Sunday, November 28, 2010

BOUCHERCON IN SAN FRANCISCO

Bouchercon 2010. Wow! Over 1400 people, a third of them authors. Staggering. How does one get to meet and chat with anyone in a crowd like that? Well, you do, I discovered. For authors that one knows, either from past conventions or from online chatgroups, the fallback is making contact before or after panels they are on (or they with you), if you haven’t bumped into them before then in the bar or the very excellent hospitality room with its endless supplies. That’s how it was with Rhys Bowen, Carola Dunn, Nancy Means Wright, Jeri Westerson, Colin Campbell, Laurie King, Adrian Magson, Ken Isaacson, Ali Karim, Kelli Stanley and my heroes Steven Saylor, Lindsay Davis and John Maddox Roberts, the first and greatest Romans of them all and all three of them on the same panel. All achieved, except for Sunny Frazier, who I had wanted to thank personally, like some of the others, for helpful pre-convention advice. Thanks, Sunny. As she suggested, I dutifully topped up every day my small piles of bookmarks and flyers on tables in common areas, which must have contributed to the very respectable book sales and to the packed and enthusiastic audience, including 20 standing round the walls, for the enjoyable and entertaining panel I was on titled “Bitter Wine” where I swapped opinions and anecdotes with Rebecca Cabntrell, Candace Robb, Caroline and Charles Todd and moderator Oline Cogdill. But that’s nothing to the massive Grand Ballroom packed solid for the Lee Child interview.
I'd like to have seen historical crime getting more attention - only three panels dedicated and those not all easy to identify, though they were all excellent - but crime is a big field to cover.

Otherwise, yes, contacts were pretty random, though wouldn’t it be helpful if authors and fans name-tags were colour-coded in some way to diffentiate them, maybe agents and publishers too? However, opportunities were many, starting with the Newbies Breakfast on the first morning, where flyers and bookmarks immediately came into play, to the parties and publishers’ receptions whose animated conversations flowed over into nearby restaurants and bars. Most unexpected occasion was the meeting of the Scowrers and Molly Maguires, the local Sherlock Holmes association, held in a German restaurant which served a surprisingly respectable pint of Guinness (I am from Ireland) with very elderly members who recalled their memories of the group’s founder, the ubiquitous Anthony Boucher. I felt justified in attending as Shots magazine had compared my own heroes Lysanias and Sindron to Holmes and Watson, though I’m not sure which would be which.

I also met my personal nemesis Gary Corby, the young Australian author whose series just launched is set in exactly my own time period in Ancient Athens, with Perikles (though spelt Pericles) as a significant character. We agreed not to read one another’s work to avoid cross influence, as, apparently, do Davis, Saylor and Roberts, the last two of whom also landed in the same Roman period and have written books around the same historical incidents. Gary is a nice guy and, with a respected and active publisher, it looks as though his book "The Pericles Commission" is doing well. Does it mean interest in Ancient Athens as a fiction location is growing? Let’s hope. Now to complete my own No.2. It is going well but illness and the problems of real life have been interfering.

An amazing convention and incredibly well-organised and run by the many enthusiastic volunteers. A bonus for me was the opportunity after it ended to visit North Beach, old stamping ground of Kerouac and Ginsberg, to browse the Beat Museum and Ferlinghetti’s City Lights Bookstore, and read my poems at an Open Mic in the Caffe Greco. The whole six days a succession of highs, not least coming out of my modest hotel every morning and setting off into a San Francisco immediately familiar from Hollywood crime movies walking from Chinatown down the hill complete with cable car towards the concrete and glass towers of the Financial District and the convention hotel. Memorable!

Apologies for lateness of report but it's been a tough time since. Bouchercon was 14-17 October.