Bouchercon: The Mystery of Conventions

Bouchercon St. Louis 2011
Bouchercon 2011 took place in St. Louis.
Yesterday, Clare Toohey posted about the Anthony Awards, which were definitely a highlight of Bouchercon.  But I thought those of you who weren’t there might like to know what this blogger learned by attending:

I met a lot of men who are deeply afraid of Christa Faust, and she likes it that way.

The St Louis arch would never be built today. Do we ever build anything anymore that is purely aesthetic? It serves no function, but it is great and has become such an icon of the city. I just don’t think that would happen any more.

The most articulate panel I saw all weekend  featured Gregg Hurwitz, Lisa Unger, and Linwood Barclay. They spoke succinctly and elegantly about writing, character, process and more. No rambling, no wild tangents. Panel perfection. I am, however, not entirely sure that the Men’s room was the proper place to tell Gregg that.

If you’re going to get sent out to find a local “hot spot” that ends up becoming a crazed journey into the wilds of Missouri that you fear you may not come back from, it is best to have good company like Lou Berney, Daniel Palmer, Simon Toyne, Keir Graff and Ryan David Jahn.

And along with that it is now the considered opinion of several writers that all cab drivers in St. Louis are insane. Look for books about a year from now to contain an inordinate number of wacky/creepy/psychotic cab drivers and know that all the stories are 100% true.

If you tell Duane Swierczynski to go to hell, he gives you a free book!

My sister is a sucker for authors on panels. If you entertain her in the slightest, she will buy your book. And somehow, all weekend, writers seemed to love her. Hmmmmm.

I’m going to say the writer other writers geek on on most is Daniel Woodrell.

This time around there was mercifully little talk of the ebook apocalypse.

Meeting people you only know from online in the actual 3-D flesh is a little weird sometimes.

I think name tags are just a great thing to have in life. No more forgetting someone’s name! We need to make this happen.

As much as you want to mock the people with giant rolling crates of books on day one, by day three you wish you had one instead of twin book bags permanently crippling your spine and shoulders.

My habit of buying old pulp novels from the 40s and 50s based solely on the cover art can be a hit or miss proposition.

Max Allan Collins looks much too young for the number of books he’s written. And he can hang with the cool kids like the best of ’em. Plus, one lady said he looks like Elton John.

The Cruizin band with Max Allan Collins on keyboards and Joelle Charbonneau singing
Max Allan Collins (Elton John?) on keyboards, Joelle Charbonneau singing—it’s Cruizin’!

It is a long tradition of learning that crime writers are so gentle and kind considering the things they wrote about. Frank Bill sets a new standard in disparity between his page persona to his real one. Humble, shy, quiet and gracious vs. Brutal, nasty, ugly and vulgar. Guess which is which.

Fear not for the future of crime writing. There is a new crop of writers coming up that will keep you turning pages for years. these guys and gals are going to amaze you. Watch the short story anthologies and see what I mean. Crime Factory: The First Shift and St. Louis’ own Noir at the Bar anthology come to mind as well as the crazy and cracked D*cked.

The two people I wish could read every audio book in the world are Megan Abbott and Gary Phillips. I also kind of think they should star in their own buddy cop movie. Seriously, Gary looks like he could eat Megan for breakfast but you know in the film she would be the one kicking ass and taking names.

(L to R) Sean Chercover, Sara Paretsky, Cara Black
Bowling with the crime writers: (L to R) Sean Chercover, Sara Paretsky, Cara Black
When you stop and really look at how many books some of the pros have written – people like the honorees John Lutz, Sara Paretsky and guys like Robert Randisi, Max Allan Collins – it really is a towering achievement.

There is no bad time to stop and author and ask them to sign your book. Don’t be shy. *see my interaction with Gregg Hurwtiz above for the one exception.

I  always prefer a slightly tongue-in-cheek blurb to a cliched one. If it’s on the book, I already know you liked it. Have fun with them.

The Anthony  awards remind me of the Grammys because I look at the list of nominees and think “didn’t that come out two years ago?”

When you’ve been away from your kids for four days even a crying a baby on the plane can make you a little homesick.

St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake
St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake—one of the good things that happens in the bar.
Comedian Dave Attell pointed this out first but it is so true: no matter how late you stay in the hotel bar, the next day you find out all the best stuff happened right after you  left.

You tend to learn strange things from hanging out with crime writers. I know much more now than I did before about “Furries”. (Google it—if you dare!)

It’s not news but the key to a good panel is a good moderator. How many times were you stuck in a room and feeling jealous when the room next door was erupting in laughter?

I’m sure I’ll think of many more lessons learned in the next few days, but for now, it is time to catch up on sleep. I had a great conference. The event was incredibly well run, St. Louis is a beautiful city. And congratulations to all the Anthony Award winners!

Eric Beetner is an ex-musician, one time film director, and a working television editor and producer, as well as author (with JB Kohl) of the novels One Too Many Blows To The Head and Borrowed Trouble. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, two daughters, and one really great dog. His upcoming novella Dig Two Graves will be out later this summer, along with short stories in the anthologies Pulp InkD*cked, and Grimm Tales.


  1. Mike Dennis

    Good post, Eric. I would have to wholeheartedly agree about Daniel Woodrell. I saw him on two panels and it was great to link his face and persona to Winter’s Bone.

    I also agree that the arch could not be built today. Too much interference from government regulations, especially OSHA. Ditto, the Empire State Building, Hoover Dam, and the Golden Gate Bridge.

    And yes, I was stuck in not one, but two panels, listening to one wave of stomach-clutching laughter after another emanating from the next room. Meanwhile, the panelists I was listening to were dryly reciting principles or something, I don’t know, as I dreamed of being next door.

    Unfortunately, I found St Louis to be cold, dreary, and not aging well. It’s inconceivable to me that anyone, anywhere, would come home one day and say, “Honey, let’s move to St Louis. It’s such a great city!”

    But Bouchercon was terrific, as usual. See you in Cleveland. Or Left Coast Crime before that.

  2. Neliza Drew

    I learned that there are way too many fun and awesome things happening at once. The bag of books should also come with a time machine.
    I think the biggest obstacle to something like the Arch is that we don’t seem to have any civic or national pride anymore. It’s all corporate this and profit that. I suppose if Coach wanted to build s massive C somewhere, all thsoe people with the logo purses would support the idea.

Comments are closed.