Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Bouchercon 2016, Part I: Crime with alligators

The Garden District, New Orleans.
Photos by Peter Rozovsky for
Detectives Beyond Borders
Bouchercon 2016 was like no other in my experience, with more music, more color, more humidity, more good food, more courtesy, more good fellowship, more nobility of character, more drama, more hospitality, and more alligators than any I'd attended before.   That's New Orleans and the bayou country, I guess.

My Thursday morning panel went as well as any I'd moderated. The panelists — Eric Beetner, Martin Edwards, Rick Ollerman, and Gary Phillips — were articulate, knowledgeable, and entertaining talking about their favorite crime writers of the past. Those crime writers included some I had previously read and enjoyed, including Charles Williams, Peter Rabe, and Michael Gilbert, and others new to me.

The latter included William Peter McGovern and the remarkable Clarence Cooper Jr. Ten minutes into the panel, Walter Mosley walked in and took a seat in the crowd. He even offered a trenchant and entertaining interjection during the session's question period. I have no photographic evidence of Mosley's presence, but you might be able to hear him on CDs and MP3 files of the session,  available from VW Tapes Conference Recordings.

Christa Faust
The fun had begun the previous night, with the best Noir at the Bar I have attended since I invented Noir at the Bar eight years ago. The Voodoo Lounge on North Rampart Street was a perfect venue: crowded, amiably seedy, with a low, steady buzz of talk punctuating breaks between the superb readings.

The highlights for me? Martyn Waites and Christa Faust, who write violence and grotesquery, which anyone can do, but who do so with sympathy and heart, which few even try.  John Rector's deadpan story, whose television food-show host character appears to cook something you'll never eat, was not just gross-out funny, but also superbly controlled. Johnny Shaw gave a hilarious reading-performance of a story featuring Chingón: The World’s Deadliest Mexican.

Chris Acker and the Growing Boys. French
Quarter, New Orleans
Sunday evening, two of us wandered the French Quarter, stopping in at bars or lingering in the street wherever the music sounded interesting. We heard funk and blues that brought home how important New Orleans was to the formation of rock and roll. We heard pure and clear country music from a sidewalk quartet whose audience included an 89-year-old woman who sang along to everything.

Jay Stringer, Noir at the Bar's
apparently headless host
But she couldn't top the blind man who walked into the first place we had stopped and danced up a storm using his impassive seeing-eye dog as a maypole. At one point in the evening a young man backing out of a doorway carrying an amplifier accidentally bumped my friend and said to her in a voice filled with concern: "Excuse me, sweetheart." That would not have happened in Philadelphia or Boston or Montreal or anywhere else I've ever been.

Music in the French Quarter,
New Orleans
Along the way we became separated from Ali Karim and Mike Stotter, much to Ali's consternation. But his anger had a benevolent cause: He had gone out of his way to help a fellow convention attendee who had got into trouble, and he was worried that the same had happened to us.  Ali is a good human being as well as a hilarious boon companion.

New Orleans food you know about already. Suffice it to say that the spices will wake you up and that the best meal I had was the andouille-crusted fish at the Palace Café. Cajun music? Sone of the rhythms are tricky, but a lot of the songs are based on a simple I-IV-V chord progression that even I can play.

© Peter Rozovsky 2016

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14 Comments:

Blogger Clea Simon said...

so you'll be back, right? Think about Jazz Fest... http://www.nojazzfest.com

September 21, 2016  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Hell, yes! I'll be back. And thanks!

September 21, 2016  
Blogger Linda L. Richards said...

Won't forget any of it soon! So much fun, fellowship, gators and gumbo. No wonder so many people move there after visiting. New Orleans is enchanting. Thanks for the great highlights!

September 21, 2016  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

It was fun, all right.

September 21, 2016  
Blogger seana graham said...

It was very fun. Met some old friends, made some new ones, I think, including the above commenting Linda Richards. The Second Line Parade was a blast as it turned out, despite light rainfall. We participants all got our fifteen minutes of fame. of fame. A lot of new writers on my list and some very established ones that I've been remiss about.

I love the bottle drumming picture.

September 21, 2016  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...


I missed the parade; it had left by the time a few of us got down to the lobby. Maybe we figured it would be rained out. Too bad; people have posted some good pictures, and it looked like fun.

I bought or otherwise acquired books by some writers I had been hearing out for a while but have not read. I also bought a few vintage paperbacks based on top-flight advice from the likes of J. Kingston Pierce, Bill Crider, and Rick Ollerman, who know that area a lot better than I do.

I, too, met some new people, some of whom I had previously known only online. That's always fun.

The street musicians in New Orleans play music one does not often here hear on instruments one does not often see here. I took more photos I've them that I'll include with future posts. And hey: Detectives Beyond Borders is ten years old today

September 22, 2016  
Blogger seana graham said...

Wow! Congratulations on ten years, Peter. You've really done a service with this blog
As for the Second Line, well, one I always going to miss something. I missed the gators, for instance. Or they missed me.

Oddly enough, some of the music I heard was opera. I had wandered down to the Café du Monde area, and started hearing an operatic tenor. It turned out that the New Orleans opera was doing some musical selections on a small stage near there, which were quite good. I loved the diversity of the New Orleans music scene.

September 22, 2016  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks.

All I remember hearing around the Cafe du Monde was calliope music. So you're right about the diversity. I've never been anywhere else where so many different kinds of music were easily available.

The gators were Monday afternoon. I think you were on your way by then. But they asked about you.

September 22, 2016  
Blogger seana graham said...

Uh oh.

September 22, 2016  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

See newly added photo.

September 22, 2016  
Blogger seana graham said...

I hope that gator was a lot further away than it looks.

September 22, 2016  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Probably, but not lot farther. Some approached the boat right up close.

If you want to get on their good side, feed them marshmallows. (Our skipper/guide did the feeding; I would not want you to think we conducted ourselves irresponsibly. He also reached into the water to pet some of the gators. He said Louisiana alligators are mellower than their Florida cousins, something to do with water temperature.)

September 22, 2016  
Blogger Elgin Bleecker said...

Sounds like it was a great time – wish I could have gone. And, pick up some William P. McGivern books soon. You will not be disappointed. I just posted a piece about one of his crime novels.

September 22, 2016  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

It was a great time. I read three of McGivern's novels for my Bouchercon panel, but not Shield for Murder, which has particular relevance for the city where I live.

September 23, 2016  

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