By Louise Ure
There are moments of epiphany in otherwise normal, expected days that can take your breath away. Moments when everything seems worth it. When you’re surprised by a sense of bliss like a ray of sunshine on a cloud-dark day.
I had several of those in Baltimore. Tiny things, some of them, that made five days at Bouchercon a time that I will remember forever.
This won’t sound like anybody else’s review of our annual convention for crime fiction aficionados, I’m guessing, although like every other blog poster, I have to commend the organizing committee – and especially Ruth Jordan and Judy Bobalik – for doing such an extraordinary job. They planned well, they handled concerns with ease and grace, and they made it all seem effortless.
But my special moments are different. Not the panels I attended. Not the panels I led. Not the parties. They’re more private than that, and perhaps less obvious.
Like meeting Kaye Barley for the first time. Should I have expected the open, honest gaze in her eyes? Yes, her eyes have the same generosity and candor as her posts. But it’s the caramel-covered Southern accent that stopped me dead in my tracks. When you read Kaye’s posts from now on, listen for the lilt, the measured sweetness that makes you feel like you’ve just been welcomed home.
Like seeing the instant and expert help offered to the writer’s husband who had fallen down the stairs between panel sessions. It was a short flight of stairs, no more than five or six, but when he tumbled he must have hit his head on the metal handrail on the way down. He lay unmoving, with blood gushing from a jagged cut on his chin. Not only did those around him move to help with the speed of trauma team but they did it with expertise. Readers and writers who, in normal life, are doctors and nurses were by his side in a matter of seconds. Isn’t it a joy that our crime fiction community includes these folks with such special skills?
There was also The Sad Moment of The Lost Children on Thursday night. I returned to my room on the fourth floor of the hotel after the awards presentations and drinks and loud, bubbly conversation in the lobby. There, sitting on the floor of the hallway and leaning up against door #408, were two little black girls, one about three years old and one about eight. They were breathtakingly beautiful, dressed all in white in almost African garb, with convoluted turban-like headdresses on. I asked if they were okay and the elder of the two said fine but they were locked out of their room. I asked where their parents were and she replied, “I don’t know.” I called hotel security and they arrived almost immediately, with crooning, comforting voices, a master passkey and two chocolate chip cookies.
On Saturday night, the whole Murderati crew met for drinks in the bar, and I finally got to meet B.G.Ritts and R.J. and Wilfred. How can I feel that I’ve known them forever? The entire evening felt like a celebration family dinner, diminished only by the absence of JT, Tess, Allison and Toni.
And speaking of missing Murderati folks, nothing could have been finer that seeing the light in Ken Bruen’s eyes as he introduced his fiancée, Lisa, out on the breezeway between the hotels. You know if this woman has captured his heart that she is indeed someone special.
And then there was Nancy. When she showed up in the signing room with a copy of The Fault Tree, she had this beaming expression on her face like a proud parent watching a child’s first school play. I knew the face, but from where? “When I met you in El Paso four years ago,” she said, “you said I was the first person to ever ask you for an autograph.” And so she was. She’d had a just-released ARC of Forcing Amaryllis and it was the first time that anyone had ever considered me an author or ever asked me to sign a book. I remember how I felt that day, like I had champagne running through my veins. She is, and always will be, my first fan.
Others will tell you how fine the panels were, how raucous the parties, how Baltimore showed its good and bad side block by block. I’ll remember Kaye, and Nancy, the soon-to-be Lisa Bruen, helpful nurses, and small trembling children in hotel hallways. You know what they all have in common? Someone caring for and about someone else. That’s not a bad epiphany at all.