Sunday, May 27, 2012

Crimefest 2012 highlights

A gentle spring wind dissipates the gin fumes over College Green, and Bristol is an eerily quiet place now that Ali Karim has left town.

With Crimefest 2012's remaining stragglers marshaling their strength before the Sunday dinner, here are some highlights of my third Crimefest, one of the most enjoyable crime festivals I've been part of:

1) Declan Burke's Absolute Zero Cool wins the Last Laugh award, for best comic crime fiction published in the U.K., besting a field that included hacks and pikers like Elmore Leonard and Carl Hiaasen.

2) Your humble blogkeeper loses the Criminal Mastermind quiz to Peter Guttridge on the crime-fiction equivalent of penalty kicks. Guttridge and I each answered fifteen questions correctly in general crime-fiction knowledge and our specialty categories. (His was Richard Stark's Parker novels; mine was Dashiell Hammett.) Guttridge won the prize of Bristol blue glass and a free pass to next year's festival because he had passed on only five questions whose answers he did not know while I passed on seven. I think, however, that my showing may be the best ever by a North American, and proof to the Brits that there's more to America than bluff good humor, rustic colonial manners, and a flair for tall stories.

3) A post-dinner discussion with Gunnar Staalesen, who agreed with a Detectives Beyond Borders commenter's suggestion that the Anders Breivik case will halt fruitful, honest discussion of immigration and integration in Norway for a generation.

4) Finding a crime writer (William Ryan) for whom Isaac Babel (Odessa Tales, Red Cavalry) is both an inspiration and a character.

5) Reunions with the delightful floating cast of authors, organizers, critics and fans who spend their vacations criss-crossing the Atlantic Ocean to attend every crime festival they can in England and America, and the addition of Alison Bruce, Laura Wilson and Stav Sherez to the cast. See you in Cleveland or Harrogate or Bristol or Albany or Long Beach or ...

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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43 Comments:

Anonymous solo said...

Bristol? Isn't that where Archibald Leach was born? Surely, you made a pilgrimage to his birthsite while you were there. If you didn't, shame on you, you heathen!

May 27, 2012  
Blogger seana said...

Peter, I'm sure that they just attributed your quiz solving savvy to your Canadian roots.

I'm thrilled to hear the news about Declan!

May 27, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Solo, I sadly have not visited the Church of Leach.

May 27, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, Declan and I sat at the same dinner table for the dinner where the awards were announced. I'd say from his facial reaction that he was surprised when he won.

If I had slept just it a bit more, spent fifteen fewer minutes at the bar, or even made just one of those gin and tonics a single rather than a double, surely I'd have won. But then, I'm not the only one. I think the quiz is designed, in part, to be cruel sport with the sodden and the sleep-deprived. The convention is such good fun that few attendees want to miss a moment of it by sleeping too much.

May 27, 2012  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

Congratulations to Declan Burke! So glad a pillar of Irish crime fiction won. I haven't read this book, but his website is rife with wit.

Dashiell Hammett! Who would have thought?

Were the questions skewed in any particular way?

Sounds like a fantastic time was had by all and that sleep would have just interfered with the entire experience.

May 28, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

The Hammett portion was a mix of questions about his novels, his short stories, and his life.

Fantastic times are generally had by all at such events, but this Crimefest was especially enjoyable.

May 28, 2012  
Blogger Len Tyler said...

Hi Peter. Good to run into you again. And my congratulations (as one of the plucky runners up) to Declan Burke for winning the Goldsboro Books Last Laugh Award

May 28, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Likewise, And you need not be too modest to mention that you're not just a plucky runner-up, but a former winner.

May 28, 2012  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

Meg Gardiner tells me on Facebook that the quiz was very entertaining.

I like her books and I like your blog. A two-fer!

May 28, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks. Meg was in the quiz a couple of years ago. I did better than she did, but then, I did not have to face the great Martin Edwards, who was kicked out because he kept winning every year.

