ThrillerFest’s CraftFest: Day One

There are many mystery conventions, but only one ThrillerFest. The first was held in Phoenix, Arizona in 2006, when the International Thriller Writers was founded by David Morrell (author of First Blood and many others) and Gayle Lynds (The Last Spymaster and more). It got big quick, and moved to New York City, where every July, thriller writers from masters such as Lee Child and Karin Slaughter, to newer novelists like Barry Lancet and Jenny Milchman meet at the Grand Hyatt for two high-octane days of panels, parties, and camaraderie.

The pre-game is CraftFest, where thriller masters such as David Morrell, and agents like Donald Maass (also an author) host panels on the craft. This is separate from ThrillerFest, which kicks off with a party on Thursday night and runs to the Thriller Awards banquet on Saturday. But there’s a lot here for writers of all experience. David Morrell is a Ph.D. in American Literature and his panel on Point of View began with pioneers such as Henry James and led to masterful use of the unreliable narrator by Gillian Flynn in Gone Girl. Donald Maass dissected the “thrill” and how exactly a story keeps readers riveted.

Day One was just getting started; writers flowed in by the elevator banks, from locals like Terrence McCauley (Sympathy for the Devil) to authors who flew all the way from Japan, like Barry Lancet (author of Japantown and Tokyo Kill). Barry is a three-year veteran of the event and gave me the lowdown. ThrillerFest is more of a writer’s convention, when compared to BoucherCon, which has more for pure readers, but the hardcore thriller fans know where to go for their fix: ThrillerFest. It’s a friendly, casual gathering, perhaps moreso because of the blazing New York heat, where wearing a suit (like I did) was not the best idea. The bar action was limited on Day One, but I’m told things kick up Thursday night. So far the biggest thrill is guessing (or inventing) how Executive Director Kimberley Howe got her arm in a sling…is she concealing a doomsday weapon or convalescing from disposing of a thug with an elbow strike?

Stay tuned to find out!

Thomas Pluck writes unflinching fiction with heart. He hosts Noir at the Bar in Manhattan. You can find him online at and on Twitter as @thomaspluck.

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