Thursday, June 15, 2006

Oddly Bloodless Words

I dunno. BLOODY WORDS 2006 is over, and I'm still not sure how it was.

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...


Blogger Linda L. Richards said...

Spinnaker's Brew Pub is, in fact, still there. Oh my. I'll meet you for a cold one during BW 2007. In fact, maybe we should set up a special event there. How cool would that be?

As to inviting the Montreal faction:

A. No one invites the BCers, and we still come and it's a lot bloody further. (Well OK, I didn't make it this year, but it was a series of unfortunate events.)


B. What about the aforementioned Michael Blair? And there were others, of course, but him you mentioned.

10:58 PM, June 15, 2006  
Blogger Kevin Burton Smith said...

Hey, Linda! You were one of the ones I was looking forward to meeting. Your no-show was a definite bummer. Spinnakers is still there? Baby, you got a date. And hey, maybe we can drag Jeff up from Rainy Town, have a JanMag pub crawl....

But anyway, when I mentioned the lack of writers from la belle province, I meant, of course, the French-speaking ones (there were, in fact, several anglos from Quebec). And in fact, now that Michael's VP of the CCW, maybe we'll see a little more crossover.

From what I remember, Quebec has a pretty vibrant (and noirish) little crime scene, yet year after year it seems to go unrecognized and unrepresented at BW. I'm sure it's not outright hostility or anything like that (unlike, say, the T.O. Bouchercon, which was run by at least one person who should really keep his big yap shut in bars and other places about how he really feels about French-Canadians). And I'm sure there are a few Quebecois blockheads who view Toronto as the Great Satan of ROC cities. But this antiquated two solitudes schtick is soooooo tiresome.

I wish my French were better, I wish I and other Canadians (displaced or otherwise) knew more about the crime scene there, I wish there were more crossover between the English and French crimewriters -- and more of their works translated back and forth.

I dunno. Maybe it was too much Trudeau at an early age, or an ex-pat's rose-tinted fantasies, but I believe in Canada. Yeah, I may be a dreamer, but I hope i'm not the only one...

But forget touchy-feely patriotism -- Is the Canadian crime writing industry doing that well that any writer (or writer's group or convention) can continually ignore millions of potential readers in their own country?

But I digress... Yes, setting up some sort of special BW event or panel chez nous would be great, maybe something like Tales of Online LitCrit: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

i'm game (or least gamey -- this living out on the road is gettin' kinda old).

6:50 AM, June 16, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kevin: Thanks for the tip on Michael Blair. An interesting character, a great view of Vancouver (I went to Borders and bought a map just to keep up) and a fine use of voice. On the down side, we don't see enough of Carla to understand how McCall could be so stupid as to get involved with her outside of a few nights in bed.
All that aside, you might blog a few more underknown Canadian crime writers. Or, if you've already done that somewhere, tell me where. I'm ready to read.

If this is a repeat, I apologize. I think my first message was lost in the cosmos.

11:45 AM, June 19, 2006  
Blogger Kevin Burton Smith said...

Hey, john,

You mention Carla, so i'm assuming you're referring to the first book, IF LOOKS COULD KILL.

Yeah, I thought that was one of the flaws in the book, although Blair's voice wanted me to see what he would do next with Tom. It took a while, but I think OVEREXPOSED realizes the potential. Tom (and Blair) have found their voice, and I hope we don't have to wait so long for the next one.

As for using this space to blog about underexposed Canadian writers, that's definitely something I'd like to do more of. and one of my first blogs was on Douglas Sanderson. Mind you, being stuck in Friggin' Sunny California, Canadian mystery books are about as easy to find as hockey scores or poutine.

And after my comments on Bloody Words, well, I may have shot myself in the foot as far as review copies go. I hope not. In fact, my next blog (or at least one I'll be doing soon) is an overview of Giles Blunt's amazing Cardinal/Delorme series. It's Ed McBain and Elizabeth George and Pierre Berton all rolled into one.

10:53 AM, June 22, 2006  
Blogger a.c.t. said...

Great site ang blog. I came across you whilst researching my recent entry on Dylan Dog. I may have nicked a bit of info, hope you don't mind.

4:56 AM, June 23, 2006  
Blogger J. Kingston Pierce said...

Good idea about a January Magazine event on the fringes of next year's Bloody Words. I'm in! I love Vancouver, and any chance to talk about crime fiction with people who like to talk about crime fiction must be taken. I've got the first round ...

4:45 PM, June 30, 2006  

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