4 Highlights from Bouchercon

A few takeaways from this year’s conference.

4 Highlights from Bouchercon

It’s hard not to write about Bouchercon when you get home. The annual conference attracts a variety of crime fiction writers and fans for days of panels and camaraderie. After it ends, Facebook feeds are filled with writers getting sentimental over the time they spent with their friends, and excitedly announcing their plans to attend next year’s conference, which will be held in Canada. Convenient, since there's a good chance most of us will be living there by then.

I attended Bouchercon this past weekend in New Orleans, a drunken swirl of a city. Here are my (sober) highlights:

  • New Orleans. New Orleans is one of the world's most fascinating cities — it's home to a truly unique melting pot of culture, food, and music. Just kidding. I have no idea. I actually copied that line directly from some tourism site. Look, I barely left the hotel. New Orleans was hot and muggy and I was having too much fun with friends I only get to see once or twice a year. The city's culture was wasted on me. I mostly ate room service. (But I hear it's nice, and you should go.)
  • The panels. It’s tempting to blow off panels, especially when you’re in a city like New Orleans. I didn’t dare miss one (even the early morning ones) because, no matter how much you've learned about writing, there’s always more to know. Besides, it’s fun to listen to writers you like disclose their secrets or open up about their lives. I had the opportunity to appear on a panel about writing violence, which was perfect for me. The room was packed, the moderator (Zoe Sharp) was engaging, and the questions from the audience were thoughtful. I only knew one of the writers ahead of time, Thomas Pluck; the others (Melinda Leigh, S.G. Redling, Taylor Stevens) were new to me. It’s a testament to the conference organizers and Zoe that the panel ran as smoothly as it did. If I put panels together, the entire conference would devolve into the Purge by noon.
  • Connecting. Much is made about how no one reads anymore, and books are going away, and why do we even have eyeballs, but conferences like ThrillerFest and Bouchercon and Malice Domestic bring hordes of devoted fans. And it's not just readers. Writers get excited to meet writers. Yeah, we all follow each other on Twitter and Facebook and everything else nowadays, but that in-person connection is irreplaceable. You miss it, sorely, until the next conference.
  • Good things happened to good people. I was genuinely happy for all the award winners, especially fellow Independent contributors and friends Art Taylor and Meg Opperman, as well as Lou Berney and his unparalleled mix of humor and drama. And I was beaming when Chris Holm took the award for Best Novel for last year’s The Killing Kind. For years now, I’ve considered Chris and his wife — the estimable critic Katrina Niidas Holm — friends and role models in regards to their relationship with the crime-fiction community. I first came across Chris’ work when someone told me to read a book in his Collector series, a hardboiled supernatural trilogy. I read the first book in a day, and it didn’t take me much longer with the second or third. Chris is one of those rare writers who manages to make the epic personal, and I became as invested in his career as I did in his books. He was gracious enough to blurb my first novel (as did Lou Berney, because I know how to pick ‘em) when I knew absolutely no one in crime fiction. Several years later, Chris was one of the first people to contribute to The Thrill Begins when ITW entrusted me with that site. So I’ve long been a fan of the writer, and seeing Chris walk on stage Saturday night to collect his award was truly wonderful. Here's hoping the sequel, Red Right Hand, finds as much success.

On a side note, I'm really proud of this new project I'm involved with, and I wanted to mention it in this space. I'm working with DJ Alkimist, a talented DC- and NY-based DJ, on a project where we put my short stories to her music. The first track, "You Would Have a Queen," is up, and a new track should be out in a couple of weeks.

On a side-side note, I'll be participating in an event commemorating Banned Books Week at East City Bookshop in DC next Tuesday night. I'll be with some terrific writers (Louis Bayard, Robert Pohl, Kathleen Wheaton, Rose Solari, David Swinson, and librarian David Quick) discussing our favorite banned books. My pick? American Psycho. I don't know what's wrong with me. Hope to see you there!

E.A. Aymar’s most recent novel is You’re as Good as Dead.

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