Two good friends lured and cajoled me into going to Bouchercon this year. Sabrina Ogden of My Friends Call Me Kate, and Josh Stallings, author of the Mo McGuire series. I met a lot of great people there, but I want to thank Josh for sharing his room and Sabrina for kicking me in the butt. It was a great time. Writers and readers of crime and mystery fiction, this is your Disney World.
|The awesome Sabrina Ogden and my brother from another mother, Josh Stallings.|
I solidified friendships I made online, and made some new ones. I apologize, I’m not much of a photo snapper. I prefer chit chat, and don’t need to immortalize it with a picture. I met a lot of people, and everyone from regular folks to icons in the fiction world such as Harlan Coben and Daniel Woodrell were friendly and made time to talk with a total stranger. I shook Mr. Coben’s hand after losing a charity auction to him. If I had to lose, I’m glad it was to a fellow Jersey boy, and the writer of Tell No One, still one of the best thrillers I’ve ever read.
I met a whole lot of people in various states of sleep deprivation and Guinness-infused excitement, so forgive me if I forget your names. It is not intentional. I flew in on three hours sleep and it took a few pints of liquid courage to approach my heroes, and the downside of that fortitude boost is the dilution of memory. Neliza Drew and Leah rounded out Sabrina’s posse and made fine company. We made a trip to the St. Louis Arch with Josh, and it felt like I was on a walk with an old friend as Josh and I shot the shit, and smelled a lot of it from horse and carriages, and port-a-potties burned to ashes.
The con was a blur. I saw panels with Hilary Davidson, whose infectious enthusiasm was a shot of much-needed espresso. She won best first novel in the Crimespree awards, a much deserved win for The Damage Done. I briefly met Megan Abbott, author of The End of Everything, and was tickled when she tweeted that she was sorry we didn’t get to talk more. If you haven’t read her work, pick up the L.A. Noire e-book; she has the first story and it will knock you for a loop. Noir at its finest, among a collection of heavyweights, including Duane Swierczynski, who I told to go to hell. His novel Fun & Games, a wild pulp ride through Hollywood conspiracies, won novel of the year. Read it before they make it a movie with Tom Cruise as Charlie Hardy! It’s a blast.
|Jimmy Callaway and Glenn Gray. The deal goes down.|
There was a rotating gang of kick-ass writers who strode from Irish pub to BBQ joint to Louisiana style raw bar. Joe Myers, Ron Earl Phillips, Keith Rawson, Kent Gowran, Glenn G. Gray, Frank Bill, Eric Beetner, Chris F. Holm, Johnny Shaw, Matt C. Funk, Daniel B. O’Shea, Chad Rohrbacher, Patti Abbott, Peter Andrew Leonard, Jimmy Callaway, Peter Farris, Cameron Ashley… the faces flash through my head like I ran the gauntlet at initiation, but instead of hooks and kidney punches I was pounded with enjoyable banter and good cheer.
I saved John Connolly from a crazed fan-girl with a phone camera. I accosted Jason Pinter. I escorted Christa Faust to the ballroom, where Max Allan Collins played rock ‘n roll. And I learned the extent of Joelle Charbonneau’s grace when I bumbled through introductions, and she kindly spoke with the strange man she only knew from Twitter. I met Daniel Woodrell and Scott Phillips, and debated the high and low points of the film ouerve of Dolph Lundgren long into the evening with Johnny Shaw and Christa Faust. Christa and I ended up talking every time we met. I’m reading her novel Choke Hold right now, and if you want a pulp noir trip through the dirty truth of Mixed Martial Arts, from underground fights to the pros, given by a sharp tour guide… look no further. It’s the real deal and I’m plowing through it faster than one of Angel Dare’s former colleagues would during the final scenes of her movies.
|Kick-Ass Christa Faust and my stoic demeanor.|
Panels and panels upon panels. Entertaining and educational. Found some new-to-me authors to read like Tom Schreck, a boxer who writes the Duffy Donbrowski series. Those sound right up my alley. I grabbed a copy of Crimespree #43, with the beautiful and talented Sara Gran on the cover, and my story “Rain Dog.” I felt like a knight among royalty. Glenn Gray talked about a Noir at the Bar New York, something long overdue that I will gladly assist in any way, if help is needed.
|Yes that is a big red salami and it felt good in my mouth.|
I had the best ribs I’ve ever tasted at Pappy’s Smokehouse. Tender, fall off the bone but still meaty. The best sweet potato fries, too. A little brown sugar and they were heaven. A group of us led by Matt Funk descended on the place like cannibals and commandeered two picnic tables, groaning in gastronomic delight as we gnawed short pig.
But all such Saturnalia must come to an end. I shuffled to the Metro with my bag heavy with books. Treasuring most the copy of Out There Bad that Josh inscribed to me, a book daring enough to grab you by the scruff of the neck and show you the ugliness we ignore every day. A book I’d be proud to write as my last, and it’s his second. Thanks again for everything, Josh. Most of all your friendship.
But honestly, thanks to everybody. It’s refreshing to go to a gathering of writers where the egos are checked at the door. Where you don’t just rub elbows with the legends but clink beer mugs and share stories. I know I missed meeting a lot of people- Brad Parks, fellow Nutley denizen who asked me to smuggle a Jersey pizza. Well Brad, next time you return to Nutley a Michael’s margerita pie is on me. I missed noir poet Gerald So, who just started the crime poetry site the 5-2. He’s doing new things with the genre, check him out. Todd Ritter, so many others. And because of my refusal to wear glasses and the small surnames on the name tags, I’m sure a lot of people saw a big hairy ape squinting at them and thought who the hell is this guy and do I still have my wallet?
Thanks especially to the Crimespree crew for running an amazing convention, and for choosing to publish my story “Rain Dog.”
© 2011 Thomas Pluck