Monday, September 23, 2013

My First Bouchercon

Connie Dial and Bob on Saturday
I attended my first Bouchercon because it was held this weekend in Albany, my adopted hometown. I’ve reached that time of Life when I’m not traveling to another city for any convention (except NYC, my real hometown, of course). Actually, Bouchercon opened on a Thursday and concluded yesterday, Sunday. Truth is, I went because so many writers from around the country and Europe would be talking, on 25 panels a day from 9:00 a.m. to 4:05 p.m., then interviews of Famous Mystery Authors and the Awards Ceremonies at night. The Anthony (from Bouchercon) and Macavity (from the Mystery Readers International/Mystery Readers Journal) for Best Novel went to my friend, Louise Penny, for ‘The Beautiful Mystery.’ I wasn’t there because by late Saturday afternoon, I was nodding in the easy chair in my den, wiped out.

I live just three blocks from the Empire Plaza and the Egg (the Hart Theatre) and the euphemistically named Convention Center underneath it—beneath the four-square blocks of stone pavement known grandly as the ‘Empire Plaza’ (In the finest tradition of the Egyptian Pyramids, a memorial to its builder, the dead New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, who wiped out an untold number of neighborhoods, homes and mom-and-pop stores to leave us it.) If I sound cranky, it’s from humping up and back on my cane between the Great Book Room and the seven Lecture Rooms on the rolling institutional expanse of the Convention Center floor, looking like nothing so much as a Giant Underground Parking Garage. If you made the mistake of coming in from the Madison Avenue entrance as I did, you had a half-mile trek ahead of you. And the only watering holes along the route were McDonald’s-class. You couldn’t get a decent meal in The Hole and you had to be a long-distance race walker to find help above ground on the streets of Albany. If they’d asked me, I’d have told them: Albany’s a pretty piece of architectural history, and just as dead. Unless you’re driving.

Okay, I got that off my chest. Yes, I had a good time with my companions in the mystery field as my fellow-blogger Thelma Straw predicted. I had the most fun putting faces to the names I’ve long known; some good talks with PI writers; and a really fine nuts-and-bolts panel of women—Laura Lippman, Megan Abbott, Jennifer McMahon and Moderator Clair Lamb—discussing the likes of unreliable narrators and shifting points-of-view in their novels.

And, of course, my own panel, Law Enforcement & Fiction. We were three ex-cop novelists with 77 years of policing among us: Moderator Colin Campbell, 30 years on the streets of Leeds, in West Yorkshire, England; Captain Connie Dial, 27 years in the LAPD; myself, with 20 years in the NYPD. That Saturday was my best day. It ended with lunch at Albany Pump Station (reached by car) with old friends, P.M. Carlson and Annamaria Alfieri (a/k/a Patricia King), whom I met in the writers group we formed 27 years ago in Manhattan and worked away happily in for years.

On second thought, forget all my bellyaching. (Old people are allowed to be grouchy, right?) I have this Bouchercon to thank for a good couple of days among friends.

© 2013 Robert Knightly


  1. Now, Bob, you know you had a ball!!! So glad, for your sake, it was in Albany!!!!!! tjs

  2. Not to mention that you threw the best party of the conference at your lovely home with great food by the wonderful Rose. That was my favorite!

  3. I tried to figure out if there was a way I could use Bob & Rose's as a B&B, and they wouldn't notice I was there for 3 days. I had my best Bouchercon ever: great panel; a successful Author's Choice event (in which writers get space to chat with fans about a subject of their choosing); meet-and-greet signing at Mystery Mike's booksellers; and tons of catching up with people I don't get to see enough. But Bob's assessments of the historical charm of Albany and the miserable warren that is the convention center are spot-on.