May 28, 2012  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

Out of curiosity... Can you remember any of the Dashiell Hammett questions? Or have they been forgotten in a haze of gin-and-tonics?

For this gin snob... Did you try any particular brand of gin in Bristol? Or did you stick with the well brand? After a few, who cares, huh?

May 29, 2012  
Blogger seana said...

I drank one called Death's Door at a party recently, which I liked, both for the name and the flavor.

May 29, 2012  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

I tried the Death's Door (yes, that is a great name) vodka--sippin' liquor--when I was in Wisconsin a couple of years ago. Door as in Door County, WI. (I love to try local spirits and beer when I travel.) It was good but not as good as Dogfish Head's Blue Hen vodka (my gold standard for US vodkas...to date.)

Now I'm sorry I didn't have the gin, Seana, what with your recommendation and those from reviewers at the BevMo website. I'll pick some up there soon!

May 29, 2012  
Blogger seana said...

My friend is a great bartender, which helps. It's funny that some of my other friends were curious, but frightened off by the name, but I perhaps due to my noir connections was drawn to it.

May 30, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Elisabeth: The Hammett questions were pretty ease surf that I'd probably have known without the studying: Where did her serve in the war Why was he jailed? What disease killed him? Where is he buried? One question that I forgot but whose answer was "The Smart Set."

I was naturally fried after four days of staying up late and getting up early, so much so that I blew one question I'd otherwise have answered, including the name of the model for the Continental Op. The worst was that I remembered the name just the quiz master, Maxim Jakubowski, was about to give the answer. (The Hammett questions had been prepared by Hammett's French translator, Maxim said.)

Finally, I stuck to Beefeater.

May 30, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, the hotel bar had Beefeater and one other brand whose name I forget. I like the name Death's Door, and I bet such a gin would sell well at a crime-ficiton convention.

May 30, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Oh, and I did not get asked about Hammett's birthday. May 27, the day of the quiz, turned out to be not just Hammett's birthday but also that of Peter Guttridge, the quiz's winner. Fate has a sense of humor.

May 30, 2012  
Blogger seana said...

It would be marketing genius to sell it at Bouchercon or the like.

May 30, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

And my off-site drink was generally cider, so I don't know if Death's Door or other colorful brands of gin are generally available. here.

I'd wager that Death's Door is a newish brand from a newish distiller. Zany names are very much a part of the craft-beer movement in the U.S., and I assume the same is true for spirits.

May 30, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I shall try to sell the idea to Bouchercon organizers!

May 30, 2012  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

"ease surf"
"Where did her serve"

Peter... go back to bed. It's OK. You don't need a copy editor, you need sleep.

Gee, those are pretty easy DH questions. Sounds like one of those quizzes I used to over-study for. I thought it would consist of minutiae and assorted arcane references to his fiction.

My father's birthday was yesterday. One trait he has most in common with the other Gemini who preceded him by a day is the "if you want it done, I'm gonna do is right now." This trait apparently drove Lillian Hellmann as nuts as it drives my mom...

May 30, 2012  
Blogger seana said...

Peter, Wisconsin will thank you.

Elizabeth, as it happens, I am also born under that sign, but it is so not my slogan.

May 30, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I also need a computer without a damned auto-correct feature!

May 30, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Eisabeth, I did overstudy for the quiz. And I a favorably disposed toward anything called "Blue Hen."

Seana, please relay my thanks to the great state of Wisconsin the next time you see it. Don't tell me you share a birthday with Dashiell Hammett and Peter Guttridge.

May 30, 2012  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

it is so not my slogan

Seana, maybe it's a guy thing. A Gemini male friend (birthday next week) shares the same admirable or annoying trait (depending on the circumstances).

May 30, 2012  
Blogger seana said...

I will, but it probably won't be that soon. Northern Illinois is more the ancestral grounds.

No, I don't share that distinction. Mine's in June.

