Nosh and Swag from TNT’s Mystery Movie Night Author Panel

Thursday’s panel for TNT’s new Mystery Movie Night was a splashy event, and lots of fun for the attending crime fans like us, who got to hear from bestselling authors Scott Turow, Sandra Brown, Lisa Gardner, Richard North Patterson, April Smith, and Carol Higgins Clark, all of whom have novels being adapted for TNT’s new crop of TV crime movies. Actually, we even got backstage to the green room to accost meet with them while they were getting mic’d up. 

*Valuable lesson: If you’re planning on becoming a wildly successful female author who may appear at events with professional sound reinforcement, you’ve got to consider where they’ll have to attach the mic packs.  Most often to a bra strap, so if you’re in an uber-snug one-piece number without a back zipper, for example, getting the gear decorously attached under the garment might be awkward.  That did NOT happen to any of these authors, and that’s how you know they’re pros.  And further, they were so pleasant and poised that we were able to interview them while the techs worked their magic.

We’ll share more about what they actually said later, but now. . .

Inside the Times Center on 41st St.
Inside the Times Center on 41st St.

I’d never been to the relatively new Times Center building. The part I saw was a glass box with a very saffron interior.  I’ve heard it said that saffron is the most universally appealing color to the human eye, but that was by a priest who lives in yards of the stuff and he may have burned out his optical cones by now. Still, it made all the signage really stand out.

One of the bars for the TNT Mystery Movie Night Author Panel




We were all up on the Lido deck with loads of cocktail tables and a couple of bars set up for mingling before the event.  Unlike the hard-boozing journos of film noir, we were gunning liquified caffeine and sugar to stave off a screwed-up lunchtime. I did order extra limes, so they’d recognize I was a bon vivant.





These people are standing too close for their safety.

I have a friend who gets irate when characters don’t stop for meals through an entire novel, because she desperately wants to know what they’re eating, so here goes, Mary. Three words: Mashed. Potato. Tartlettes.

I did get to come off like a real journalist, I reckon, when converging upon the servers bearing hors d’oeuvre trays like a piranha on a drowning goat, leaving only scoured surfaces and stumps of fingers in my wake. Besides this balsamic-dressed prosciutto thing above, I really enjoyed the teeny shredded Caesar salad in puff pastry and a delicious warm flatbread with cauliflower in bechamel sauce.

He’d probably have preferred an even longer handle on his tray.
He’d probably have preferred an even longer handle on his tray.
This poor man serving blackened shrimp with a kind of remoulade was one of the most popular gents circulating.  He was forced to rebuff people (most politely) in order ever to get into the room proper.  People simply followed him, and when he came to a stop anywhere, he was cleaned out.

There was a happy hour I used to attend for dinner, during the break before class while I was going to college in Chicago.  At $3.50 for a well drink, with actual jumbo shrimp and mini-tacos on the buffet, it was unbeatable.  But you had to stay alert, because they’d only refill the shrimp 3 times during the hour, and if you were further than a foot away from the crushed ice bed when it landed, you’d be deked by the other cheapskates. Then, you (I) dined on defeat, hardening cheese cubes, and sagging celery. Ah, memories.

Before any such acrimony, the people arrived whom we were all actually there to see, though I could probably now accurately describe the shrimp guy for a police sketch artist.  I stopped stuffing s’mores the size of petits fours into my mouth, wiped my fingers on my pants, and got ready to ask questions I hoped they hadn’t answered fourteen times already.

Scott Turow, April Smith, Lisa Gardner, RIchard North Patterson, Sandra Brown, Carol Higgins Clark
From L to R: Scott Turow, April Smith, Lisa Gardner, RIchard North Patterson, Sandra Brown, Carol Higgins Clark

*Cue green room interloping. Once the bestsellers took the theater area’s stage, they were interviewed round-robin style by Tina Jordan, Book Editor of Entertainment Weekly.  It was a funny, collegial scene with plenty of lines worth stealing. (Don’t worry, we’ll shine them all up for presentation in future posts organized by movie and author.)

