X is not for xylophone: a debut author reports on Bouchercon

X is not for xylophone: a debut author reports on Bouchercon



Marcia Clark, Joe Lansdale and Matthew Quirk

The best thing about the Bouchercon mystery conference is the dazzling array of authors who are friendly and make themselves accessible—it’s a who’s who of the genre, and there’s a famous author for every taste, from thriller to young adult. (And sometimes both at once; did you know Harlan Cohen is writing young adult?)

The fans mix with the authors who mix with the guests of honor, and this rarified atmosphere is thick with good will and enthusiasm until day’s end, when everybody winds up at the hotel bar for a re-cap and a night-cap. Here is a sampling of what I learned in New York’s venerable capital:

  • Sue Grafton has three books left in the Kinsey series, and X will definitely not be for xylophone. Z will be for zero, though. And she writes out her books in longhand. Longhand, people.


  • Tess Gerritsen started out writing romantic suspense, until she decided to write medical thrillers, until she decided to write crime fiction. In her spare time, she is a medical doctor and a mom. On a related note, I can never find two socks that match.


  • Anne Perry wrote an apocalyptic fantasy series, along with her Thomas Pitt series, her William Monk series, and let’s not forget her WWI series. If she and T. Gerritsen decide to conquer the world, consider it conquered.


  • If she wasn’t so busy writing such excellent books, I’d petition to make Catriona McPherson the permanent moderator for every panel on every topic. Not only does she have that Scottish accent that you can listen to all day long, she’s a very funny lady.


laurie king

Laurie King (center)

  • Laurie King has an entourage of fans—like a rock star, only a rock star with a schoolmarm’s hairdo.


  • Hank Philippi Ryan has great shoes. And books, of course, but it’s not often you find a combination of great books and great shoes.


  • Owen Laukkanen (a fellow debut author) is as humble as he is handsome, and that, my friend, is a very high bar.


The conference featured workshops that covered every angle of this diverse genre, from “new” noir, to police procedural, to private eye—including those where the solver of crimes is not necessarily human. Despite these divergent subgenres, everyone’s general enthusiasm for crime, mystery and thriller stories shines through, and if you’d like to meet your favorite authors and hear what they have planned next—or if you have a hankering to write your own story—I strongly recommend you make a date to attend Bouchercon 2014. Next year, the conference is in my neck of the woods; Long Beach, California from November 13-16. Everybody come, I promise we’ll have great shoes, great books, and (last but not least) great night-caps in that happy land where the sun sets into the sea.
Anne Cleeland holds a degree in English from UCLA as well as a degree in law from Pepperdine University, and is a member of the California State Bar.

She writes a historical fiction series set in the Regency period as well as a contemporary mystery series set in New Scotland Yard. A member of the Historical Novel Society and Mystery Writers of America, she lives in California and has four children. Murder in Thrall, the first in a series featuring Detectives Acton and Doyle of New Scotland Yard. www.annecleeland.com #annecleeland