Friday, October 10, 2008

Bouchercon I: Drinks with ice

Arnaldur Indriðason had just made the intriguing statement that “I am heavily influenced by the Icelandic sagas.” This blog having several times cited the greatest of those sagas, I thought I'd ask him about this.

Arnaldur's presence just a short walk from the main convention hotel here in Baltimore at Bouchercon 2008 made the inquiry painless, and its answer was disarmingly practical. Those medieval sagas, he said, were set down on calfskin, an exceedingly dear commodity at the time, which dictated terse prose style, a style he says he strives to imitate.

His first novel to be translated into English, Jar City (Tainted Blood in the U.K.) took advantage of the peculiar qualities of its setting like no other crime novel that I can think of has (to reveal the details would be a spoiler). It was nice to hear that he uses his country's brilliant literary tradition as well as its geographic isolation in his fiction. It was nice, too, that his publicist or publisher paid for the drinks.

Some other highlights of Day One:

Martin Edwards' account of his introduction to crime fiction at age 9, when was around for the premiere of Murder Most Foul: "Margaret Rutherford arrived by helicopter," Edwards said. Between the clues and the red herrings, he said, he fell in love with the idea of a detective. "That night" -- and he was 9 years old, remember -- "I decided I would one day like to write an Agatha Christie-style mystery." The man is now a Dagger-winning author of two crime series. Would that the rest of us held as true to our ambitions as 9-year-olds.

Ken Bruen's citation of Luke Kelly when asked who he admired among writers who had been bedeviled by alcohol and alcoholism. That superlative, scary talented, demon-possessed, late and much-lamented Irish singer was a superb poet who could have made a career of that pursuit had he chosen to do so, Bruen said.

Beyond that, the event has been a rush of old friends encountered anew as well as face-to-face meetings with a long list of accomplished individuals whom I'd known previously online: Janet Rudolph of Mystery Readers Journal, J. Kingston Pierce and Ali Karim of the Rap Sheet, Gerald So, plus a number of others I will likely remember once I've got some sleep.

The Baltimore Sun has been offering a blogging forum to select guest Bouchercon authors. Click here.

Tomorrow: How in God's name will anyone manage to get up in time for the panels?

© Peter Rozovsky 2008

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Blogger Kerrie said...

I'm watching your postings Peter - relying on you indeed. I am going to have a very envious few days!

October 10, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

And I shall envy you the sleep I'll be missing these next few days!

October 10, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just wrote a blog post about "The Clocks", a Christie novel, on my blog "Literary Memento". I thought it was awful, but I love her two famous ones "Murder on the Orient" and "And Then There Were None".

That's cool that Indriðason wants to continue the Islandic tradition in storytelling. But how does writing on the calf skin affect the prose style?

October 12, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

CS, you're a good editor; I was being too elliptical in my post.

Arnaldur's point was that the scribes strove to waste no words because their writing material was so expensive. The scribes of the sagas were no Dashiell Hammetts, in other words, with piles of crumpled calfskin by their typewriter as they struggled for the right word. Calfskin was too expnsive for that.

October 12, 2008  

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