Dispatch From the Rear

Jeffrey Cohen

(MADISON, WISCONSIN)–I’m not in Madison, Wisconsin.

In my most recent book, AS DOG IS MY WITNESS, Aaron Tucker goes on at length about how it feels to be a non-Christian in America during the Christmas season. And he says (I’m paraphrasing, because I don’t know enough about myself to quote me) something on the order of, “it’s like the rest of the world is throwing the best party ever, and you’re not invited.”

That’s more or less the way it can feel for a mystery author who doesn’t attend Bouchercon.

For weeks before, listservs and blogs alike are abuzz with the anticipation of the event: “are you going to B’con?” “When are the Anthony awards given out?” “Where will we meet at B’con?” “Does anyone want to share a room at B’con?”

You get the idea.

For an author who has occasionally attended conferences (I have, in fact, been to four or five, including one Bouchercon), there are the emails from friends, fans (there are still a couple out there) and other attendees who assume you’ll be there. After all, the whole WORLD of mystery books will converge on (in this case) Madison, WI.

Just not me. Not this time, anyway. Circumstances–financial, practical and scheduling–make it impossible. And while it is something of a downer not to see one’s pals, not to be treated like an author for a few days (as opposed to the way one is normally treated at home, which is another blog all by itself), not to meet new people and discuss the craft, the business and the mental illness that is mystery publishing, it’s not really all that bad.

Going to a large convention of mystery readers, authors, agents, publicists, editors, publishers and reporters on the field is a remarkable adventure, which is evidenced by the fact that I’m remarking on it even now. For an author, it can be a heady experience. People want to talk to you about your books–imagine! Many of them have already read them, too. You get to see other authors, who also are having a few days off from the “day-job,” or acting as the chauffeur for the minors in the family.

It is an experience determined to remind you that there is something just a little bit different about this job. It’s not like a convention of computer programmers, ice cream retailers (although that one would be worth attending, don’t you think?) or attorneys, which my wife occasionally attends. In this case, people are there because they share an appreciation for the form and the work that goes into it. We get together at the panels (and if we’re lucky, participate in one or two), possibly at the banquet and without question at the bar later on. We talk about mystery books, who’s doing what, what the rumors might be, and we get the occasional pat on the back. In this business, that’s huge.

Not going is more like getting a letter from a distant relative about a family reunion. “Sorry you couldn’t make it,” it might go. “Aunt Frances asked for you, but we didn’t give you to her. Cousin Bob threw up on Uncle Harry, the twins were running around asking if anyone could tell them which was which–no one could–and Mom got irritated because I was wearing open-toed sandals. Nobody told me it was going to be black-tie.”

See what I mean? It’s still fun, but not the same as being there.

But it’s not like I’ve been sitting at the computer all weekend, waiting for dispatches from the front. I’m not pining away, wishing I could be elsewhere. Here is pretty good, especially since I had a birthday this week, so my family still occasionally remembers to treat me well. Remind me to tell you about the extraordinary gift they conspired to present to me this year. It’s really something.

So, don’t cry for me, Madison, Wisconsin. But keep in mind that I’ll have a brand-spanking-new book (and a new series) all set at just about this time next year. So I’ll have a much stronger motivation to see you in…

Anchorage, Alaska?


6 thoughts on “Dispatch From the Rear

  1. Naomi

    For those of you who waiting for the mystery award winners with baiting breath, here are some results so far, compliments of Jiro Kimura’s website, The Gumshoe Site. (Domo, Jiro-san, ne.) Funny that you have to go to Japan to get news from Madison, Wisconsin!

    Shamus Award Winners

    The Eye Lifetime Achievement: Max Allan CollinsBest Hardcover Novel: THE LINCOLN LAWYER, by Michael Connelly (Little Brown)Best Paperback Novel: THE JAMES DEANS, by Reed Farrel Coleman (Plume)Best First Novel: FORCING AMARYLLIS, by Louise Ure (Mysterious Press)Best Short Story: “A Death in Ueno,” by Michael Wiecek (Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, March 2005)

    Ellen Nehr Award Winner

    The American Crime Writers League announced that Dick Adler, reviewer for the Chicago Tribune, is the recipient of the 2006 Ellen Nehr Award for mystery reviewing.

