Sunday, October 25, 2015

Bouchercon and Beyond: summer travels in the States

This has not been an easy blog to write. Not because of topic or lack of inspiration, but for this reason:

What this means is that I’ve been away, and now I’ve returned the cat is determined not to let me out of her sight – or reach – for long. It’s very sweet, but a bit of a bugger when it comes to typing.

Like many of my fellow Murder Is Everywhere bloggers I’ve been over in the States for the annual Bouchercon World Mystery Convention. This year it was in Raleigh, the state capital of North Carolina.

I’ve been to Raleigh before – a fact which seemed to surprise many Americans. I did some photoshoots there, back when I was still a photojournalist. It’s a clean, safe-feeling city, with a great choice of restaurants, although I confess I spent the majority of my visit this time inside the conference hotel.

I’ve been to quite a few of these events since my first Bouchercon in Toronto in 2004, but this time was particularly special for me because I was privileged to be one of the two International Guests of Hono(u)r. (Ably interviewed, I might add, by our own Jeff Siger.) The organisers even gave me this beautiful hand-turned oak bowl just for turning up. I wasn’t expecting anything, so was glad I’d dragged out a frock for the Anthony Awards anyway.

pic courtesy of John Thoma Bychowski

It was a weekend of highlights, including getting to spend a little time with one of my literary heroes, Dr Kathy Reichs.

pic courtesy of Ali Karim

Another was being present at the official launch of the Bouchercon short story anthology: Murder Under The Oaks, edited by Art Taylor. Around eighteen of the contributors to the anthology were attending Raleigh, so Art decided we would each read a very short extract from our story to make up the panel event.

pic courtesy of Gigi Pandian

My story, called ‘Kill Me Again Slowly’ is a Charlie Fox tale, but a little out on a limb compared to my usual fare. Just let it be said that the opening scene takes place in Rick’s Café Americain in Casablanca, where Charlie and her principal are at a table for six with Dorothy Parker, Groucho Marx, Marilyn Monroe and Oscar Wilde. This is the bit I chose:

As we weaved back toward our table, I murmured into my client’s ear, “If it all goes bad, you know what to do.”
“Yes ma’am.”
I let my gaze wash across the patrons, the staff and the musicians. Nobody was watching us too closely, or trying too hard to avoid doing so. Nobody’s attitude had changed. But I was only too aware that I was in a situation where nothing could be trusted.
“If you want to know what God thinks of money,” Dorothy Parker was saying to the table at large as my host politely handed me into my seat, “just look at the people he gave it to.”
Marilyn Monroe gave a breathy giggle and said, “Oh, I don’t want to make money, I just want to be wonderful.”
Dorothy Parker rolled her eyes.
Airily sipping his champagne, Oscar Wilde said, “Who, being loved, is poor?”
Groucho Marx rested his elbow on the table, his chin on his cupped palm, and gazed at Marilyn Monroe. “Marry me and I’ll never look at another horse.”
“Oh!” Marilyn Monroe glared at him, threw down her serviette and leaped to her feet. “Respect is one of life’s greatest treasures.” Her eyes were bright with unshed tears. “I mean, what does it all add up to if you don’t have that?”
She leaned down for her purse, but when she straightened there was a bolo machete with an eighteen-inch blade in her right hand and she held it like it wasn’t her first time.

And let me just say that all the dialogue for those ‘real’ characters was taken from things they are quoted as actually having said. It was huge amounts of fun to put together.

From Raleigh I went up to NYC, where I got to spend a little time with the charming Lee Child and his wife, Jane.

pic courtesy of Linda Shockley

And also to hang around with Linda Shockley and enjoy the view of the Hudson from the roof of her apartment building; and deliver a lecture at the Center For Fiction as part of their Master Class series, at the kind invitation of the delightful Jonathan Santlofer.

pic courtesy of Linda Shockley

Then it was down to Daytona Beach in Florida to stay with a very dear friend. Why Daytona? Well, this is one very good reason:

And this is another:

Daytona in October is home to BiketoberFest, and if you like to watch people cruising round on hot-rodded Harleys, that’s the place to go. I could not believe the size of the chrome front wheels on some of those bikes. Nor could I imagine how they would go around corners, but that’s another story …

And just in case I was getting used to all that sunshine, my last day in Florida was a fitting preparation for a return to the UK.

This week’s Word of the Week is Gardyloo, meaning the act of discarding waste substance from a height. It was used as a warning cry often heard in medieval Scotland as slops were emptied out of upper floor windows into the street below. The word is a corruption of the French, “Garde à l’eau!” – “Mind the water!” but may possibly where we get the word ‘loo’ from to describe the lavatory. It was still in use as late as the 1930s and ’40s when many people still had no inside toilet.


  1. Yes, cats do NOT like being left alone for long periods of time, and they're the reason for the word 'Gardypussy' when they become TOO big of a bother. (Please don't tell our cats, they may become paranoid, and a paranoid pussy is far worse than a lonely pussy.)

    I'll now turn you over to Jeff for his rebuttal...

    1. Oh EvKa, where do I start with that one? Yes, she gets very sulky when she sees bags being packed, and then very clingy when I get back. As I type this I am sitting at my desk on an ordinary chair, because madam has made herself at home on my typing chair. Don't tell anyone, though, or my hard-arse reputation will be in tatters.

    2. EvKa, uou really don't think I'm going to jump in on this one you've dug for yourself. Nor fur all the catnip in Portland.

    3. Ooh, catnip? Did somebody mention catnip?

  2. It looks like you had a fantastic time! I know I had a delightful time getting to meet and spend time with you (and the rest of the MIE crew) in person!

    1. I did indeed, Susan. It was fabulous to spend some time chatting to you in person over dinner. Your latest projects sound fascinating. Can't wait to read them!

  3. I am well acquainted with devil cats from hell- Mrs Brambles is a Bond Villain in feline form. I am also well acquainted with your word of the week. It's still used north of the border when chucking the bucket of clean water over the patio to remove the mess left my the aforementioned Mrs Brambles.

    1. LOL, Caro. Strange you should say that, because I've heard much shorter and pithier words bandied about on such occasions ...