(ABOVE: From top left, clockwise: Sandra Brown and Heather Graham; James Patterson; Lone Star Publisher Kristine Hall, author Heather Harper Ellett, and Managing Editor Michelle Newby Lancaster; S.A. Cosby; Pamela Fagan Hutchins, LSLL Blogger Leslie Storey, Becki Willis, Kristine; Rebecca Adler, Alexandra Burt, Kathleen Kent, Larry Enmon, and Reavis Z. Wortham; Kristine and David Morrell)
The 50th anniversary of Bouchercon, the international mystery convention named for legendary editor, novelist, and short story writer Anthony Boucher, swept into downtown Dallas on the winds of an appropriately atmospheric cold front on Halloween. Lone Star Literary Life Publisher Kristine Hall and Managing Editor Michelle Newby Lancaster were on hand for four+ days of author panels, book signings, and parties that kept everyone warm.
Pre-con events began the evening of Wednesday, October 30th, with “A Celebration of Reading.” The Lone Star Lit Team was in attendance as New York Times bestselling author David Morrell interviewed noted literacy philanthropist and the world’s bestselling author James Patterson. Proceeds from the dinner and silent auction benefited Literacy Instruction for Texas (LIFT).
Panels and programs began in full force the next morning and ran through early Sunday afternoon. Naturally, the Lone Star team sought out those sessions that promised Texas connections, and Bouchercon didn’t disappoint with options, including:
*Texas author Deborah Crombie, Local Guest of Honor, was interviewed by Lucy Burdette about her mystery series set in England, the newest (number eighteen) installment of which is Bitter Feast. Crombie fell in love with the UK in 1976 and dealt with her homesickness for her favorite place by writing books set in England so she could live there “in her head.”
*In “The Future of Feminist Mysteries,” Molly Odintz, Steph Cha, Emily Giglierno, Lori Rader-Day, Sarah Weinman, and Juliet Grames ditched the official description and riffed on the past, present, and future of the feminist mystery, declared “likeability” irrelevant, and debated the Staunch Prize.
*In the “Crossing Genres” panel, Texas authors Christopher Brown and Andy Davidson talked about combining dystopia, legal thrillers, police procedurals, and monsters.
*Dallas’s Harry Hunsicker, Guest of Honor and emcee, was interviewed by David Morrell of First Blood fame, among many other works. Hunsicker considered naming a hitman in one of his books “Tom Landry,” but decided he might get run out of town.
*Sandra Brown, Special Guest and Honorary Dancing Sheriff, was interviewed by Heather Graham. Brown says she’s never short on inspiration because Texas has the crookedest politicians, outlawiest outlaws, and great liars.
*How is writing from Texas different from writing work set somewhere else? This was the topic of “Home on the Range” with Kay Kendall, Rebecca Adler, Alexandra Burt, Larry Enmon, Kathleen Kent, and Reavis Z. Wortham. It was generally agreed by all that Texas is a character unto itself.
*Eryk Pruitt organized a “Noir at the Bar,” in the back corner of Monduel's Bar in the Hyatt Regency Reunion Tower, featuring S.A. Cosby, Opalina Salas, and Kathleen Kent, among many others.
*In honor of the late Bill Crider, his friends Scott Cupp, Lee Goldberg, Joe R. Lansdale, and James Reasoner talked about the “Western as Mystery.”
*In the “Make 'Em Laugh” panel, Jessie Chandler, Matt Coleman, Dallas’s Heather Harper Ellett, Kellye Garrett, Linda Joffe Hull, and Rachel Neuburger discussed the “pregnancy whodunit,” swingers, and a “sex farce at the end of the world.” A theme was detected.
*Reavis Z. Wortham, A.C. Frieden, Joe R. Lansdale, Brad Parks, Tom Pitts, and Phillip Thompson discussed “The Lone Hero: Neo-Westerns and Westerns,” during which Lansdale offered this writing advice, “Write as if everyone you know is dead.”
*During “I Won't Write That,” Oline Cogdill, Gray Basnight, Steven Cooper, Frisco’s Melissa Lenhardt, Catriona McPherson, and Andrew Welsh-Huggins, contrary to the canard quoted in the panel description to “never kill an animal,” unanimously decided that they probably would if it advances the story.