    Barry Award Winners

    Don Sandstrom Memorial Award for Lifetime Achievement in Mystery Fandom: Janet A. RudolphBest Novel: RED LEAVES, by Thomas H. Cook (Harcourt)Best First Novel: COLD GRANITE, by Stuart Macbride (St. Martin’s)Best British Novel: THE FIELD OF BLOOD, by Denis Mina (Bantam Press)Best Thriller: COMPANY MAN, by Joseph Finder (St. Martin’s)Best Paperback Novel: THE JAMES DEANS, by Reed Farrell Coleman (Plume)Best Short Story: “There Is No Crime on Easter Island,” by Nancy Pickard (Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, September-October, 2005)

    Macavity Award Winners

    Best Novel: THE LINCOLN LAWYER, by Michael Connelly (Little Brown)Best First Novel: IMMORAL, by Brian Freeman (St. Martin’s)Best Nonfiction: GIRL SLEUTH: NANCY DREW AND THE WOMEN WHO CREATED HER, by Melanie Rehak (Harcourt)Best Short Story: “There Is No Crime on Easter Island,” by Nancy Pickard (Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, September-October 2005)Sue Feder Histrical Mystery Award: PARDONABLE LIES, by Jacqueline Winspear (Henry Holt)

    Nothing yet on the Anthony. Maybe someone post here something soon! (Or else check Jiro’s site.)

  2. Naomi

    Jiro comes through again:

    Anthony Award Winners

    Lifetime Achievment Award: Robert B. ParkerBest Mystery Novel: MERCY FALLS, by William Kent Krueger (Atria)Best First Mystery: TILT-A-WHIRL, by Chris Grabenstein (Carroll & Graf)Best Paperback Original: THE JAMES DEANS, by Reed Farrel Coleman (Plume)Best Short Story: “Misdirection,” by Barbara Seranella (in GREATEST HITS, edited by Robert J. Randisi; Carroll & Graf)Best Critical/Nonfiction: HEIRS OF ANTHONY BOUCHER, by Marv Lachman (Poisoned Pen Press)Best Fan Publication: Crimespree Magazine, edited by Jon and Ruth JordanSpecial Service to the Field: Janet Rudolph, for Mystery Readers International

    And Jeff, happy belated birthday! I’m having a nice non-Bouchercon weekend as well. Saw Tim Salmon play next to his last baseball game ever and finally watched A-Rod pitch. Doesn’t mean anything in terms of post-play, but it still was great fun.

  3. Pari

    Jeff,I asked all my friends to hoist a glass my direction when they were in the bar. Alas, it wasn’t the same as being there myself.

    Boy, do I know what you’re talking about!

    I’ve been trying to plant the seeds so that my husband will think that Anchorage is a good idea . . . I’ll have a new book (probably) and, gosh, it’d be a great marketing opportunity. Plus, he’s been to Alaska and I never have. Um, plus, it’d be really, really fun . . .

    I’d better get my talking points polished for this job.

  4. JT Ellison

    I’ve said this to a couple of people, but I feel like I’m missing prom. But… I’ve gotten 7,000 words done, put together a proposal, edited a friend’s manuscript, bought curtains, helped my husband seal the driveway (well, I’ve been watching), attended a homeowners meeting, actually watched the UT game without diving into my laptop during commercials — in other words, I’ve accomplished more since B-Con started than I have all week. And now I’m going to read a book. Ahhh — there’s the joy of missing the con.But I won’t miss Alaska. It’s a fabulous place, Anchorage is stunning, and I can’t wait!Happy belated birthday, Jeff!

  5. Mark Terry

    Me, too. This is the 2nd time I had plans to go to B-con and had to back out. In this case I had to go to a business meeting in Washington DC for management types in the clinical lab industry–they’re one of my bigger clients.

    It’s worth noting that a book con like B-Con or Magna, et al, is not necessarily all fun and roses for authors, either; it can be a pretty disconcerting experience, as well. Try having your signing at the same time as Alexander McCall Smith, for instance. Humbling in the extreme.

    Still … Anchorage? Maybe ThrillerFest in NYC in July.

    & Happy Birthday.

    Best,Mark Terrywww.markterrybooks.com


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