Ghosts of Bouchercon Past


I’m heading back east this week for Bouchercon, the conference that is de rigeur for crime writers and fans. This year’s event takes place in Baltimore, burial site of Edgar Allan Poe, and there are a staggering number of people attending. Which got me thinking about my first experience, lo those many years ago…

Not really. I was one of the happy few who braved the cold (and, apparently, the Russians) for the conference in Anchorage, Alaska last year. The ringing refrain appeared to be, “This isn’t a normal Bouchercon, no one’s here!”
But it was my first, and having nothing to compare it to, I had a rip roaring good time. Sure, the panels weren’t necessarily packed, but how could you complain when sidewalk vendors sold reindeer sausages, there was a late night Karaoke bar directly across the street from the hotel, and at least two “police actions” occurred nightly within a three block radius? For better or worse Anchorage appeared closer to “Deadwood” than “Northern Exposure.” So I thought I’d take advantage of this post to reflect on the high- (and low-) lights of Bouchercon 2007, aka “Bearly Alive.”

-Wandering down the streets at night looking for the next publishing party that featured an open bar (which seemed to consume a good chunk of every evening,) we ran into a drag queen in full Wonder Woman regalia. Here in San Francisco, that would mark an ordinary stroll, but in Anchorage?! Kudos to her for braving the cold, those wrist bracelets couldn’t have been doing much to keep her warm.

-Brian Thornton bringing down the house with his rendition of AC/DC’s “Back in Black.” I’m starting a petition to get Brian on American Idol, he was a giant among ants that evening.

-Apparently the Anchorage zoning laws mandate that every block have ten bars, ten gift stores selling virtually identical souvenirs, and one run-down restaurant with the ubiquitous reindeer sausage. God help you if you need a pharmacy, although considering that number of assaults and stabbings that occurred during our stay there, a pharmacy would seem to be a valuable addition to downtown.

-Why was I one of the only people who didn’t manage to see a moose? To hear others tell it, they were tripping over them every time they left the hotel. I suspect they were confusing moose with drag queens in superhero attire.

-Alexandra Sokoloff, Jason Starr, and I badly mangling Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.” What Brian Thornton did to elevate the art of Karaoke, we erased with a few verses. I blame a lethal combination of reindeer sausage and whiskey, which combined to convey the delusion that we, too, might be able to sing. We couldn’t, as it turned out. Seriously, it was grim.

-Best panel: the one with the drug sniffing dog chasing David Corbett out of the hall (that didn’t really happen, but wouldn’t it have been funnier if it had?)

-Best author 30 minute slot: Declan Hughes. There’s a man who puts on a show when he’s reading. And there was juggling at the beginning. A tough act to follow.

-2nd Best author 30 minute slot: Rumor had it that Laura Lippman took everyone who showed up for her session out for drinks. Classy. And again, tough act to follow (I’m raising this argument with my publisher to explain why I need a bigger advance next time. How else am I supposed to buy rounds?)

-Worst 30 minute author slot: mine. My flight arrived late, and I didn’t receive the programming schedule until breakfast the following morning. At which point I discovered that I had been enlisted to spend 30 minutes entertaining strangers, and I had to be there in five minutes. I killed five minutes reading the paper with them, them mumbled for the duration. Awful. I promise to do better this year.

-Lukas Ortiz, Alex Sokoloff, Jason Starr, and I managed to get completely lost on a bike ride that began as a three-hour tour of the shoreline and concluded with us pedaling onto the tarmac at the Ted Stevens International Airport. And still, no moose.

Like I said, a rip roaring good time. I can hardly wait to see what happens during “Charmed to Death 2008.” Baltimore is going to have a tough act to follow, at least in my book. Perhaps they should import some drag queens, and maybe a moose…

PS: if you’re attending the conference, here’s where you’ll be able to subject yourself to more of my non sequiturs:

10:30AM Thursday: Author Karaoke with fellow kill Zone authors Kathryn Lilley and Clare Langley-Hawthorne. We WILL NOT SING, this I promise you. We will discuss book blog tours. And we might juggle.

11:30AM Thursday, Int’l E: I CAN’T STAND UP FOR FALLING DOWN: Booze, hootch & firewater in crime fiction. Ali Karim(M), Ken Bruen, Michelle Gagnon, Con Lehane, Elizabeth Zelvin

11:30AM Saturday, Int’l D: PSYCHO KILLER: Why are we so fascinated by serial killers? Brian Lindmuth(M), Mark Billingham, Michelle Gagnon, Jonathan Hayes, Alan Jacobson

PPS: For truly brave souls…
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1 thought on “Ghosts of Bouchercon Past

  1. Wow Michelle, as it happens that was my first Bouchercon too. And, until I sell for a decent advance will probably be the only one since I live in Anchorage and it costs so much to get out.

    I remember seeing you there around the halls and in a panel I believe. I was one of those invited to Laura Lippman’s drink night, but chose not to go to that or all of the other nights out that seemed to be happening. My wife would have had me tied up and trampled by one of the moose you didn’t see then beat up by the she-male wonder-wonderwoman if I had gone clubbing with a group of attractive young ladies like yourself.

    Sounds like you enjoyed yourself, and that’s good. Folks tend to love the heck out of our frontier atmosphere or hate it with a passion, very little in between.

    By the way, I will second your opinion of Declan Hughes. That guy was something. I spent nearly an hour with him getting coached on UK accents for the podcast versions of my novels. He practically made me want to move to Dublin and join his theatre troupe.

    Someday I’ll show up at something down there in the states, just gotta get one of those advances first. 😉

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