And now, the thrilling conclusion of my Bouchercon adventure.
They Blinded Me With Science – Technology, Science, and Crime
Ray Daniel noted that not all your research should go into the book, but it can be useful for a non-fiction article, allowing you to get paid twice for the same work. Since authors so often don’t get paid at all, this is worth looking into.
We’ve Got Grit – Traditional to Thriller to True Crime
John McFetridge: “Noir” has style, it has class; it’s from France. “Grit” is North American.
David Swinson’s cop has Bell’s Palsy, which he is able to use for his own purposes. This is worth remembering.
Crime stories can be gritty without murder. Charles Salzberg’s detective, Swan, does not investigate murders.
Cops can use all kinds of help. Swinson told the story of a legendary Washington DC detective who closed cold cases by bringing in college students as interns to help him go through the old case files.
The Lure of Secret Work – Talking Spies, Espionage, and Special Ops
Marc Cameron spoke of “the invisible wake,” a technique for following a person when not in direct eye contact by observing the people and things around him as he moves.
John Gilstrap once caught hell from a government operative for describing a system used to identify and kill people. When Gilstrap told the guy he’d made that all up, it was, oh, er, um, never mind.
Ian Fleming’s job in World War II was to plan the meetings between Churchill and Roosevelt, including the Tehran conference, where Stalin was included for the first time. Roosevelt snubbed Churchill by changing plans and staying in the Soviet embassy, where Stalin had him bugged 24x7.
A KGB agent once told Gilstrap Americans “value politeness over victory.” Said he considered it our greatest weakness. (Based on what we know about our methods now, makes you wonder how far those guys were willing to go.)
Gilstrap told the story from his days as an EMT, answering a call to find a woman badly cut up, bleeding on the floor. He and his partner went to work, only to have a man come out of the kitchen with a bloody knife. The man said, “If I wanted her to live, I wouldn’t have cut her.” The two EMTs retreated to the ambulance. The lesson: Always look for the knife.
Marc Cameron: a woman was shot in the head by her husband. (He used a .22, which deflected around inside her scalp and came out the other side.) The police got her to call him and set up a meeting, which he attended. Their conversation went like this:
Husband: Why did you set me up like this?
Wife: You shot me in the head.
Husband: I said I was sorry.
(Yet more proof, you can’t make this shit up.)
A Conversation with Michael Connelly and Sebastian Rotella
This was great to watch, if only to see the genuine respect and affection these two have for each other. Connelly kept trying to get Rotella to talk about his own books, and Rotella would adroitly make a comment—tacitly acknowledging the gesture—then turn the conversation right back onto Connelly. The class shown by both men was a highlight of the conference.
As might be expected, the upcoming Bosch series figured prominently in the conversation. Connelly has no veto power, but the writers seem to want to keep him happy. (I wonder if this is a reflection on the success of Justified, after Graham Yost went to such measures to keep things true to Elmore Leonard’s vision.) Connelly did, however, appear to have a great deal of sway in getting Titus Welliver cast as Harry Bosch.
Two of the best stories of the conference came from this interview, both related to translators.
Connelly’s books did not sell well in Italy, even though he did quite well in Europe as a whole. One day he got an email from his Italian translator with several questions, at the end of which the translator showed his grasp of modern American vernacular by signing off with—instead of “cheers” or “best wishes”—“give me five.” A new translator was found, and Italian sales improved.
Connelly once received an email from his Russian translator, asking for definitions of some LAPD acronyms. A very few seconds’ thought reminded Connelly his rights had not been sold in Russia. Not only was the guy ripping him off, he tried to get Connelly in on it.
Yes, there were panels an Sunday, but with packing and picking up unsold books and getting to the airport, I didn’t get to any of them. Here are a few highlights, with apologies to anyone I missed.
• Getting to meet in the flesh Gerard Brennan and Jay Stringer, two gentlemen who are as good company as they are talented. I hope both of you can make it to Raleigh. First pint’s on me.
• Getting to not only meet, but to work with Les Edgerton.
• I mentioned it before, but the reward I felt from getting Les, Tim Hallinan, and John McFetridge to read at my event meant more to me than winning the Shamus would have, and I’d say that even if I had won the Shamus.
• Spending time with the always passionate Tim O’Mara. I know of no one who bears truer conviction than he.
• Watching—and, later, aiding—John McFetridge get Jack Getze worked up. Our discussion at the bar on Saturday showed why writers are the best: a rowdy exchange of different viewpoints, with no hard feelings afterward. The way things should be.
• Bumping into Sue Grafton the morning after the Shamus awards, and greeting her with, “Congratulations on the Hammer, Ms. Grafton.” Her reply: “Thank you, and it’s Sue.”
• Discussing the ever-present problems of Bouchercon bars—among other things—with Peter Rozovsky.
• Todd Robinson. Just because. (He has a great story about how his “Men of Mystery” Facebook controversy worked out, but I’ll let him tell it. He’ll do it better, anyway.)
• Seeing Max Allan Collins’s genuine emotion when he and Mickey Spillane shared the Shamus short story award.
• Saturday’s perfect dinner with The Beloved Spouse (who always comes first), and Jacques Fillippi, John McFetridge, Peter Rozovsky, and Ken Wishnia. Great conversation, great fun, and great company.
Not all memories are as entertaining. There was the manager at Gladstone’s, site of the PWA banquet, who clearly did not care if two Shamus nominees and a Beloved Spouse died because she couldn’t be bothered to point out which items in the buffet had shellfish. And last—literally—the Marcellus Wallace-looking motherfucker who decided his seat included two inches on my side of the armrest from Chicago to Baltimore.
I know I forgot some people and some stuff, but it’s hard to take notes at the bar. (Not to mention a good way to get one’s ass kicked.) Apologies to anyone I omitted. No malice should be inferred. Try to be more memorable at Raleigh. I’m already registered.
One last thing: Fuck Peter Rozovsky.