- William E. Wallace
- I've been a house painter, dishwasher, broiler cook, private detective, military intelligence analyst, and I spent nearly 40 years as a reporter covering crime, 26 of them for the San Francisco Chronicle. These days I write science fiction, fantasy, horror and crime fiction, and I blog about books, films and crimes that don't receive sufficient attention from the mainstream media. I would like to be Elmore Leonard, Raymond Chandler, Ross MacDonald, Dashiell Hammett or George V. Higgins, but all of them are dead so I'll just stick with what I am already doing. . .
Tuesday, March 25, 2014
Despite the Focus on Crime, Attendees Were Well-behaved at This Year's Left Coast Crime Conference March 19-23
Sitting in a room full of people who write about murder and mayhem for a living, you would think that sooner or later, somebody would strangle, shoot or stab the person at the table across from them -- or that at the very least, a fistfight would break out.
Not so at "Calamari Crime," this year's Left Coast Crime conference held in the Portola Hotel in Monterey, California: the attendees, both authors and fans, were as polite as attendees at the vicar's afternoon tea social in a "cozy" style classic mystery story.
Mind you, we're talking about approximately 800 people who sat down together for an awards banquet on Saturday night without sharing a cross word, even though they ran the gamut from the hardest of hard-boiled crime novelists and their fans to the writers and readers of the aforementioned "cozy" mysteries.
Attendees included people who read and write just about every type of tale that involves suspense -- classic whodunnits, private detective tales, historical mysteries, spy yarns, police procedurals and crime tales with a decidedly romantic bent.
The crowd not only contained writers who have been practicing their art their entire lives, but also folks who have launched second careers (or third or fourth, in some cases) after spending much of their professional lives as lawyers, business owners, academics, publicists, news media employees, filmmakers, broadcast workers -- even law enforcement officials.
And for every style of suspense writer present, there was a faithful and enthusiastic coterie of fans. Not that the organizers of the conference differentiated between the two: in fact, writers and readers each wore the same type of identification badge that included only their names and where they lived. Everybody was treated the same -- and all were welcome.
There were young people, senior citizens, folks from the U.S. and abroad. It was a startlingly diverse group. You might have expected them to come to blows over fashion, music or taste in food -- or any little thing about which they might have disagreed.
Instead, the entire conference seemed to be populated by people who shared an appreciation for each other's specialty and a sincere liking for each other. It might have been the most collegial gathering I have ever attended.
The schedule of panels included such topics as the pros and cons of traditional publishing houses versus independent publishing, the pleasures and pitfalls of using humor in mysteries, current trends among thrillers, the challenges of writing historical crime novels and how to connect with readers and promote your writing.
At least one panel that I found particularly fascinating focused on the resurgence of pulp-style crime stories with the advent of eBooks and eMagazines. I thoroughly enjoyed that presentation because I wanted to write for the pulps from the time I was a teenager reading the true crime mags my parents bought and consuming fantasy, horror and science fiction stories contained in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, John W. Campbell's Astounding Sci-Fi (later renamed Analog), Amazing Stories, Fantastic Stories of Imagination, If and Galaxy.
Calamari Crime was the first mystery writers conference I have attended but I can tell you it won't be the last. Bouchercon is coming up in Los Angeles this fall and the next Left Coast Crime is scheduled for Portland, Oregon in 2015. I am already looking forward to both of them -- and to plunge back into my own work with enthusiasm after enjoying my brief exposure to others I now consider colleagues and friends.