Sandra Brown author of Ricochet and Lisa Gardner author of HideThere were also mics set up for questions from the crowd. It was nice to hear people who were obviously tremendous fans of one or another of the authors get to tell them so and ask inside-baseball questions about their characters or series. 

There was discussion about writing in general and the challenges of adaptations.  All of the authors seemed pleased, if not downright tickled, with the casting of the major characters in their books.

Marcia Gay Harden introducing Scott Turow’s Innocent
Marcia Gay Harden introducing Scott Turow’s Innocent
After the author panel concluded, we got to see 20 minutes of the first movie to air 11/29, Innocent, based on the sequel to Presumed Innocent.  It’s fast-moving, and I would’ve stayed to watch as much as they’d have shown.  I bought in, even though, as we mentioned to Turow, all of this novel’s characters are at least a little rotten, and some are frankly Danish sewers.

Another treat was that the clip was introduced by Marcia Gay Harden, who stars as the wife of Judge Rusty Sabich (Bill Pullman) and the corpse in question.  Not only did she look glamorously alive, but in person, she has a voice like tawny silk.  Quite different from the brittle, tear-streaked half-harpie she gets to play in the film.

At the end of the preview, we all got to toddle home with Armchair Detective Kits which are really cute.  The cardboard boxes were printed to look like satchels,  and everything inside has an Evidence Tag laced to it.  Though probably only the Mary and Carol Higgins Clark novel is actually light-hearted in intent, the kit’s contents were all about curling up and getting cozy with crime, which so many of us love to do, however bleak and twisted the story we’re enjoying.  Here’s the haul, unpacked:

The contents of TNT Mystery Movie Night’s Armchair Detective Kit
The contents of TNT Mystery Movie Night’s Armchair Detective Kit

Up at the top is a fleece travel blanket that velcros into its own roll with handle. Because I’m a lunatic about coffee, the mug’s already been used.  Most of the objects had the logo and one or more fingerprints on them.  I wonder whether a real person, and whom, was the model for all these.  There’s also a serving of coffee, tea, and chocolate, plus a foam TV remote that’s like a squeeze or bath toy, a plastic magnifying glass, a magnificently soft crime-scene tape knitted scarf, and these. . .

. . .which you’ll have to pry off my cold, dead tootsies. 

We had a great time, and will have much more of substance (with much less self-absorbtion) about the novels, the authors, and each adaptation as the movies roll out over 4 weeks, starting November 29th. 

But I have to say to TNT, so far, so good, and send over more Nyquil cups of the spiced hot cocoa please.

Clare Toohey blogs here and at Women of Mystery. She recently had a surreal short story published in Murder New York Style: Fresh Slices. She’s obssesively interested in appetizers and fluffy items.


  1. Elyse Dinh-McCrillis

    All right, hand over that swag and no one gets hurt. I’ll
    wrestle you in Jell-O for those slippers.

    Thanks for covering the food. I was at an event once and the server begged me to clean out her tray since she was tired of carrying it. What choice did I have but to oblige?

  2. Terrie Farley Moran

    Fabulous details! I feel like I was there. (Maybe that was me trailing the man with the shrimp platter.) Thanks for letting us all in on the gala, and especially for the mention of Marcia Gay Harden–I’m a huge fan.

  3. Clare 2e

    PCN- You’re a trouper- I knew you’d never let down a sister with a heavy tray! I think I’ve decided every conference should have slippers with the swag. After all, at the end of those days, they’re what you need most.

    Terrie- I’ve seen a few famous actors in person, and I can’t decide whether it’s that I already like their faces and are therefore drawn to them, that I’m captivated by seeing the 2-D screen version in 3-D reality, or whether that having some kind of magnetism is simply part of how they get the gig. But she’s got It, and is a fantastic actress to boot.

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