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Bouchercon Bullet Points

Friday, October 30, 2009

As I was driving home yesterday I saw this posted on the marquee of a bar not far from where I work: "Adventure is really just poor planning." And I have to say that the Indianapolis Bouchercon is a great example of this, because I had no plan whatsoever but managed to fall ass over backwards into a good time at every turn. To wit:

  • The "Behind the Black Mask" wrap party. I was standing in the hotel bar talking to Duane Swierczynski when a man I didn't recognize came up and said, "We're going, Duane, if you want to come along." Turns out this was Shannon Clute, who ran the Behind the Black Mask podcast with Richard Edwards. I managed to get myself invited along, and we were off to the Dorman Street Saloon - which was once a hangout of John Dillinger's - in a 1936 Cadillac.

    Clute and Edwards had invited many of the past guests from their now sadly defunct show, so I got to hang out with Duane, Megan Abbott, Reed Coleman, Christa Faust, Seth Harwood (another podcasting hero), and others too numerous too mention.

    It's clear that Shannon and Richard are passionate about what they do - I had an especially spirited conversation with Richard - and they were great hosts, as well.

    I was already getting well into "I love you man!" territory when I discovered that the bar had Shiner Bock. Along with a few helpers, we managed to drink every bottle they had in the cooler.

    Me and Richard Edwards

    Seth Harwood and Me
    Photos by Mark Coggins

    So I got back to my hotel room a little after midnight and fell asleep flat on my back, which I never do. A few more drinks and I would be the crime fiction Keith Moon. It would have been kind of cool to be a legend, but since I wouldn't have been around to see it, I'm glad I, ahem, passed.

    Postscript: I got up the next morning to see an early panel, and grabbed a dress shirt and pair of slacks out of the closet. I felt like snail snot but I looked halfway respectable. Then, at the elevator, I ran into Duane. Who was still in his pajamas.
  • Crashing the Little, Brown dinner. So I spent the next day doing typical convention days, including meeting people I'd only corresponded with (Jim Winter, Bryon Quertermous - BTW, it's pronounced QueTERmous, people!), casing the dealer room, etc. Speaking of which, some of those dealers have more faith in humanity than I do. Example: I saw a $3000 first edition Chandler just sitting on a shelf. For anyone to take. Although it apparently requires more guts than I've got.

    Moving on... So that evening I ended up running into Neil Smith and the Crimedog crew right around dinner time - secretly my plan all along - and we went across the street to a restaurant called the Weber Grill. There was a long wait for a table, so we stood around by the hostess station for a while, until someone said, "Hey, isn't that..." And it was (Blake Crouch, I think), coming out of a private room. And that's how we got invited to crash the Little, Brown party.

    I got to talk to a couple of people from Booklist, Keir Graff and Bill Ott, who were very interesting people. Bill agreed with my choice of best George Pelecanos novels, which told me he was a man of great taste and acumen. And I got to meet YouTube sensation John Green, the Nerdfighter himself, who looks and acts just like he does on the Internet.

    Much to my chagrin I didn't realize that Michael Connelly was in the other corner holding forth until he was actually leaving. I did have a swell view of his back, though.
  • Basketball. On Saturday I went with a group to play in SJ Rozan's annual Bouchercon basketball game, this year at the Atheneum. Supposedly Kurt Vonnegurt played in the gym there as a child, and I believe this to be true, because his ghost was still around and pushed many of my shots wide of the basket.

    We played with a lot of enthusiasm, and somewhat less skill, although Parnell Hall surprised me with his one-legged jump shot which was pretty reliable. Jason Pinter turned out to be a banger, who once sent his own teammate crashing into the wall. But he was okay, and Jason was assessed a two minute minor for boarding.

    And then there's Reed Coleman. Before you pass Reed the ball, you'd better make sure you're finished with it for a while, because you won't be seeing it again. I don't want to say he's a gunner, but every time he touched the ball it was like the last 10 minutes of Saving Private Ryan.

    If you look carefully, you can see the top of my head.

  • Lee Child throws a party. I had never heard of the Reacher's Creatures party until Jack Bludis, Jan Long, and Debbi Mack said they were going. But each year, Lee Child throws a party for all of the Bouchercon attendees - just show your nametag and you're in. With an open bar. Lee doesn't have to do that to sell books, of course, but it's a wonderful gesture.

    This year it was held at the Slippery Noodle, a bar that dated from the late 1800s and another of Dillinger's old haunts. I thought that sounded great because I was hungry again, but unfortunately for me there were in fact no noodles there. I did get to see everybody who was anybody, mostly while we waited in line at the bar (which was substantial - the line, not the bar). Reed showed why he's the smartest man in crime fiction by sending the lovely Sharon Doering to get a drink for him; naturally, she was served first.

    I ended up spending quite a while talking to CrimeSpree's Jeremy Lynch, who seems to know everything that's going on in Hollywood. We had a good conversation, some of which I even remember, before the party burned itself out and we headed back to the hotel.
  • Saturday night's alright for... talking. It was already late but I didn't want to leave. I spent another couple of hours in the hotel bar, talking to pretty much anyone who came within range of my voice. I met Trey Barker in the restroom, where he agreed with Bob McClure that I have a "nice ass" (gee, thanks guys)(EDIT: this didn't come out quite the way I meant. I should note we were all fully clad at the time.). I greeted Harlan Coben by saying, "Very nice to meet you, Mr. Ilgauskas".

    Big H vs. Big Z

    I had to get up at six to pack and go to the airport, but man, it was hard to say goodbye. I finally bailed at one in the morning, and all I could think about was next year. See you in San Fran!

posted by Graham Powell at 11:02 AM