BoucherCon, oh BoucherCon.
It wasn’t the place I thought I’d be seeing people I’d not seen in 20+ years — such as Robin McCormack, the book reviewer for My Two Blessings, who had been at my wedding of ancient history. (I think I even played music in her brother’s wedding before that.) And then there was Holly West, who had had the misfortune of suffering my bossiness in high school band but the good fortune to remember almost none of it.
And I was somewhat miserable being in my home city unable to see my friends. If there is one place on this earth that screams “home,” it’s San Francisco. It screams more than that, actually. It screams, “GET YOUR ASS BACK HERE!” I’m not sure I’d be happy in San Francisco again, frankly, but it sure feels incredibly soothing whenever I visit.
When I arrived at the Hyatt, I was immediately struck by the hotel lobby. The hotel had already given my pocketbook a concussion; it was no less of a hit on the eyeballs. It turned out that most of my $250/night went to that big bronze ball thing — clearly an altar to the Gods of the Embarcadero — because my cash sure as hell didn’t go into maintaining the bar that kept closing at 11pm or midnight (depending on who was standing at the light switch) nor did it go toward updating the Victorian thermostat in my room.
As I strolled through the book dealer’s room, I was sucked right back to my childhood, to a time when I read nothing but Agatha Christie, The Hardy Boys and Encyclopedia Brown. My first loves. When I set eyes on a set of Sherlock Holmes books — The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and The Hound of the Baskervilles — I was suddenly seized with the need to read every Sherlock Holmes story. (Shame on me! I had never read Sir Arthur Conan Doyle before. Can you believe it?) And as I read that first story, “A Scandal in Bohemia,” I further decided that I would not read any of the modern books where Holmes had a girlfriend. The people who want to see Holmes romantically entwined are the same people who fantasize about Pon Farr with Mr. Spock. That just doesn’t wind my clock the way it used to.
As for the convention itself, I didn’t attend many of the panels. I focused on meeting people and starting relationships that I hope will blossom as time passes. I did attend one panel. Unfortunately, one of the panelists — a married scab of a man — later that night made an appalling pass at me in the elevator. “I know you have a boyfriend, but…”
The word “NO” shot out of my mouth like a missile. And that wasn’t the only time it did that weekend, either, with much more insulting openers than that. You see, herein was a major difference between BoucherCon and Thrillerfest other than literary focus. While there was plenty of flirting at Thrillerfest, everyone was polite and professional without exception. Either that, or deathly afraid of me — as, you know, they should be.
I also had a turn at making a fool of myself. It was Friday night at the Reacher Creature party hosted by the internationally best-selling author, Lee Child. I was hanging out with the big kids — F. Paul Wilson, Heather Graham and her husband Dennis — when a tall, handsome-if-slightly weathered man with blond hair and blue eyes approached us. He shook hands with my friends and eventually me. I introduced myself but he said nothing.
“And you are…?” I said before I let go of his hand.
“I’m Lee Child,” he said with a posh British accent. “This is my party.”
All I could do was grin, clutch his hand, and say, “I’m so pleased.” I went on to gulp down a couple of cocktails to wash away the taste of shoe leather.
(A fellow writer later told me it was “good for him,” which made me laugh.)
That night was interesting for lots of reasons, particularly because I met a potential agent and an editor who works with the editor at Tor who is currently considering MR. WICKER. People were cool, accessible and relaxed, which was really nice.
I even met someone who recommended to me — to me! — Mary-Ann Tirone Smith’s Girls of Tender Age. Egad! I nearly fainted with joy to talk to someone who had read it, much less thought it was awesome. (Really, you won’t know what a wonderful thing of which I speak until you give it a try.) I’ve only been recommending this damned book to every other stranger on the street for the last four years.
One of the absolute highlights was getting to see my dear friend, that hard-boiled ball-buster Christa Faust, ham it up in a staged reading of Declan Hughes’ play I Can’t Get Started. Martyn Waites blew me away with a terrific American accent as he played Dashiell Hammett. And his chemistry with Alison Gaylin as Lillian Hellman was impressive — particularly since they couldn’t have had much time to rehearse.
Honestly, everyone was great. And having grown up in a home where McCarthy was idolized, I always find it refreshing to hear about people like Hammett and his red-tinged leanings.
Another highlight was hanging out with a seriously drunk, seriously Scottish Russel McLean who at some point licked the head of Stephen Blackmore. Then on Saturday night, I had the delight of popping Russel’s sake cherry at a sushi joint. Not an everyday thing, no sir. But then, how often does one have a Scotsman at their mealtime mercy?
There was a spate of wonderful people I was absolutely delighted to meet including Kat Richardson, Janet Blackwell, Martyn Waites, Steve Hockensmith, Avery Aames, Alison Gaylin, Stephen Blackmore and his wife, the utterly amazing Judy Bobalik, Jeanne Matthews, Deputy Dave and his wife Mary from Hawai`i, and many more.
Thank you all for making my first BoucherCon such a success.