The convention ran from Wednesday, March 20 (early registration) then Thursday, March 21 through Sunday, March 24, with panels and interviews on all four days. When we go to mystery cons, some of the time is panels, depending on the topics and panel members, some is socializing, some time is just out and about. We like to attend panels looking for new authors, so sometimes we just sit in and see what happens. This can result in a few duds, but over all we enjoy listening to what the authors have to say.
We got down to Registration early, got our book bags (see the New Arrivals post on Monday). After a so-so breakfast at a joint up the street, I headed into the book room while Barbara went to Thrills and Chills: Medical and Psychological Thrillers with H.S. Clark, June Gilliam, Bette Lamb (half of the writing team J.J. Lamb) and August McLaughlin. This kind of mystery is right up Barbara’s alley, and she liked it a lot, buying a couple of books right afterward.
Then I joined her for Mysteries in Different Lands panel, with Janet Hubbard, Jane Matthews, Pricilla Royal and Jeffrey Siger. For me, the takeaway from this one was Siger’s Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis series, the first of which, Murder in Mykonos, I bought after the panel. I’m a third of the way in, and enjoying it very much.
Next was Bobbies vs. Mounties with Brenda Chapman, Ann Cleeves, Deborah Crombie and Louise Penny. I’ll go to any panel with Louise Penny. The title had little to do with the discussion, which was mostly about the role of the police protagonists in the books. This was a good one! Then we walked to the Crown and Anchor for good food, good beer.
We had rolls and coffee, some chat and before we knew it, it was time to head for the first of several panels. The first, In the Beginning…Reminiscing was a lot of fun. Jan Burke, Sue Grafton and Marcia Muller just talked about the early days of their first books and the female P.I. Nothing much new to me, but a lot of humor and it was a feel good panel.
When Setting Matters with Timothy Hallinan, Sara Henry, Craig Johnson and William Kent Krueger. Krueger is the other author at LCC that I wouldn’t miss. Caroline Todd did a good job of moderating this and it was a very good panel, focusing on the role setting plays in the author’s books. I have read two of the authors and they do setting very well, especially Krueger, so it was interesting to hear him talk on how he plans setting as an important element in his plots. For me, the best panel of the con.
After some time enjoying the Monterey peninsula, and lunch out, we returned in time for Murder Across the Pond with Laura Anderson, S.K. Rizzolo, Priscilla Royal and Jeri Westerson. We’d never heard of any of these folks, but what the heck. Locations discussed were France and England, and for me there wasn’t much interest generated.
Last panel of the day was Crime Fiction, the Bigger Picture which had Janet Dawson, Guest of Honor Cara Black, Aaron Elkins, Craig Johnson and Laurie R. King. The panel title made little sense, and they ignored it. Unfortunately, Laurie King said little, but it was a pretty good panel.
The day wrapped up for us with a 45 minute interview of International Guest of Honor Louise Penny, conducted by Minotaur Books’ Andrew Martin. For us, this was a highlight of the convention. The following night Penny’s novel How the Light Gets In won best novel set outside the U.S. After the interview, we had a nice dinner at a local restaurant, then returned to the room to read and try for a good night’s sleep.
Again, we started off the day with coffee and sweet rolls in the lobby, then off to Mysteries with a Meaning with Jacqueline Winspear (M), Ann Cleeves, Deborah Crombie, Louise Penny and Michael Sears. The “meaning” of the panel title was the author’s perspective on crime in the novel beyond the crime-pursuit-solution aspect. It was an interesting discussion, and the type of mysteries each author writes, from traditional British (Cleeves) to police procedural (Penny, Crombie) to thriller (Sears) gave a variety of perspectives. During the audience question period, they had to hush up a fan who tried to ask a spoiler-filled question.
It was at this time we realized we were both so tired we decided to cancel our awards banquet tickets and made plans for a light supper. On to the next panel.
When Bad Things Happen to Good Detectives with Cara Black, Janet Dawson, Libby Fischer Hellman and William Kent Krueger was a good one. Krueger talked about all the bad things he’d put his protagonist Cork O’Conner through, and the others countered with the trials of their characters and how to get them into – and out of – the kind of jams the plot called for. I’d hoped to talk to Krueger after this panel, but he was mobbed after the panel and there was a very long line for his signing. At the awards ceremony, Krueger’s Ordinary Grace won best novel set in the U.S.
After a nice lunch with friends Kate Diere (left), Ted Hertel (2nd from right) and Thom Walls (right), followed by a walk, we returned to the hotel and went to Mystery Aficionados: The Books We Love and Why, with Les Blatt, Deborah Lacy, Barbara Fass Leavy and Donus Roberts. This panel promised to be good but let us down. The only connection to the genre one of the panelists had was having written a critical study of the novels of Ruth Rendell, which might have been fine if she’d had anything at all to add to this panel other than to state that she was an academic and didn’t have any favorite mysteries. (!) Another of the panel members only reads “classics” for reviews on his website so only mentioned Sayers. This left Blatt and Lacy to toss a few favorite authors at us, and the panel was highlighted only by a snafu with the air conditioning system requiring windows to be thrown open.
An hour later it was time for Historical Murder Around the World with Ann Parker, Sharon Newman, Frederick Ramsey, John Maddox Roberts and Priscilla Royal. I like historical mysteries, so I enjoyed hearing the authors talk of the setting and era of their books, and just after the panel I bought Newman’s recent short story collection Death Before Compline. I really should read more historical mysteries.
That was it for Saturday. We had a light meal, read. I finished the book I’d taken to the con, A Question of Proof by Nicholas Blake. I then started Murder in Mykonos by Jeffrey Siger. We were asleep before the banquet was half over.
Last day of the con. These things always seem like they’re suddenly over. There were hardly any people in the lobby except for a few checking out. We’re staying another day but the place was already almost deserted. There is one more panel on our list: A Day on the Beach: Murder at the Seashore with Larry Collins, Christine Finlayson, James Preston and Mara Purl. We’d never heard of any of them, they’re all new authors who were put on a last day panel. The person we found interesting was Finlayson, mainly because she lives in Portland and sets her mystery (she’s working on a second one) in Newport, on the Oregon coast. Of course we bought her book and had her sign it.
The last thing on the schedule was an interview with Lifetime Achievement Honorees Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini. The interview was conducted by J.J. Lamb who talked about his personal friendship with Marcia and Bill, and had a batch of questions which allowed one word or single sentence answers, causing a lot of silences and awkwardness. Still, stars will shine and it was a mostly interesting wrap-up to the con.
From there on we had a relaxing day and a half before the drive home. We stopped on the way on the first day to visit Art Scott, a friend from when I was in DAPA-Em, a mystery APA. Had a great visit and tour, then back on the road. We stopped at the The Olive Pit, and bought some stuff, then stayed in an awful room in Redding. Next day we had a very stormy drive through the Siskiyou mountains and up the Willamette Valley to home sweet home.