Tag Archives: Val McDermid

Evil lives at Bouchercon

Two of my three Friday Bouchercon panels featured evil, and I couldn’t have been happier.  Keeping to my commitment of three panels a day, evil was supplemented  with writing, a blog post, and even a visit to the fitness center (yay, me!).

First panel up, Evil Going On, was a hit.  Does evil truly exist?  Panelists were divided and the conversation was hot.  The moderator was the very erudite Reed Farrel Coleman, with panelists including John Connolly, Thomas H. Cook, Peter James, Laura Lippman, and Daniel Woodrell.  I was jazzed for the topic and also for hearing so many of my favorites.  Some key thoughts:

  1. There are two schools of thought about evil: nature (person is born irretrievably flawed and does evil things) vs. nurture (bad things done to child twist him, now he does evil things).
  2. The motivation for evil is often selfishness.  Rationalization plays its part.
  3. There is a trend today toward complicated protagonists, who may do wrong in order to achieve justice.
  4. Addressing the evil of man in a book is one thing – addressing it in real life, when there is risk and danger, is another.

The “evil” trend continued with the Dark Angel panel, where Chris Holm, Bill Cameron, Blake Crouch, Leighton Gage, Theresa Schwegel and Michael Wiley discussed morally challenged heroes.   Ideas generated:

  1. Noir heroes tend to be morally challenged.
  2. A corrupt setting leads to a hero who has to bend the rules but still seeks justice.
  3. Heroes can be moral in one way – the good cop – and immoral in another way – having an affair.
  4. Immoral?  Amoral?  Or moral ambiguity?  Discuss.

The final panel of the day was perhaps the least directly instructive – no notes on ideas of things to do – but the most fun.  It was moderated by the witty and endearing Joseph Finder with a panel of articulate and passionate women, including Laurie R. King, Laura Lippman, Val McDermid and S.J. Rozan.

Absolutely the most fun hour I’ve spent at Bouchercon, and included anecdotes related to a smack-down between Val and Ian Rankin, Laura Lippman’s husband’s work on the TV show Treme, S.J. Rozan’s dream basketball team, and Laurie King’s endeavor to let Holmes age, but never die.  Photo here is Val McDermid, who is fun and witty, and everything she says sounds even better because of her rich Scottish accent.  I looked for a photo of her wearing devil/angel garb.  No go.

I got to ask the question “What new authors are you reading now that you would recommend?”  Here’s the list.  Go buy some books.

  1. Gillian Flynn
  2. Megan Abbott
  3. Lisa Lutz
  4. Sarah Grand
  5. Lindsay Faye
  6. M.J. McGrath
  7. Stuart Neville
  8. Taylor Stevens
  9. Nathan Larson

Panels, panels, panels

Panels are the mainstay of fan conferences.  They’re typically five authors,  one moderator, and a topic.  Bouchercon has almost 100 panels, but the most you could go to is about 20 since there are five going on at any one time.

I’m not getting to 20, that’s for sure – my goal is three good ones a day.  What makes a panel good?  If it sounds like it would apply to my own writing, it goes to the top of my list.  If I particularly want to hear one of the authors on the panel, it goes in the middle.  Never heard of the authors and don’t get the topic?  Never mind.

So Comedy in Crime Fiction with Jerry Healy, Gary Alexander, Allan Ansorge, Jack Frederickson, Alan Orloff and (the lone female) Robin Spano was a winner for me – my Paula books are ostensibly funny and it would help to get some tips and ideas.  Needless to say these were funny people.  Key findings:

  1. How do you know something is funny?  You laugh.  It’s nice if other people laugh, too.
  2. Got something that’s hilarious but somewhat distasteful?  Don’t give it to your protagonist, give it to another character.  Is it really terrible?  Your main character may disapprove.  This falls into the eating your cake and having it, too, category.
  3. Mean humor?  Sparingly.  Self-deprecating humor?  Good but don’t overdo this either.

The Mermaids are Singing (a Taste of Magna Cum Murder, the Muncie conference that happens annually around Halloween) was on the list because it featured Val McDermid, Caroline and Charles Todd, and Parnell Hall.  Also on the panel was John Gilstrap, Stuart Neville, and moderator Kathryn Kennison.  Did I learn anything?  Yes, that Magna Cum Murder would be a ton of fun to attend and that Parnell Hall is a big ham.  See the proof here.

A Clear Cut Case of Murder was back to the “I will learn something good here” mode.  It featured moderator Leslie Budewitz, Jan Burke, Jonathan Hayes, Stefanie Pintoff, Doug Starr, and former O.J. prosecutor Marcia Clark.  Highlights:

  1. The history of forensic science is long and Europe was way ahead of us.  The late 1800’s, early 1900’s was when it all began.
  2. Jan Burke is involved with The Crime Lab Project, raising awareness of the lack of funding for forensic science – huge backlogs of rape kits, DNA testing, etc., caused entirely by a lack of resources.   Now I want to work this my work.  Perhaps a short story.
  3. Marcia Clark shared that you have to push detectives into requesting forensic analysis.  OJ’s socks had his blood on them.  And Ron and Nicole’s.  And she had to nag a storm to get the analysis done.  Side note – when forensics isn’t enough.  If you don’t believe the chain of custody and you think the whole thing is faked, then you don’t care what the tests show.
Needless to say, more to come.