Barb and I are freshly back from the Bouchercon in Cleveland. As you may know, neither BYE BYE, BABY nor QUARRY’S EX received a Shamus award (there are no sadder words than those seen all around the net today about those two novels: “Also nominated were”). But to my astonishment, the Private Eye Writers of America presented me with The Hammer, the award honoring a private eye character who has had a long, influential run. Here’s the official language:
It was presented by my pal John Lutz, whose introductory speech was generous and gracious. Coming from a writer of John’s talent and standing made this surprise an even bigger treat. I frankly thought when John was called to the podium for the Hammer presentation that he was winning the award for his great Nudger character, until he began talking about the detective being honored in terms of Chicago, Capone and having bedded both Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield.
L to R: MAC, John Lutz
Incidentally, I believe John was on the committee that gave TRUE DETECTIVE the Shamus for Best Novel in 1984.
This was part of a delightful evening on the Nautica Queen (in the rain on rolling waters), where Barb and I (and cohort Matthew Clemens) hobnobbed with tons of writers and editors and assorted publishing folk, including (but not at all limited to) agent Dominick Abel, writer John Gilstrap, writer/editor Joe Pittman (who with Michaela Hamilton, also present, edited the Penguin run of Nate Heller), EQMM editor Janet Hutchings, Sara Paretsky, Parnell Hall, and so, so many more. The grand bash was thrown by PWA founder Bob Randisi, and beautifully organized by his significant other, Christine Matthews.
Bouchercon itself was fine, if not one of the best of these events. The dealer’s room was small, there were some unfortunate screw-ups (double-booking the ballroom where Kensington’s party was to be held), and I personally wasn’t crazy about some of the panel topics. My personal gripe was that I was in Cleveland but was not put on a panel to discuss local hero Eliot Ness (who appears in the graphic novel ROAD TO PERDITION, about half of the Heller novels, who I write about in his own Cleveland-centric series, and have done an Edgar-nominated play and award-winning film about). All writers have such bitches, but I think mine just might have some validity.
The panel I did appear on was fun but odd, because none of us participating cared much for the topic – MANFICTION. Even the Jon Lovitz-like moderator Andrew Gulli (STRAND editor) disavowed it, about two-thirds through. The discussion primarily focused on thrillers, and the need not to write just for men, but for human beings, which includes women. I thought Barb’s panel, on MYSTERY MATURES (older sleuths – like Mother in the ANTIQUES novels) was much better. Barb was the moderator and the panelists were a varied but articulate and humorous group – Barb did a fantastic job, very funny and deft, and you came away wanting to buy every panelist’s book. That’s the perfect panel.
The biggest disappointment for me was not at all the con’s fault. So many of my friends were not there. Some of the familiar faces that were M.I.A. (another list that could be much longer) were Charles Ardai, Bill and Judy Crider, Gary Phillips, Jeff Pierce and Jon and Ruth Jordan. Without those folks, it just wasn’t exactly Bouchercon for me. But I did get to touch bases with writer Mike Dennis, the legendary Otto Penzler (key in getting Mike Hammer back into print), and writer Dave Zeltzerman, founder of the Top Suspense Group. Again, that’s a short list – I could add Ted Hertel, George Easter, Ted Fitzgerald, Ali Karim and on and on.
Also, the opening night (hosted by Thomas & Mercer) was at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, where I saw such dizzying artifacts as the electric piano Zombie keyboardist Rod Argent used on “She’s Not There,” a guitar on which Bobby Darin composed songs, the Vox Continental used by Ray Manzarek on “Light My Fire,” and the silver-gray mod suits worn by the Beatles. Barb took pics of Stevie Nicks’ various dresses and almost got us kicked out.
On a further positive note, Barb and I (and also Matt and I) had business breakfasts and assorted meetings with editors from Thomas & Mercer and Kensington and more, and for all the doom and gloom preached about current publishing, things look bright for MAC, Barbara Allan, and the Collins/Clemens team.