May 30, 2012  
Blogger seana said...

As a twin sign, I have a theory that it might be a kind of opposites thing. It would make me happy to think that somewhere out there in the universe, there was some doppelganger taking action on all the things I defer...

May 30, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I'd say that Gemini trait is admirable. I wish I could display it more frequently.

May 30, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

You're lucky to have a cosmic doppelgänger taking care of the things you don't get around to. I need one to write my novel for me.

May 30, 2012  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

favorably disposed toward anything called "Blue Hen."

Well then, you must know I'd find a way to make a reference to horse racing... The Wikipedia entry for blue hen gets it exactly right: "The Blue Hen (a race for 2-yr-old fillies at Delaware Park [Delaware > blue hen > > Blue Hen vodka > get it?] is named for the horse breeding term 'Blue Hen,' meaning a mare who has proved herself exceptional in producing high quality foals, almost regardless of which stallion might be the sire. These sons and daughters would also have an impact on the breed."

As a stallion might sire 200+ foals a year while a mare only produces one, I am in awe of the great Thoroughbred matriarchs who produce stakes winner after stakes winner.

May 30, 2012  
Blogger seana said...

As to the cosmic doppelganger, it probably already has.

May 30, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

The University of Delaware's sports teams are called the Blue Hens. I always thought that was the name of a bird found in Delaware. Maybe those high-quality mares take their name from the reproductive excellence of the bird.

May 30, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

So if I do what my doppelgänger has already done, will the result be like matter meeting anti-matter?

May 30, 2012  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

Interesting (well, I thought so...) trivia:

Delaware: the Blue Hen State

"This historical nickname, sometimes Blue Hen Chicken State, originated during the Revolutionary War. According to W.A. Powell's History of Delaware, 1928, the story traces back to a Captain Caldwell from Kent County who carried with him a pair of fighting game cocks. These roosters, descendents of a famous Blue Hen, were well known in Kent County for their superior fighting qualities. It is said that upon seeing these game cocks fight, one soldier cried 'We're sons of the Old Blue Hen and we're game to the end' comparing the fighting prowess of the roosters to the fighting prowess of the Delaware soldiers. These regiments from Kent County became known as 'Blue Hen's Chickens.' This name was soon applied state wide. In 1939, the Blue Hen Chicken was adopted as Delaware's official State Bird."

Hey! My v-word is LAFAYETTE, in keeping with a revolutionary theme.

May 30, 2012  
Blogger seana said...

Elizabeth, the V words are very odd right now.

Peter, I don't know the answer to that, but don't tempt fate.

May 30, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

The state's motto, translated, ought to be "There Ain't Nobody Here But Us Blue-Hen Chickens."

May 30, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, the v-words have decidedly gone through a switch, under which the second of two strings of letters seems almost always to be a real word.

May 30, 2012  
Blogger seana said...

Didn't this come up somewhere that they were using this process to test or parsendoe some old texts?

May 30, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Could your comment use a bit of parsendoe itself?

Yes, the article to which I sent you a link said that some of the verification words will help test the accuracy of text scanning that Google is doing.

May 30, 2012  
Blogger Martin Edwards said...

Congrats again, Peter. Maxim did the Mastermind quiz at the two UK Bouchercons in 1990 and 1995.

May 31, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks. 1990 and 1995 are antediluvian, as far as I'm concerned. Do you remember who took part in those quizzes?

I quite like the format, and I realized only this year how cruelly the format plays against our tendency not to admit ignorance. In other words, it's better to give a whimsical wrong answer than it is to pass. I'll keep this in mind should I ever be asked back.

May 31, 2012  
Blogger Martin Edwards said...

Um, well, I took part in both, as a matter of fact - but of course, I was only a lad!

May 31, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I'm sure that even in those salad days your judgment was not much greener than it is now. I suspect you taught those Americans a lesson -- left them a smoking intellectual wreck, in fact.

May 31, 2012  

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