While deep discussions were happening in the various conference rooms of the Hyatt Regency, Bouchercon Partner Lone Star Literary Life set-up shop at a table across from registration. Lone Star Lit Blogger Team members Leslie Storey and Kelly Moore pitched in to help greet and inform readers, publishers, authors, and even a few “pre-published authors” of LSLL’s mission and services – and a Lone Star tote bag filled with twenty books and audiobooks was given away to one lucky winner who visited the table. The good luck continued as Houston author James Hannibal, whose book The Gryphon Heist (Revell) was recently featured on Lone Star blog tour, was stationed at the adjacent ITW table. Kristine was able to do an impromptu interview with Hannibal, who shared details about Chasing the White Lion, the next book in his Talia Inger series, his synethesia, and more. (Watch for the interview next spring.)
(ABOVE: Top: left to right: Kristine and Maggie Foster; Rick Treon and Kristine; Kristine and Maryann Miller; Bottom: Christa Nardi and Cassidy Salem; Krisitne and Melissa Lenhardt; LSLL bag of books winner and Kristine)
Speaking of interviews, Thursday afternoon, Kristine was invited to interview James Patterson. According to Kristine, it was just the two of them in the room: no publicist, no pals, just Kristine and Mr. Patterson, fixing cups of coffee (bonding). Kristine said the interview began something like this:
Patterson: So, what are we doing here?
Kristine (quite seriously): Oh. I thought you had an outline or something.
Kristine (giggles): I'm kidding. But honestly, I apologize for not being prepared. You weren't on my radar until last night.
Patterson (quite seriously): Oh. You hadn't heard of me before?
And so it went. The interview was more chat then Q&A, with Kristine fangirling a bit about the first time she heard Patterson speak -- at the Texas Library Association Conference some years ago in a city neither of them could remember (more bonding) -- and how impressed she is by the magnitude of his benevolence and support of libraries and librarians. Patterson reiterated his distress at the ridiculously low percentage of kids reading on level, and explained why he's put so much time, energy, and funding into literacy initiatives. Kristine shifted gears and asked about Patterson's new contemporary Texas Ranger series (Texas Outlaw is coming in March). Why Texas Rangers? "Why not -- they are always interesting, aren't they?" As time was running short, in a panic, Kristine launched a series of rapid-fire questions and found out:
- at any time, Patterson has thirty to thirty-five manuscripts on the shelf in his office, all works-in-progress, including fiction, nonfiction, screenplays, and TV episodes
-his current nonfiction WIP is about John Lennon
-deadlines are not an issue for him; he's never missed one
-he wants each of his co-authors to be "emotionally invested" in the story they are writing together
-he has "monster ideas" and a monster IQ to match (but not a monster ego -- Kristine said Patterson is a down-to-earth, easy-going person)
Friday night was the Denim Celebration, with a barbecue dinner, a live auction (LSLL scored the Jungle Red Writers “Red for a Day” Gift Box, which includes a day on the blog in December), and a dance demonstration from Fort Worth’s own bestselling author Sandra Brown.
Saturday afternoon was the Librarians' Tea, designed to honor librarians. Hank Phillippi Ryan delivered a welcome to the librarians and quoted Kelly Moore, our very own Lone Star Lit Blogger Team Member (and DFW librarian). Tears were shed. A traditional English tea was prepared for attendees, and the guest speaker was The Royal Chef, Darren McGrady — the highly entertaining former personal chef for both the Queen of England and Princess Diana and her sons and author of several cookbooks. Author Felix Francis was a surprise guest at the table the Lone Star librarians shared with a few others, and Mr. Francis happily provided and signed copies of his book, Guilty Not Guilty.
Saturday night was the great Diamond Party and the announcements and presentations of the winners of the 2019 Anthony Awards.
-Best Novel: November Road by Lou Berney (William Morrow)
-Best First Novel: My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite (Doubleday)
-Best Paperback Original: Under a Dark Sky by Lori Rader-Day (William Morrow Paperbacks)
-Best Short Story: “The Grass Beneath My Feet” by S.A. Cosby, in Tough (blogazine, August 20, 2018)
-Best Critical/Biographical: I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara (HarperCollins)
Sunday wrapped-up with another fifteen sessions and a closing ceremony to pass the baton to Bouchercon Sacramento 2020 Chair, Rae James. The bar has been set high!