flying to Wisconsin.
But Ken Bruen, Al Guthrie, Jason Starr, Donna Moore, Max Allan Collins, Jim Doherty, Gary Phillips, Sam Reaves, Richard Moore, Sarah Weinman, Simon Wood, Gary Neihbuhr, both Teds, assorted Jordans, Duane Swierczynski, Maggie Griffin, Brian Thornton, Laura Lippman, Bill "International Love God" Crider, Jan Long, Art "Great" Scott, Russel McLean, Reed Farrell "Mr. Hattrick" Coleman, Jack Bludis, Richard Helms, Luci Davin, Lee Child, Kate Stine and crew and a cast of thousands did make it.
Drinks were drunk, stories were swapped, backs slapped and accomplishments hooted. And even a few deals made.
Of course, a good con should be about more -- at least so I've heard -- than just drinking. Fortunately, the panels were also definitely a cut above the usual convention fare, full of well-chosen panellists and lively topics, for the most part. Evidently Jon and Ruth Jordan (of the Anthony-winning CRIMESPREE) had a big hand in that, so my fedora's off to them. My own panel, "I Could Kick Your Ass," went over pretty well, thanks to a large and lively Saturday morning crowd -- and John Connolly calling us a bunch of wimps beforehand certainly didn't hurt.
No, there's no feud going on. John simply heard the title of our panel and remarked that it would "probably consist of the biggest wimps here." It's the sort of crack I probably would have made myself, so I wasn't upset at all -- in fact, I ran into him later and thanked him. Because it did give us a handy peg to hang our panel on, especially since we'd decided that we would talk about "toughness" in crime fiction. I was the moderator but it was the panellists (Brett Brattle, Michael Black, J.D. Rhodes and my homey John McFetridge) that really kicked ass. And whenever things started to lag, we had good ol' Connolly to kick around.
And damn it, but I feel recharged. It's no secret I've been sorta lost in the wilderness the last few months or so, not quite sure where I or the Thrilling Detective Web Site stood, but I must say that this year's Bouchercon really brought it all back home. Time and time again, people said kind things to me about the site and the work we do there. And it was great to be introduced to people as "the guy who does The Thrilling Detective Web site," and not "the guy who was kicked off of DorothyL."
I mean, that story's so old even I'm bored with it (although, of course, there is a certain reality-challenged wingnut who denies it ever happened).
I even came back with a little good news. It looks like maybe, just maybe, there will be some sort of Thrilling Detective print anthology somewhere in the future. I have been approached by publishers before, but they've invariably been of the shifty, fly-by-night POD varety ("Hi! We really really love your work! Pay us $500 in small, unmarked bills and we'll publish it!").
This time, though, it was a legit (a very legit) publisher I met with, one that publishes some of the best crime writers around. Ones you've even heard of. No, really. I'll keep you posted on that.
And of course, this month also marks my boob tube debut, when I'll appear as one of several talking heads on SLEUTH's upcoming special on favourite TV and film detectives. Back in August, they took me into a small Hollywood hotel room and grilled me for over an hour and a half under the bright lights, so I figure there's at least a fifty-fifty chance that I coughed up at least one semi-intelligible sound bite they could use. And naturally, if I do make the final cut, thrillingdetective.com will run below my puss, so hopefully that will get the site some more attention.
Which always gets me hyped.
In fact, the way things are going, it looks like we'll have -- I hope -- a new issue before Christmas, complete with some really great stories. Yeah, Gerald and I will have to really get cracking, but I think we can pull it off.
So things are popping, as far as the site goes.
Well, maybe. After all, you all know what they say about the best laid plans of mice, men and me.
COMING SOON: More on Bouchercon. The awards, the tears, the books, Randisi over an open flame and the benefits of having a cop as a chauffeur (or how I got a police escort back to my hotel).