(Thanks to everyone for sharing photos, especially Clark Lohr!)
When Left Coast Crime attendees first arrived at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort in Colorado Springs, Colorado, they were greeted with blue skies and warm weather.
By the time the weekend was over, snow blanketed the resort and the temperature dipped past freezing, sending writers and readers into tight circles throughout the hotel and almost thwarting the appearance of actor Lou Diamond Phillips, who was scheduled to interview Guest of Honor Craig Johnson.
In comparison to other conventions in the past, the gathering was more intimate. Writers seemed to outnumber people who were exclusively readers. The multiple track of panels were diverse and populated by authors and industry leaders, allowing attendees interested in any aspect of writing and publishing to learn from the best. The issue of self-publishing was heatedly discussed and sometimes emotionally advocated in informal settings, but in terms of the program, there was little differentiation between panelists regarding what publishing route they had chosen.
A couple of panels hit the seismic shifts in publishing straight on. One of them, “2020 Foresight: The Future of Publishing,” featured Terri Bischoff, editor at mid-sized publisher Midnight Ink; Stacey Cochran, co-chair of Bouchercon 2015 in Raleigh, North Carolina; futurist David Hansard; and Amazon’s Thomas & Mercer author John Rector. Effectively moderated by Donus Roberts, an award-winning debate coach, the panel didn’t come to any consensus, other than traditional publishing is broken – whether it be because of its return policy on print books or perceived inadequate digital compensation for authors. Regarding ebooks, attendees seemed to be concerned with consolidation of formats, discoverability, piracy, and how independent bookstores can get more involved in digital sales.
Providing a longer view of publishing was Tom Schantz, Fan Guest of Honor. Schantz and his late wife Enid launched what may be the first mystery bookstore, which eventually became The Rue Morgue in Boulder, Colorado. Interviewed by author Margaret Coel, Schantz explained how mystery novels had been dominated by women before World War II, but with the return of soldiers, who had been steeped in reading during their assignments overseas, more hard-boiled and male-dominated novels became the rage. The McCarthyism then had an adverse effect on the genre, as Schantz maintained, literature needs to be supported by a “free society.” What does he foresee in the near future? The demise of the mass-market paperback and the return of the traditional mystery.
Guest of Honor Laura Lippman, recovering from a cold, spoke from the heart about topics ranging from motherhood to the haunting legacy of slavery to her love for online shopping. A movie adaptation of Lippman’s novel Every Secret Thing, starring Dakota Fanning, Elizabeth Banks and Diane Lane, has started filming with documentary filmmaker Amy Berg (West of Memphis) directing.
The “fireside chats” which ran throughout the conference put authors in a room with twenty or fewer attendees to provide readings and answer questions one-on-one in a setting more intimate than a conference normally allows.
Other highlights included “Does This Shoulder Holster Make Me Look Fat?,” a concealed weapons fashion show sponsored by the Rocky Mountain chapter of the Mystery Writers of America and organized by member Ellen Byerrum, author of the Crime of Fashion mystery series. Models included Troubador Parnell Hall, Rhys Bowen, Brad Parks, Donna Andrews, John Gilstrap, and newlyweds Twist Phelan and Jack Chapple, who had tied the knot in Denver on the Wednesday before the convention with Jan Burke officiating!
As the conference progressed, the worsening weather (and possibility that many might be stranded at the resort) provided an appropriately Agatha Christie-esque atmosphere for a crime conference. The evening of the awards banquet brought snow, but didn’t put a damper on the activities. Toastmaster David Corbett warmed the room with laughter, assisted by auctioneer Robert Spiller.
Lou Diamond Phillips (aka Henry Standing Bear in A&E’s Longmire) arrived just in time to assist in auctioning off a collection of Craig Johnson’s short stories and give Laura Lippman a big hug, to the delight of the audience. Everyone couldn’t help but feel the presence of Ghost of Honor Stephen J. Cannell, and Enid Schantz who was so lovingly remembered when Tom addressed the audience as Fan Guest of Honor.
Ending the evening on a celebratory note, Catriona McPherson received the Bruce Alexander Memorial Historical Mystery Award for Dandy Gilver and an Unsuitable Day for a Murder. Rochelle Staab got The Watson (for best sidekick) for Bruja Brouhaha. Craig Johnson won The Rocky (best mystery set in the LCC geographical region), and Brad Parks was awarded The Lefty (best humorous mystery) for The Girl Next Door. Parks’ acceptance speech included a serenade for Laura Lippman.
The lack of compliance from the weather seemed to only to elevate both camaraderie and hilarity at the beautiful resort. Authors and fans alike came away with new ideas, new plots, new friends, and most importantly, new books for their TBR pile. LCC 2013 co-chairs Christine Goff and Suzanne Proulx are to be congratulated for a job well done. See you all in Monterey, California next year!
Naomi Hirahara is the Edgar Award-winning author of the Mas Arai mystery series; the fifth, Strawberry Yellow, was released in March, 2013.