November 2019

Another Bouchercon has come and gone. Bouchercon (rhymes with voucher) is to mystery writers and readers what Christmas is to a five year-old. Every year in the fall, 1,500 to 1,900 mystery fans gather in the US, Canada, or the UK to celebrate our favorite genre. Cities bid on this, the largest mystery conference in the world, like cities bid on hosting the Olympics. 2019 marked the 50th anniversary and mystery lovers came from all over the world to share our common bond and to honor the work of some of our own. The guests of honor (GOH) at this year’s Bouchercon were: James Patterson, Peter Lovesey, Deborah Crombie, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Felix Francis, Harry Hunsicker, McKenna Jordan, Sandra Brown, and Charlaine Harris.

This was my 3rd Bouchercon. The first time I attended, I had just begun writing Doorway to Murder. I was a new writer and like most newcomers a bit unsure of the landscape. The first person I met was Hank Phillippi Ryan. She welcomed me with open arms. It didn’t matter that I was working on my 5th draft and had no publishing prospects in sight. I was a part of the community. I was in. That simple kindness demonstrates the hallmark of the mystery-writing community. Everyone I have met over the past 6 years has been warm and welcoming, and has treated me like I was a member of the family. That first year, I attended an event where Louise Penny spoke. She said something that resonated with me and has stayed with me all this time. She said that she had found “the family of her heart” in the mystery community. Among mystery writers, there is no competition, no back-stabbing, only kindness and support. We cheer each other on. We celebrate each other’s victories. We help each other whenever we can. It is camaraderie at its finest.

So, what do we actually do for 4 days during Bouchercon? We attend events where the guests of honor are interviewed. We participate in panel discussions−writers are on the panels, readers and writers fill the audience. We talk about all aspects of mysteries and mystery writing. This year I was on the Ghost in the Machine panel, moderated by Nancy Allen, who writes the Juror series with James Patterson. The room was packed with about 200 people on Halloween day, listening to writers talk about the uncommon aspects of their mysteries−skeletons, paranormal, ghosts, and, in my case, time travel. It was exciting and fun!

Ghost in the Machine Panel

In addition to panel discussions, we also spend considerable time hanging out in the hotel lobby, meeting areas, hospitality suite, and bar, of course. (We often take over the entire property because of the sheer numbers.) We network. We get together with old friends and catch up. We meet new friends, forming new partnerships, alliances, and bonds. Many of us meet with our editors and, in some cases, people meet with their agents or publicists. We share our experiences, the challenges we face, how we manage our time with the demands common to all of us. Sometimes we don’t even talk about writing, we just connect. It’s a friendly, homey, and, at the same time, thrilling gathering.

With dear friends Grace Topping, Laurie Loewenstein, and Connie Barry.

Bouchercon is also one of the conferences is associated with awards. The conference itself honors Anthony Boucher a New York Times book critic who focused on elevating the mystery genre at a time when it was not considered worthy fiction. The “Anthonys” are awarded each year to a variety of categories like Best First Novel, Best Novel, Best Short Story, Best Paperback Original Novel, and Best Critical or Non-Fiction Work. I liken these awards to the Golden Globes of mystery writing. There is an awards banquet and all the fanfare you’d expect.

Finally, I would like to say that if you are a mystery writer or reader join us!! Bouchercon 2020 will be in Sacramento. The guests of honor are: Scott Turow, Walter Mosley, Anne Perry, Anthony Horowitz, Catriona McPherson, Cara Black, and Janet Rudolph. In 2021, we’re back in New Orleans. You’ll return home with autographed books (dozens of them for free!) and your head buzzing with excitement from living mysteries for several days.

At the Anthony Awards banquet with lifelong friends Barb Schlichting and Chris Husom.

With fellow 1930s writer Laurie (L.A.) Chandlar

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