Thursday, September 15, 2011

What I've learned at Bouchercon 2011

I still don't know what Yrsa Sigurðardóttir will do the next time she has to introduce me,  but I do know that my first panel, at Bouchercon 2011,  "A QUESTION OF DEATH: HOW IMPORTANT IS WHODUNIT"?, went exceedingly well. Some highlights:

1) Anders Roslund's anticipating my question about the significance of the protagonist's name in the series of thrillers he writes with Börge Hellström.  That protagonist is named Ewart Grens, he appears in such books as the Dagger Award-winning Three Seconds and the Cell 8, among others, and grens does apparently mean border in Swedish, as it does in other Germanic languages. I had assumed the name suggested, ironically or otherwise, that Grens is a bulwark against international crime in the books' borderless Baltic world, but Roslund chalked it up to Grens' actions that sometimes straddle the border between good and not good.

Note that Grens is not the stereotyped tough-guy cop who stops at nothing to get the job done, the cop so tough the law can't contain him, and so on. No, his misdeeds raise real moral questions. For an example, read Box 21.

2) Gianrico Carofiglio's insistence that he surprised when an enthusiastic Italian critic said his first novel, Involuntary Witness, was the best legal thriller ever written in Italy. "I never thought I wrote a legal thriller," he said. As successive novels did will commercially and critically, he said, he decided that "I write legal thrillers." The same was the case when readers would ask if his books were autobiographical. No, he said at first. Then, once the books turned out to be hits, yes.

3)  Lene Kaaberbøl  cowrote The Boy in the Suitcase with Agnete Friis. She also translated the novel from Danish into English. That's why I asked her if the book's reference to a brutal pimp as "the man with the serpent tattoo" was a message to Stieg Larsson ghost and to his English-language readers. No, she said, though she did appear to enjoy the suggestion. Intentional or not, it adds one more layer of meaning for readers, just as the multiple implications of Grens.

4) A Hendricks and tonic at the hotel bar costs $12.98.

© Peter Rozovsky 2011

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10 Comments:

Blogger seana said...

I suppose it's not surprising that St. Louis would be the place to choose over San Francisco for a G&T.

I am surprised that Carofiglio didn't know how his fiction would be seen, but not completely surprised.

September 16, 2011  
Anonymous I.J.Parker said...

Hotels know that Bouchercon is all baout drinking.

September 16, 2011  
Anonymous I.J.Parker said...

Bet you frightened those poor authors by finding deep meanings in their novels that they hadn't thought about.

September 16, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, H&T is cheaper at this year's convention hotel than at last year's, but not cheaper enough that one would fly from SF to St. Louis just for drinks. To Philadelphia, however, may bea different story.

Carofiglio's first book is a few yearsold now, so perhaps time has wrought some changes on his memory.

In fact, though, the midlife crisis aspect of his novels struck me more than the legal-drama aspects (which were superb, by the way). So it's plausible that he would not have regarded the stories as legal thrillers.

September 16, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Hotels know that Bouchercon is all baout drinking.



I.J., last year's hotel (or the people who booked it) did not know this. This year, however, the bar has laid in a double supply of everything and puts its best staff on. I know this because last night I received a firsthand account of the summit meeting betweeen the conference organizers and hotel staff on the subject.

I have paced myself, by the way, with liberal helpings of mineral water among the occasional beers and gin and tonics.

September 16, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I.J., the authors, in turn, layer their books with meanings I'd not have thought of. In any case, I've long believed that reading is a collaborative enterprise and that no author can be completely conscious of every possible beffect his or her book will have. So, unless a reader is delusional, finding resonances that an author might not have been aware of is a valid enterprise and a worthwhile part of discussing or assessing a book. That was interesting bunch I had yesterday.

September 16, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

Peter, I'd just say drink up and don't worry about the future. I can endorse this, because I'm pretty sure it's a noir attitude.

As to Carafiglio, I can easily imagine he was writing one thing and it turned out to be someting else as well.

September 17, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, I'd say the more noir attitude would be that if there is a future, one is utterly deluded about it.

Carofiglio acknowledges that he began writing fiction during a midlife crisis. He more than most authors is entitled to believe his fiction is both what his main character does (courtroom drama) and is (middle-aged guy trying to figure out his place in the world).

September 17, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

I just read today that T.S. Eliot wrote The Wasteland while in the middle of a nervous breakdown. Writers take heed--being miserable is no excuse for nonproductivity!

Yesterday I was reading Lapham's Quarterly, and this issue is dedicated to the future. I was reading a really depressing poem about how time gets away from us by a Japanese monk of I think the 7th century. A guy walks up to the register where I am reading it and starts asking me about it. Then I notice that he happens to be buying a copy too. A nice occurence in itself, since Lapham's Quarterly doesn't exactly fly out the door, but after awhile the guy mentions that he actually has an article in it. He'd written a piece on Nostradamus.

I haven't read it yet, but I did buy the magazine because I told him I would. I thought it was all pretty cool.

September 17, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, Carofiglio made good use of the midlife crisis. This, and his incorporation of it in his novels, will make good subjects for future posts.

September 18, 2011  

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