INDY Loser’s Circle

October 20th, 2009 by Max Allan Collins

M.A.C. @ Bouchercon '09
Max signing at Bouchercon ’09
Photo courtesy Mark Coggins

Yes, a perfect score at the Bouchercon — three nominations, three losses. I won’t tell you who beat me, because I only remember in one case. My attitude toward awards in general is a peculiar mix of not giving a damn and wanting to win, and some awards seem to me more valid and important than others.

For example, the Private Eye Writers of America’s Shamus is meaningful because writers decide, that is committees who look at stacks of material and single out a small group of their peers to recognize. But the Anthony is a popularity contest at Bouchercon, allowing attendees to vote when many (if not most) of them haven’t read the books or short stories in question.

Nonetheless, honors are nice, and I managed to attend all three awards events, although Barb went only to the Shamuses.

That event was pretty terrific, at a blues club called the Slippery Noodle, with Bob Randisi interacting with a local blues duo and presenting the awards in a fun way. I surprised him with the Eye, the PWA’s life achievement award, which a group of ex-presidents cooked up behind his back, aided and abetted by Christine Matthews. Bob has done a great deal for the P.I. genre, but his own first-rate body of work tends to get overshadowed by his creation of the PWA and the Shamus awards, and we tried to rectify that. My nomination was the Nate Heller short story (pubbed in EQMM) “The Blonde Tigress.”

The con itself was well-run with a lot going on. I was on two panels and both went very well. One was on continuing other people’s work (well-chaired by Bond author Raymond Benson) and drew a nice crowd despite being early Thursday afternoon. On Friday we did a panel on the Private Eye in the last four decades, with authors representing the decade in which they first published a P.I. story (I was the ‘80s for Heller). This Randisi production was a smash, with a modest-sized room overflowing and revealing the healthy fan interest in private eyes. Both panels received high marks, and I got positive comments about them throughout the con.

One of the topics on the P.I. panel was how we’d been influenced by incoming authors and trends/changes in the genre. One aspect, for example, was Robert B. Parker’s use of a psycho sidekick (Hawk) for his private eye (Spenser), and how that became a standard convention for writers who followed him (Mosley, Crais, etc.) S.J. Rozan agreed with me that this was a cop-out, and I made the point that my protagonists do their own psychotic dirty work. But what I realized (but did not get around to mentioning on the panel) was that I have not been influenced by anybody in the genre since around 1970. I never thought of sidekicks as a trend, just something Parker came up with that a bunch of other writers imitated. The last crime writer to influence me in a major way was Richard Stark, who I discovered in 1967. It seems odd to me (and this was pointed out on the panel) that some of the newer writers have read Dennis Lahane and other contemporary PI writers, but not Hammett, Chandler, Spillane and Ross MacDonald.

My two signings, after the panels, were hugely well-attended, which is very gratifying when the only lines that compare are for guys like Michael Connelly (the guest of honor) and a handful of women writers.

We saw many friends, including John and Barbara Lutz, Bill Crider, Donald Bain, the Crimespree Jordans, Harlan Coben, Gary Phillips, Christine Matthews, Sara Paretsky, Otto Penzler, and so many more. Some meetings with friends were of the ships-passing-in-the-night variety, others were meetings and/or luncheons. Agent Dominick Abel threw a great evening dinner party at a funky Italian restaurant, for example, and we had another Italian lunch with uber-fan Brad Schwartz and his dad. Matt Clemens and I had a delightful meeting with our Kensington editor, Michaela Hamilton, wherein the three of us brainstormed our way into the second J.C. Harrow novel (the first, You Can’t Stop Me, comes out in March). Barb and I sat with the editors of EQMM and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine at the Shamus dinner, and hobnobbed with Penguin editors at their cocktail party. Business and fun blends in a very cool way at a Bouchercon.

The only bad thing was the Hyatt hotel’s geography — the con in this rather sterile, cold-looking hotel was spread out over four floors, and you never felt like you’d seen everybody — and you hadn’t. My Vertigo/DC editor, Will Dennis, was there, for example, and we never connected.

On the long car trip from Iowa to Indiana, Barb and I had a chance to listen to an advance pressing of The New Adventures of Mike Hammer, Vol. 2: The Little Death with Stacy Keach as Mike Hammer, a full-cast original audio novel for Blackstone (December) that I wrote based on a Mickey Spillane short story. With no modesty whatsoever, I will tell you that it is great — hugely entertaining for both casual and hardcore Hammer fans. And Keach is wonderful.

Lots of interest in Quarry at the con, but also nice comments about two series that are either over or an hiatuses: the Criminal Minds books and the Jack and Maggie Starr “comics” mysteries. Most of all, Barb and I encountered “Barbara Allan” fans who were glad to hear about the new one, Antiques Bizarre, coming out next Spring. We gave away copies of the first book, Antiques Roadkill, at the big book bazaar Sunday morning, an experiment to get readers reading series and authors they hadn’t before sampled. Something of a mad house, but an interesting idea not quite run amok.

Next year it’s San Francisco, and the year after St. Louis.

Last but not least, on a non-Bouchercon note, here is another great Quarry in the Middle review, this time from my pal Ed Gorman.


Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

3 Responses to “INDY Loser’s Circle”

  1. Dana King says:

    I was at Bob Randisi’s Pi panel; it was one of my Top Five events at the conference. Your comments were relevant on a couple of levels, as you had not only your own experience to draw, but the time you’ve spent with Mickey Spillane. That’s a panle I wish had been videotaped.

    Thanks for taking the time to chat after I accosted you on Sunday morning at the Book Bazaar. (I was the large, bearded fellow.) This blog will make it easier for me to keep up with your work, and is much appreciated.

  2. Thanks for the kind words. That panel was a good one, and one of the few I wish had gone on longer.

    Large bearded guys who accost me frequently get my attention.

  3. Brian_Drake says:

    Don’t worry about the missed awards. Only your “customers” matter.

    I hear next year’s Bouchercon will be in San Francisco, a stone’s throw from where I live, so I plan on attending; if you’re there, perhaps both myself and our large beaded friend will accost you. :)