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MAGNA CUM MURDER

It’s the Wednesday in November when Jon and myself usually climb into the Ranger and head to Muncie. We’ve gotten there several ways over the years. Carpooling is our favorite. To quote David Letterman, “Why Muncie?” The answer is simple. Magna Cum Murder. A two day convention hosted by Ball State University and presented by the lovely Kathryn Kennison and her faithful team of organizers. The programming is always supervised by Jim Huang. It is a great con. So why am I sitting here typing about it rather than on my way to The Hotel Roberts?

You all know that Jon and I are mystery fans. Did you know that we both moderated our first panels under Jim’s guidance and with a support I’m not sure first time moderators could find anywhere else? Did you know that Kathryn Kennison, the events coordinator for Ball State University, is a stalwart believer that in a literary minded world, genre writing needs to be considered amongst the most relevant of today’s fiction? Did you know that every year for one weekend in October Muncie and Ball State give over their town to a group of people that include regional writers, librarians, and fans? Amongst the group annually descending upon this Indiana town are also writers just starting their careers, and those of international acclaim?

It is a cozy con. Nothing like the pinball feel of Bouchercon. I’ve made numerous acquaintances over the years, acquired a lot of friends during these four days and solidified friendships that will last a lifetime. It all comes back to Kathryn and Dick Kennison. The discussion of mystery at Magna is unlike anyplace else. Panels are entertaining and informative and Jim isn’t afraid to think outside the box. Sit down at the bar or in the lobby and you’ll find yourself in a discussion of mystery history, must reads and evolving trends with a variety of people certain to give you a new perspective on our beloved genre. It is also at Muncie that I annually pick the brain of J.D. Singh, who’s introduced me to a group of international books I can’t imagine not having read.

We went for the first time in 2001. We’d met Kathryn and Dick at the Washington Bouchercon. We wanted to spend more time with them and more time with the “live and in person” Mystery community. It was a big step for the Jordans. It was a great step for the Jordans. The Magna staff are relentlessly encouraging in everything the two of us have done within Mystery. They encourage us to do more even when our schedule seems to be woefully short of any additional time.

This year when we looked at the fall schedule we found Magna Cum Murder impossible to fit in. Smack between two editions of Crimespree and two weeks before Murder and Mayhem in Muskego it simply wasn’t going to happen. They’ve created two monsters. Uberfans who work as a team to forward mystery.

Sunday felt wrong this week. I wasn’t packing for Muncie. I was feeling a bit like a waif alone on a raft. So I called Kathryn, just to hear her voice and make small talk for a moment during her busiest month of the year. And I realized that logistically sound decision or not, next year we’ll be Magna bound. You can’t go too long without visiting family, and that’s what Magna and Kathryn and Jama and everyone we’ve met in Indiana are. Family.

I hope that everyone there this year has an outstanding time. I also hope that all of you who’ve never been consider going in 2007. You’ll never regret it.

Ruth