No strangers here…

No strangers here…only friends we’ve yet to meet…

Apologies for the modified WB Yeats quote, but I kind of like the cadence of my version.

I wanted to post a blog about Bouchercon. For those of you who do not know, Bouchercon is an annual crime fiction festival that is held in a different US city each year. It did take place in Nottingham in 1985, but aside from that it has always been held in the US and Canada. Last year was Cleveland (which I missed), the year before was St. Louis, before that San Francisco. My first Bouchercon was in Baltimore in 2008. I have always travelled with the irrepressible and magnificent Ali Karim, who this year was acknowledged with the Don Sandstrom Lifetime Achievement Award for Contribution to the Crime Fiction and Mystery Genre. Ali, as you probably know, is one of the most prolific and well-respected crime fiction reviewers in the world, and a dear, dear friend of mine. We have travelled together for many years, caused much trouble (as would be expected!), and have garnered an immeasurable wealth of wonderful memories from our journeys.

Bouchercon is attended by many dozen of truly extraordinary authors, and the devoted readers and fans number more than a thousand, often more than two thousand. Of course, the festival is about the books, the writers, the fascinating panels, but more than that, it is about the friends who have become your extended family.

I could give you a catalogue of names – Mystery Mike Bursaw, George Easter of Deadly Pleasures magazine, Mike Dillman, Larry Gandle, Jeff and Jodi Kingston-Pierce (sadly not with us this year), Sara J. Henry, Don Green, Lisa Lutz, Jason Starr, Scott Montgomery, Jon and Ruth Jordan, Al Abramson, Steve Hamilton, Otto Penzler, Harlan Coben, John Purcell, Sandi Loper-Herzog, Carla Buckley, Laura Caldwell, Sean Chercover, Reed Farrel Coleman, Matt and Denise Hilton, Jen Forbus, Holly and Mick West, Heather and Dennis, Pete Rozovsky, Judy Bobalik, Joe Finder, Sarah Weinman, Janet Rudolph, Joe Lansdale, Zoe Sharp, Liz Mugavero, MJ Rose, Kelli Stanley, Mark and Betsy Sullivan…and many others I have missed. But always there are new friends found – Cara Brookins, Daniel Palmer, June Lee, Brendan DuBois, and many, many more.

That is Bouchercon – a huge reunion of people who are endlessly busy, endlessly occupied, and yet make time to travel across the world and gather together for a handful of days.

I missed Cleveland last year, and so I have not seen many of these folk since St. Louis. But when we collided it was as if we had spoken only yesterday. The warmth and kindness and generosity of spirit with which I am greeted by so many dozens of truly wonderful people is incredible, and the only downside is that the days fly by as if they were mere hours.

So here we are…the end of the 2013 Bouchercon. This evening we have what has become traditionally known as The Dead Dog Dinner (not that we eat dead dog, of course, but simply that we are all as ragged and worn-out as a dead dog after five days of wild extravagance). The last few that have not yet taken flights or boats or trains home meet in a restaurant, and we reminisce and catch up, tell jokes, drink too much, eat great food, and enjoy a truly wonderful coda to the festival.

So, until next year in Long Beach, California, thank you with all my heart to all those who were so happy to see me back, who spent time with myself and Ali, the authors who presented such wonderful panels and talks, and the new friends that will now be part of the family next time Bouchercon comes around.

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