Bouchercon 2016 – Jon’s Take
This year’s Bouchercon was a whirlwind for Ruth and me. And now, just a week later, a lot of it is already blurring together.
First and foremost a huge thank you to Heather Graham and Connie Perry. This duo did not merely host a Bouchercon but put on a show. Having talked to Connie a number of times in the last year I know how much work they did and it showed in every aspect of Bouchercon. The book room was well organized, the Opening ceremonies and Anthony Awards were spectacular. Aside from panels there were any number of other things going on from teas to special meet and greets. From start to finish they have raised the bar for what Bouchercon can be.
Our adventure started the Sunday before as we landed in New Orleans and were picked up by fellow Crimespree wrecking crew members Bryan VanMeter and Jo Schmidt. We went right to District Donuts and thus began a week of amazing food. After unloading at their place we went to dinner at Ro Cuzon’s house. We met Ro a number of years ago and have been hassling him about all the food pictures he posts on social media. His response was to come to New Orleans and he’d feed us. So we did, and he did. This was my first taste of alligator, which was served along with pork loin and shrimp all done on the grill. A great night and wonderful start to the week. Ayo Onatade was along as well and since we don’t see anywhere enough of her it was great to have some time before the crazy started.
Monday and Tuesday were spent touring around the quarter and shopping and eating. We stopped to listen to music a few times, we bought souvenirs and of course ate and ate. Beignets at Café Du Monde were everything we had heard and I even ate all of mine without powdered sugar landing on me, until I said that out loud and a breeze through the plate in my lap. Tuesday night Brian and Jo had people over for a cook out which consisted of about 75 pounds of meat. Brisket, shrimp, Alligator, hot dogs, chicken, hamburgers and sausages. Also a lot of beer. Ro brought along hard copies of his books and Ruth and I go the very first signed copies.
Wednesday we moved over to the Marriot and from the time we pulled up we started seeing people. We checked in, got to our suite and unloaded and headed to the Bouchercon Board meeting. From there we changed clothes and were off to a guest of honor dinner at Antoine’s, a 176 year old restaurant and an amazing place. SPents the evening with great food and great people. I sat next to Don Longmir which meant trying to keep him away from the amazing beef on my plate. I also learned if you ask on to watch you camera while you go smoke he will most likely take selfies of himself….. The ride to dinner was in a horse drawn carriage with a tour of the city, very fun. After dinner we went to a library event in a trolley and, saw more of the city at night and had a wonderful chance to help reopen a beautiful library.
Thursday Panels started and the con was underway. We grabbed registration packs and headed into the book Bazaar. Instead of pre filled bags this year people got to pick their own books which was a lot of fun. We grabbed stuff for ourselves and Ruth’s folks. The rest of Thursday included sitting in on a few panels and lunch at a great po’ boy place. At 4:30 we headed off to prep for the opening ceremonies. For us this meant meeting up with the other guests of honor and getting decked out in huge collars and capes for the parade (on floats!) into the ceremony. It was a surreal experience to ride in and throw beads out to the crowd while Garden Party played (we were on the garden float). The festivities included the Barry Awards, the Derringer Awards and the MacCavity awards. Loads of great books nominated and some great books won. Post ceremony we headed off to the bar to catch up with friends.
Friday we had an interview conducted by Caroline and Charles Todd which was a lot of fun, especially since we’ve interviewed them so many times over the years. We hit the Bouchercon members meeting and then spent the afternoon in the book room, panels and hanging with friends. Atound 5 we gathered in front of the hotel for the second line parade to the awesome Orpheus theater for the interview with David Morrell and the Anthony Awards. Wonderful desserts passed out, great interview and a highly entertaining Anthony Awards ceremony. Being in the parade was amazing. It started to rain and no one cared. The people walking behind the floats waving umbrellas went on for more than two blocks and we had a police escort stopping traffic. 2 bands, Mardis Gras Indians dancing, people on stilts filled in for the spectacle of it and we had people lining the streets to watch and wave. One of the coolest things we’ve ever done. After this was all over we headed to Ernst café for the party we threw with the amazing folks at SOHO Crime who are celebrating 25 years of publishing this year. There was a lot of drinking, great food and we got to see a lot of great folks.
Saturday we had a mellow day, more time with friends and an afternoon get together with some folks I hadn’t seen yet and it also included some much needed catch up time with Mark Billingham. I love that guy. We headed back to the hotel to eat and then we were off to the House of Blues to see some live music performed by some really talented authors. Heather Graham and her crew really can put on a show. They also shared the stage with a number of other authors including Don Bruns, Daniel Palmer and Mark Billingham and Stuart Neville. This was followed by another late night in the bar.
Sunday we had our last panel with our fellow guests of honor and then it was over. We spent time saying goodbyes and later had some of the Crimespree crew to our suite for a traditional Sunday night pizza jam which including an awful lot of laughing as we were all wornout dead tired and slap happy.
We talked to and saw so many great people I would never be able to list them all. Some of the highlights were seeing Kate Malmon and Bryan VanMeter make their Bouchercon debuts moderating panels. I also got to spend some great time with David Morrell, one of my all time favorite humans EVER. We also met a lot of people we know from the internet but had not met in person until Bouchercon. I can’t wait until next year.
Meanwhile we have Murder and Mayhem in Milwaukee to look forward to…….