Tuesday, November 13, 2018
Books

It’s no mystery why fans, authors gathered for Bouchercon in St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG

Last Wednesday through Sunday, the Vinoy Renaissance Hotel teemed with people who write and read about bloody murder.

It was a remarkably friendly and cheerful crowd. Detroit novelist Stephen Mack Jones had an explanation: "Writing about murder is very cathartic. Itís like psychotherapy without the co-pay. I killed my seventh-grade gym teacher, and I canít tell you how good it felt."

The 1,500 authors and fans (some from as far away as Japan) were in St. Petersburg for Bouchercon 2018, a.k.a. the World Mystery Convention. The annual gathering (named after influential mystery writer and editor Anthony Boucher) began in 1970 and is now one of the biggest mystery conventions in the world.

This was its first stop in St. Petersburg, with approximately 600 writers of crime fiction and true crime on hand to meet and mingle with fans, with many of the top names in the genre strolling the Vinoyís halls. The eventís special guests were Mark Billingham, Sarah Blaedel, Sean Chercover, Tim Dorsey, Ian Rankin, Karin Slaughter and Lisa Unger. Other luminaries included Ace Atkins, Lawrence Block, Alafair Burke, Lee Child, Michael Connelly, Laura Lippman and Sara Paretsky.

Unlike many cons, Bouchercon has no pay-for-play autographing ó convention attendees can (and do) get bags full of books signed, and many authors chatted casually with eager fans after panel discussions and interviews and at parties. Child, whose Jack Reacher novels have made him one of the worldís bestselling thriller authors, said, "Iím so happy to be here. These people are my tribe."

In on-stage interviews, bestselling authors talked about why they write. Atlanta writer Slaughter said, "My father always told us stories. He had all these stories like ĎThe Little Girl Who Touched the Thermostat and Died.í"

English writer Billingham has been an actor and comedian. He started writing mysteries after his own brush with crime: Three masked men ambushed him in a hotel room and held him hostage for hours while they used his ATM card to clean out his account.

After that, Billingham said, "I wanted to write about the victims. Every crime writer I respond to is writing about what violence does to people."

Scottish author Rankin said of the first of his acclaimed John Rebus series, now up to 21 novels (with a new one coming in December), "Knots and Crosses was conceived as a one-off. I gave (Rebus) a very convoluted history, and I wish I hadnít. I had no idea it would be a series. In the first draft he died at the end."

During the charity auction on Friday evening, the biggest draw was a character name in Rankinís next novel. (Many novelists auction naming rights for charitable causes ó fans can see characters named for themselves in a favorite authorís book.) A bidding war between Child and Slaughter ended with a proposal that they both win ó for a donation of $5,000 each.

The auction raised a total of about $25,000 for Dolly Partonís Imagination Library, which provides free books to preschool-age children. Founded in 1995, the organization has given away more than 107 million books.

On Saturday night the Anthony Awards, voted on by Bouchercon attendees, were presented. (The red ceramic awards were made by local clay artist Wendy Duran.)

During an interview earlier that day, Block had said, "I met Sue Grafton when she published B Is for Burglar, and she said she was going to write 26 books about Kinsey Millhone. How in the hell did she know?"

She almost made it. Grafton, a frequent Bouchercon participant, died in December; her final book, Y Is for Yesterday, won the Bill Crider Award for best book in a series.

Boucherconís members have been concerned in recent years with bringing more diversity to the organizationís membership and awards. Strides were made Saturday, when three of the top awards went to African-American authors.

Gary Phillips won the best anthology award for editing The Obama Inheritance: Fifteen Stories of Conspiracy Noir. The best novel award went to Attica Locke for Bluebird, Bluebird, her story of murders connected to white supremacists.

Kellye Garrett, a former television writer, won best first novel for Hollywood Homicide. In her acceptance speech, Garrett talked about statistics for female and minority crime fiction writers and said, "We need to stop treating diverse writers as a trend and start treating them as status quo."

Contact Colette Bancroft at [email protected] or
(727) 893-8435. Follow @colettemb.

Comments
Poetry from Erica Dawson, Peter Meinke and other Festival of Reading authors

Poetry from Erica Dawson, Peter Meinke and other Festival of Reading authors

You can see the writers Nov. 17 at the Times Festival of Reading at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.
Published: 11/09/18
Pulitzer Prize-winning 'The Gulf' an expansive history of an American sea

Pulitzer Prize-winning 'The Gulf' an expansive history of an American sea

Historian Jack E. Davis recounts thousands of years of natural and human history on the Gulf of Mexico. In this excerpt, he describes the devastating impact of 19th century plume hunting on Tampa Bay.
Published: 11/09/18
An excerpt from ‘Arthur Ashe: A Life’

An excerpt from ‘Arthur Ashe: A Life’

Raymond Arsenault spent nine years researching and writing the book.
Published: 11/09/18
Joyce Maynard’s memoir ‘The Best of Us’ chronicles love and death

Joyce Maynard’s memoir ‘The Best of Us’ chronicles love and death

The book is a moving account of how the bestselling author found love in her late 50s, then lost the man of her dreams to cancer.
Published: 11/09/18
Books for young readers from Banerjee, Frattino, Gibaldi and Koehler

Books for young readers from Banerjee, Frattino, Gibaldi and Koehler

Authors will discuss a YA novel about teens caught up in the drug trade, a graphic version of a beloved Florida story, a YA romance set in theater camp and a middle-grade adventure on an island of gar
Published: 11/09/18
In Gilbert King’s words: an excerpt from ‘Beneath a Ruthless Sun’

In Gilbert King’s words: an excerpt from ‘Beneath a Ruthless Sun’

The Pulitzer Prize winner’s second book centers on a true crime in Lake County.
Published: 11/09/18
Impressive short story collections from two Florida writers

Impressive short story collections from two Florida writers

Jon Chopan’s “Veterans Crisis Hotline” tells stories of soldiers trying to recover from war; Vanessa Blakeslee’s “Perfect Conditions” juxtaposes the surreal and the everyday.
Published: 11/09/18
Roy Peter Clark is reading and writing about writing

Roy Peter Clark is reading and writing about writing

The Poynter Institute writing coach and prolific author is also reading “Florida Soul,” about music in the Sunshine State.
Published: 11/09/18
'We Fed an Island' sinks its teeth into disaster relief in Puerto Rico

'We Fed an Island' sinks its teeth into disaster relief in Puerto Rico

Award-winning chef Jose Andes writes a bold memoir about feeding millions after Hurricane Maria, and about the federal government's failure to help its citizens.
Published: 11/08/18
Jean Heller and Cheryl Hollon bring back engaging mystery series

Jean Heller and Cheryl Hollon bring back engaging mystery series

Heller’s newspaper columnist, Deuce Mora, chases a serial arsonist in Chicago; Hollon’s glass artist, Savannah Webb, is at sea instead of in St. Petersburg.
Published: 11/08/18