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May 5, 2006

Mysterious Doings

Posted by admin

Last week's Mystery Writers of America events in New York kept me hopping on both Wednesday and Thursday. Wednesday there was a full-day symposium that I finally broke away from the office to catch in the afternoon. I arrived in time to a panel called "First, Kill All the Lawyers…or They Will Write" with Catherine Crier, Lisa Scottoline, James Grippando and Paul Levine. Paul and I joked that those who named this panel must have been clairvoyant since the title of the third book in his Solomon vs Lord series coming in late August will be KILL ALL THE LAWYERS! These four authors chatted like they were sitting in a living room instead of a conference room and it was great fun. In between the joking and meddling there was a lot of chatter about plotting, character and moving a story along. The panel moved just as briskly.

The next panel was my favorite of the event --- "Hammett & Chandler, Still Relevant... Ever Relevant to Women?" The moderator was Reed Farrel Coleman, author of THE JAMES DEANS. Panelists were Laura Lippman (TO THE POWER OF THREE), Michele Martinez (THE FINISHING SCHOOL) and S.J. Rozan (ABSENT FRIENDS) and debut author Megan Abbott (DIE A LITTLE). The panelists were so articulate and they cited so many references that I felt like I was attending a college course instead of a panel.The conversation was lively as they discussed, "Have the Old Boy Icons Lost their Luster? Do Marlowe and Spade Hold any Allure for Today's Women Authors?"

Michele had done some reading to prepare for the panel as she had not read Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammett prior to this, namely digging into THE BIG SLEEP by Chandler and THE MALTESE FALCON Hammett. Laura did her homework as well. She read the collected letters of Chandler and the Tom Hiney biography called RAYMOND CHANDLER. S.J. and Megan also had much to share, but I confess that I did not catch their references. This talk was lively as the quartet dished the writing, the characters and the men. Made me want to read a lot more by and about these writers.

By the way, I got a note from Michele today where she shared this. "Ironically, after I was so positive that nobody could ever compare me to Raymond Chandler, the very next day I saw a review on Amazon of a story that I did for Otto Penzler that did just that!"

Each year at this event, a Grand Master is selected and honored. This year the honor went to Stuart Kaminsky. As part of the festivities he was interviewed by Barry Zeman, a MWA Historian and Archivist. I have not read Kaminsky, but Zeman's interview gave me a real look into the man and his work. It's rare that one gets to hear an hourlong interview with an author where his or her entire battery of work is discussed. It's both enlightening and entertaining.

Following this was the Agent/Editor Cocktail Party where there was time to meet with many authors, editors and agents in the mystery/suspense/thriller genre. At this event, Mary Higgins Clark, the classiest woman in publishing, awarded the Mary Higgins Clark Award (given to a debut work) to DARK ANGEL by Karen Harper. I had just met Harper so it was fun to know who I was clapping for!

There are some friends who I only get to see once a year at these events and it's a rush to catch up and share stories, hear about new projects and introduce new members to those more established in the business. This is an event where many unpublished writers come to network thus there is a lot of excitement in the room. At one point I watched one author in search of an agent work the room. When you are privy to the "agenda" the people watching is very interesting.

Thursday night was the Edgar Awards where the fashions were Black Tie and the crowd at cocktails was noisy and buzzy. I had spent most of the conference the day before knitting a shawl to wear with my outfit. This had been a long-term project so there were authors rooting for me to get it done in time. After a feverish knitting session on Thursday afternoon at the office where the staff watched me click click click those needles I cast off my last stitch just in time to go to the dinner.

Some women are known for their writing; for me, there was a steady stream of people checking out --- the shawl.

After a wildly social cocktail hour where the hors d' ouerves were pretzels and potato chips (I always love that), I slipped into the dinner where I sat with Keith Raffel whose book, dot.dead, will be in stores in July. The story is set in Silicon Alley and it's a fast-paced read that Grand Master Kaminsky said this about, "dot.dead is a fast paced, truly witty mystery set in the maze and madness of silicon valley. Ian Michaels is a determined and often befuddled hero who must navigate around a delightfully opinionated Jewish mother and solve a murder while finding love. This is a fun read." Nice blurb, eh?

We spent the evening sharing a pen marking the winners of the Edgar Awards and applauding wildly for our favorites. Keeping with the true spirit of the evening, another debut author was at our table, Jane K. Cleland, the author of CONSIGNED TO DEATH and we had some time to chat about her book. Cleland told me the plot in a very succinct "elevator pitch," and I was happy she sent me a book this week. Looking forward to reading it.

I hopped the subway back to the office (the cab line was ridiculously long) , noted the Edgar winners in a note to the staff and set off to finish packing for my 8:45 AM flight to L.A. for the L.A. Festival of Books. A report on this bookish adventure is to come.