Fun at Bouchercon 41

This column will not contain any political commentary and, instead, will be about a fan’s reaction to attending Bouchercon 41 in San Francisco Oct. 14 to 17, which is the annual convention for mystery writers and fans and is named after William Anthony Parker White (AKA Anthony Boucher) who was a pioneer in the fields of both writing hard-boiled fiction and reviewing mystery novels.

The annual event is held in a different city each year and the selection of San Francisco as this year’s host city was appropriate because “Baghdad by the Bay” has a rich history for fans of detective novels starting with the fact that both Daschiel Hammett and his PI (Private Investigator) Sam Spade worked in the northern California city that is located at the Southern end of the Golden Gate Bridge. 

A large subgenre of detective novels features an amateur sleuth who works full time and solves mysteries on a part time basis.  The day job background is an amazing smorgasbord of fascinating jobs, which often reflect the novelist’s past work history.  While at the Bouchercon we learned of novels featuring a detective who is a geologist (Susan Cummins Miller), a scrap booker (Joanna Campbell Slan), a travel writer (Hilary Davidson), and a former nun (Alice Loweecey).

Many police procedurals are written by former cops.  A sizable number of lawyers have decided to augment their retirement fund by writing fictional crime novels base upon their real life experiences.

This columnist noticed a woman in a very conspicuous hat and asked her:  “Are you Miss Marple?”  It turned out she was Jeanne M. Dams whose next book will be titled:  “It Was a Dark and Stormy Night.”  When she said she wanted to write a Tea-cozy thriller novel, we blurted out a concept for a plot that her phrase conjured up.  She said it had merit and would take the suggestion under advisement.

We encountered four folks who were part of the staff of the Mystery Book Store in the Westwood section of Los Angeles, which has been a personal favorite of ours since before they moved to that particular section of town.  We learned from one of them that the Los Angeles Times’ Festival of Books which has been held annually at UCLA will be held in 2011 on the campus of the Bruin’s cross town rivals at USC.

We have been a fan of Doug Lyle’s non-fiction books about forensics and chatted with him several times during the SF event.  We intend to conduct an investigation into his new series of fictional adventures by a sleuth who is well versed in forensics.

It was at the aforementioned L. A. book store that we became aware of the novels of Tim Dorsey, who writes about criminals living in Florida, and so we were delighted to find a copy of Electric Barracuda in the goodie bag.

Lee Child was honored at Bouchercon 41 for Distinguished Contributions to the Genre.  Now we are going to add his novels about the knight errant named Jack Reacher to our “Must Read” list.  He was born in Great Britain but has become sufficiently Americanized to predict that the World Series will be a match-up between the Yankees and the Giants.  Although he himself is a Red Sox fan.

Rebecca Cantrell writes mysteries set in Hitler era Berlin (she knew about the evening TV newscasts during the Third Reich period) and so we will want to read all her novels.

Cara Black lives in San Francisco but her crime novels are based in Paris and so we put all her books on our literary “to do” list.

James R. Benn writes mysteries featuring a soldier in World War II and since one of our personal obsessions is life in occupied Paris, we’ll have to take a test drive (read) in one of his novels.

For a variety of reasons (to be elaborated in a future column about some news from the Maynard Institute), this columnist has become interested in the topic of prisoners who are innocent of the crimes that caused their arrest and so we spoke with Laura Caldwell, who took up the cause of a fellow who spent 5 years in a Cook County (Chicago) holding cell without a trial. She and others proved him innocent.  That inspired her book Long Way Home.

A segment of the mystery genre is occupied by former newspaper reporters who use the legends and lore they picked up on their beats to add authenticity to their tales of crime.  A smaller number are veterans from the wire services.  We were surprised (and showing our age) to learn from a former AP employee that AP is no longer Headquartered at 50 Rock.  Time marches on!

What political pundit wouldn’t be proud to boast that he (or she) had attended Nancy Drew’s 80th birthday party?

The titles for the Bouchercon 41 panel discussions were a bit baffling until it was revealed that they were titles of episodes from the TV series Streets of San Francisco.

An odd tidbit of information, for this columnist, is that a reference to a personal TV series favorite, San Francisco Beat, was not heard once during the weekend event.  Then again, neither was Paladin.

San Francisco was touted as leading the nation in two categories:  the number per capita of Independent book stores and the per capita number of barrooms.

Due to a clerical error on the columnist’s part, we botched the chance to meet and talk to Kelli Stanley about her novel City Dragons, which is about events in San Francisco’s Chinatown, during the 1940’s. 

The 2011 Bouchercon will be held in St. Louis and it will be held September 15 to 18.  The following year it moves to Cleveland followed by Albany New York in 2013, and then Long Beach in 2014.

There were folks at Bouchercon 41 promoting the Ninth Annual San Francisco Film Noir Festival (AKA Noir City), which begins January 21, 2011, but the list of films to be shown has not been announced yet.

Mystery fans and columnists had to contend with a tsunami of information and so any write-up (such as this column) will have to be subjective, random, and capricious in nature and thus be a disservice to the many deserving authors who didn’t get a plug.  (Sorry!)  Such a column will, however, be a way to set out some Google bait which will cause a great number of mystery writers to find this particular web site. 

There is enough information about crime fiction set in San Francisco to fill a book, which is precisely the reason why the book titled Golden Gate Mysteries is being published by the University of California at Berkeley.

The 125 Anniversary edition of Bartlett’s saw fit to include this quote from Dashiell Hammett’s hard-boiled classic, The Maltese Falcon:  “That’s the part of it I [Sam Spade] always liked.  He [Flitcraft] adjusted himself to beams falling, and then no more of them fell, and he adjusted himself to their not falling.”

Now the disk jockey will play the soundtrack albums from the movies:  Bullitt, Vertigo, and Dirty Harry.  We have to go to the Berkeley Public Library and start whittling down our now gigantic sized “must read” list.  Have a “Go Giants!” type week.  Hope over to our photo blog “floppyphotos” also on wordpress, for photo coverage of the SF event.

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