Photo by John Bychowski

Go figure, Kate Malmon said it best.

“Whenever there’s a Bouchercon, or any mystery convention, it always feels like everyone is going to Mystery Camp.” Authors and book lovers are a notoriously introverted group of humans, but there is something special about getting to hang out with like-minded folks. Never mind the fact that the thing you all share in common is reading about bad people doing bad things, and often times getting away with it.

So, yes, the latest Murder and Mayhem in Milwaukee has come and gone. November 7, 2015, saw the latest reinvention of the famous one-day event. Long held in the Milwaukee suburb of Muskego, last year saw the one-day fan-centric mystery event successfully move into the city itself. After an unforeseen real-life plot twist forced the event to once again change venues, it looks like the mystery conference may just have found their forever home at the Irish Cultural and Heritage Center. Like a good book on a stormy night, it just feels right to have the event in a century old gothic church with a massive pipe organ as a backdrop. And a library. And not one, but two Irish pubs inside.

With a one-day programing focus and more intimate environment, Murder and Mayhem in Milwaukee (or MMM for short) can’t help but have the feel of old friends and new getting together to talk about books for a day. While larger events like the worldwide mystery convention Bouchercon have multiple panels going on at the same time, MMM has its panels one at a time. Previous year’s panel titles were ACDC songs. This year? Violent Femmes songs. That’s right, MMM does things a bit differently. It’s up to the panel moderators to decide the panel focus and questions.

So, Mystery Camp.

What is it about the mystery community that makes it such a close-knit, welcoming community? No, really. I’m asking. A field filled with people competing for publishing contracts, shelf space, and Amazon reviews should be filled with horrible people pushing each other down the stairs. But this is Mystery Camp! Where authors and fans hug each other non-stop (shudder) and ask about how you’ve been. This is Mystery Camp. Where those same authors and fans crash on each other’s couch because travel is expensive. Have you ever seen an award-winning author doing the dishes after brunch? I have. No one asked her to. She just did it. Because, brunch dishes.

This year’s fund raising auction had at least half of its proceeds earmarked to help offset the rising medical expense of our friend Erin Mitchell. Erin is a force in our community. Her Twitter bio says it best: “My job is the best: connecting books and readers. I have an affinity for crime fiction. I’m not a hater, and I never walk away from a fight.” But sometimes you need your friends to help in the fight, and that’s when MMM organizers Penny Halle, Jon and Ruth Jordan, and Erica Neubauer made this year’s auction truly epic.

Penny Halle, Jon and Ruth Jordan, Erica Neubauer

Penny Halle, Jon and Ruth Jordan, Erica Neubauer. Photo by John Bychowski

Filled with collectable novels, and an insane amount of character names in upcoming books, fans were lined up to place their bids. Successful? Well, the character name in Ian Rankin’s upcoming book went somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,500. After a short introduction/explanation to the crowd about were the proceeds from the auction were going, the audience was instructed to open their programs and pull out the paper hearts that were placed inside each one. About the size of your palm, the hearts were blank on one side so everyone could pass on their thinking-of-you-wishes. The crowd all held the hearts up high.


Photo by John Bychowski


Tears were falling freely.

The Mystery Camp was taking care of one of their own.

After dinner and drinks that went far into the night, or morning actually, everyone got on the bus and headed home. Mystery Camp is the best camp, mainly because there aren’t any bugs or nature junk.

But there sure is a lot of love.


name tag

Photo by me.

Dan Malmon