Murder and Mayhem in Chicago: Conference Co-Founders Lori Rader-Day and Dana Kaye Discuss Chicago’s Vibrant Crime Fiction Scene

We're thrilled to welcome Lori Rader-Day and Dana Kaye to CrimeHQ as they discuss the upcoming Murder and Mayhem in Chicago crime fiction conference. 

Lori Rader-Day: When you approached me about the idea of bringing Murder and Mayhem to Chicago, it seemed like such a natural fit. Chicago is such a rich crime fiction city, and yet there wasn’t an event like this in town. Chicago is such a writer’s city, I knew we’d have no shortage of speakers to invite.

Dana Kaye: Exactly! Chicago is so flush with crime fiction talent that hosting a crime fiction conference here seemed like a no-brainer. With veteran Chicago authors like Mary Kubica and Jamie Freveletti paired with new voices like Danny Gardner (A Negro and an Ofay) and Cheryl Reed (Poison Girls), we have a dynamic and diverse group of local authors. And, of course, we have Gillian Flynn whose novel Gone Girl must have hit every bestseller list imaginable.

While we have so many talented authors here, Chicago still seems to be the city that most publishers overlook, and I was hoping that this conference could help change that.

LRD: Right! As a publicist, you were thinking about Chicago as a destination city for authors touring to promote new books. In the planning stages, we were hoping we’d get a few visiting authors each year. This year, we have Jeffery Deaver and Michael Koryta coming to town, both terrific thriller writers. We also have Kristen Lepionka coming from Ohio—whose debut private eye novel, The Last Place You Look, is just terrific—and Isabella Maldonado (Phoenix BurningBlood’s Echo) coming from Arizona—a former police captain now writing crime novels. All we did was invite them!

DK: Being in the middle of the country has its advantages for touring authors; it’s easy to get to, fairly affordable, and there are plenty of dedicated readers. I know the road can be a lonely place for touring authors, which is why conferences like Murder and Mayhem are an attractive option. Authors can reach a wider audience, share the stage with like-minded authors, and have a chance to network with other people in the industry.

LRD: Chicago is also a reader’s city. If you look at how many independent bookstores we have in this town and surrounding areas, it’s a real embarrassment of riches. So many great stores, a wonderful library system, Printers Row Lit Fest every summer, and the citywide reading programs—I think it was obvious to both of us that we would be able to talk people into coming downtown for a day to connect with other readers because you and I are both readers first.

DK: Definitely! Since I read Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle in high school, I was hooked on Chicago novels and soon found Sandra Cisneros and Joe Meno. When I discovered my love of mysteries and thrillers, it led me to Sara Paretsky (who was a guest of honor at last year’s conference), Michael Harvey, Marcus Sakey, and Sean Chercover.

LRD: I’m sure you were about to mention me… I don’t remember the first Chicago-set book I read and loved. Maybe The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson? Or Native Son by Richard Wright? Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife did such a good job of using actual Chicago settings, and so did The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros. Aleksandar Hemon’s The Lazarus Project did the same thing with Chicago history—and it’s a murder mystery. Since I started meeting mystery writers, I love to discover new talents from the Midwest or writing about the Midwest. I’m a sucker for a small-town book, but I love books set in Chicago.

DK: And the best part is, there are new Chicago books coming out every year. I bet I could only read books set in Chicago and still have a towering TBR pile.

LRD: Who are we kidding? Our TBR piles would be towering no matter what. And we’ll find new reads at Murder and Mayhem in Chicago. It doesn’t matter how towering the TBR pile is.

Kaye Publicity owner Dana Kaye and award-winning crime fiction author Lori Rader-Day are the co-founders of the Murder and Mayhem conference in Chicago, which takes place Saturday, March 17, at Roosevelt University in downtown Chicago. You can find out more here:

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