Another Bouchercon - number 44 - is in the history books, and my wife and I are home after another glorious long weekend devoted to all kinds of mysteries and the people who write - and read - them. Named for Anthony Boucher, the extraordinary author and mystery critic for the New York Times, the annual event which began in 1970 after Boucher's death has become the largest such convention in the crime fiction world. Organizers say somewhere between 1200 and 1300 people were on hand in Albany, New York, for this weekend.
Most Bouchercons are held in a central venue large enough to hold all the visitors. This year, it wasn't in a large hotel; Albany couldn't shoehorn all of us into a single (or even a few) hotels' ballrooms. Instead, the conference was held in - and under - this rather odd-looking building, the state's convention center, also known as "The Egg," for reasons which the picture probably makes quite clear. We're told that if you fly over Albany and look down, the building looks exactly like a sort of giant fried egg.
Among the guests were a few hundred authors. Most were available at some point during the weekend for book signings - either after participating in public panel discussions or at events (usually with book giveaways) sponsored by publishers and/or bookstores and/or the authors themselves.
Fans and other readers would line up for these signing sessions - this one was one of the "main" sessions which followed the panel discussions, with the authors lined up at tables along the rear wall of the center, waiting to meet their readers. Everyone is very friendly at Bouchercon; as one author once observed, "Of COURSE everyone is friendly. You have hundreds of people here whose business is thinking up untraceable and ingenious ways to kill somebody..."
(There's a lot more below, if you want to read more...)
Much of the fun and (occasional) educational value comes from the panels. Each day, there are up to a half-dozen time slots, beginning as early as 9 in the morning and running throughout the day - and in each time slot, up to six panels are competing for attention. The one pictured here was called "That's Not Her (His) Style: Mystery writers who didn't want to be remembered primarily for mysteries." The panelists, left to right, were Parnell Hall, Dorothy Cannell, Margaret Maron, Art Taylor and the moderator, Steven Steinbock.
There were special sessions with the various guests of honor - hour-long interviews. Anne Perry (on the right), the International Guest of Honor, was interviewed by Caroline Todd (half of the mother-son team that writes as Charles Todd).
The American Guest of Honor, Tess Gerritsen, was interviewed by Joseph Finder. There were also sessions with the Lifetime Achievement Award honoree, Sue Grafton, the toastmaster for the event, author Steve Hamilton, and the Fan Guests of Honor, Chris Aldrich and Lynn Kaczmarek (the latter's flight was cancelled at the last minute, unfortunately!).
The conference also presented the annual Anthony Awards, which are chosen by the registered attendees at the conference who vote to select the winners.
There's so much more to a Bouchercon: the pleasure of just walking the halls, bumping into favorite authors, finding other attendees whom you have met at earlier events, and all the socializing at the various receptions (and hotel bars; this is generally a thirsty crew). If you've never been...well, Bouchercon 2014: Murder at the Beach will be held November 13-16, 2014 in Long Beach, California - and the registration is open now (with a remarkably low price if you sign up before November 1, 2013). See you there?