Saturday, October 23, 2010

BoucherCon: David Baldacci, Martin Cruz Smith & 1,000 middle-aged ladies

I love to read -- and murder mysteries are my favorite things to read in the whole world. So when a huge murder-mystery writers' and readers' convention came to San Francisco this year, I just HAD to go. And BoucherCon didn't disappoint. For four whole glorious day, I got to absolutely wallow in the literary nuts and bolts of who-killed-who.

I got to ask Joseph Finder, a mega-blockbuster big-selling author who is also an expert on Afghanistan, "If you were to write a Who-Dun-It about Afghanistan, what would be the plot and how would you solve that particular mystery?"

Finder gamely replied, "I'd make it into a comedy of errors. The Afghan government is not doing what you think it is doing and everyone else is also being fooled." Yeah, especially the average Afghan and us taxpayers -- at this point, we seem to be playing the role of the corpse.

And I got to ask Martin Cruz Smith, "How in the freak did you learn so much about the inside workings of a Russian fish-factory ship?"

"Because I was no longer welcome in Russia at the time I wrote 'Polar Star,' I figured that I'd just go up to Dutch Harbor in Alaska and see if I could sneak onto a Russian factory ship there. Those ships are like a small floating piece of Russia. When I wrote the Russian government for permission to board one, they replied that there wouldn't be one up in Dutch Harbor for another four months. So, knowing the Russians like I do, I immediately hustled right up there. And I was able to get aboard one and even take photos and make notes. But when the captain found out that I had come aboard, I thought I was going to be in big trouble -- but instead he just asked me to join him for dinner." Cruz Smith is welcome in Russia now, BTW.

But most important of all, I got to ask David Baldacci a most burning question: "How come, if you have sold millions and millions of copies of books that expose the CIA as basically an above-the-law group of paid assassins -- and millions and millions of Americans have read your books -- then how come nobody in America seems to be trying to put a leash on the CIA?"

"I don't know why that is. But all I can do is to just keep writing and hope."

For two of the four days that the BoucherCon was in San Francisco, I was forced by circumstances beyond my control to bring along my two-year-old granddaughter Mena. I myself was completely enthralled by BoucherCon. Mena, however, was totally bored. Sure, she tried really hard to be a good girl for me -- but she's a freaking two-year-old after all. She can't even read Janet Evanovich yet let alone Laurie R. King, Lee Child, Rhys Bowen or Denise Mina (all of whom were there BTW -- except for Janet Evanovich, unfortunately. I would have asked her to autograph all 20 of her books, which I currently own most of).

When I first arrived at BoucherCon, I noticed that approximately three out of four of the murder-mystery fans in attendance were middle-aged ladies. "Aha," I thought to myself, "look at that! There are rooms and rooms full of possible grandmothers here! Surely I can get some sympathy for having had to bring along my granddaughter -- and maybe possibly even get some help." Sigh. What alternative planet had I been living on? These middle-aged-lady mystery readers were definitely NOT maternal.

And on the last day of the convention, they staged a fancy awards brunch in the Hyatt Regency Grand Ballroom -- but I was still stuck with young Mena. What to do? I brought Mena along. She sat quietly through a seminar featuring Susan Dunlop and Robert S. Levinson on the subject of writing books set in San Francisco as opposed to writing books set in Los Angeles -- like the sweetheart that Mena really is. But when the time came for the super-finale fancy brunch, Mena staged one of those humongous uncontrollable scary melt-downs like only a two-year-old can.

So here's Mena, rolling around on the floor of the Grand Ballroom, kicking and SCREAMING!

And here's me, embarrassed beyond belief, trying to shrink into the woodwork and pretend that I've never seen this child ever before in my life.

And here's a whole ballroom full of 1,000 middle-aged potential grandmother types -- staring at me in HORROR, as if I personally had just bumped off Sherlock Holmes.

Finally, one (1) very kindly middle-aged lady did try to help, but by that time Mena was totally in wigged-out-semi-epileptic-craziness mode and practically bit her. OH NO!

At last some saintly waitress strode over and humanely handed me a cup of hot coffee -- and Mena wore herself out. "Can we eat now?" Mena asked prettily, in that totally innocent way that only two-year-olds who are just recovering from the fit of a lifetime can pull off. "I'm hungry, Gaia." I just be you are.

PS: I also scored a bunch of free books. And, what is even more important, I learned the names of a whole bunch of new mystery authors that I had never even heard of before. Prior to this convention, I had thought that I either knew about or had actually read most murder-mystery authors, but BoucherCon showed me that I only knew the tip of the iceberg.

PPS: The next BoucherCon will be in St. Louis in 2011. I would really like to be there because I totally loved the San Francisco BoucherCon. And so did Mena. I think.