Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Project Noir Songs to go live at NoirCon 2012

I've been talking about noir and crime songs for years at Detectives Beyond Borders, and next week I'll do it in front of an audience at NoirCon 2012 here in hurricane-ravaged Philadelphia.

My bit of the program is called Project Noir Songs, and it happens next Thursday. I'm not sure yet of PNS' final form, but Tom Waits will be a part of the festivities (in recorded form, alas. In person he'd make a fine MC), as will Shane MacGowan, the Band, Elizeth Cardoso, Luke Kelly and the Dubliners, Susana Baca, Fairport Convention, the Bobby Fuller Four, and, as usual, more.

That list includes Peruvian, Brazilian, English, Irish, American, and Canadian musicians; this is Detectives Beyond Borders, after all. If you can't make the scene at the Society Hill Playhouse, the Philadelphia Mausoleum of Contemporary Art and other NoirCon venues in person next week, be part of NoirCon in spirit and tell me what songs you think should be part of Project Noir Songs.

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Plus ça change, plus how I spent the hurricane

Léo Malet, it is said, could never quite take crime fiction seriously, and indeed Les Rats de Montsouris, part of his Nestor Burma series, is full of parodistic touches.

One of these is just as relevant today as it was upon the novel's initial publication fifty-seven years ago, and not just because I finished reading the book while waiting for Hurricane Sandy to have its way with the Mid-Atlantic States:
"The storm came to nothing, like a project for tax reform."
How did I spend the hurricane? Glad you asked:
"All public transportation was cancelled, all bridges were closed, and the paper put a bunch of us up at the Loew's hotel. So I spent the night high above Philadelphia, with a fine view down Market Street east to the Delaware River and beyond ("Beyond" is, in this case, Camden, New Jersey, but that couldn't drown out the moody tenor saxophone soundtrack playing in my head. Besides. I couldn't see much; it was nighttime.) My room had two beds and a day bed, perfect for lounging. All that was missing was a pouting babe.

"I felt like Bruce Wayne pensively regarding the twinkling lights of Gotham City waiting for the bat signal (and really: a hurricane would be a fine time for the Riddler and his gang to pull a heist, as long as they didn't plan to make their getaway by bus.) I could even have pretended that one of the two bathrobes that came with the room was a smoking jacket. Instead, I went down to the bar for a good gripe session with my colleagues."
To recapitulate: I had a drink (at my own expense; my company did not cover bar tabs or incidentals), I spent the night in a historic building, and I spoke openly with my colleagues, a welcome change from the cryptic remarks and raised eyebrows by which we communicate when non-copy editors are around. Could have been worse.

I can now happily report that the house is in good shape, at no risk of losing the coveted Good Mousekeeping Spiel of Approval ™.

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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Monday, October 29, 2012

Paris throught the eyes of Léo Malet and Nestor Burma

Léo Malet was a singer, a poet, an anarchist, a surrealist, a prisoner of war, a novelist. and a crime writer.

Perhaps his surrealist leanings gave rise on the first page of The Rats of Montsouris to the odd juxtaposition of
“It was one of those summer nights we don’t get often enough. Just the way I like them: dry and stifling”.
“The rue du Cange was damp and torpid. … No other sound disturbed the clammy quiet.”
Or maybe a spot of slapdash writing or mistranslation was responsible. But no matter; the lapse (or quirk) appears isolated.

The Rats of Montsouris (1955) is somewhere around the seventeenth of Malet’s many novels featuring the phenomenally popular Nestor Burma, a relatively rare private investigator in French crime fiction commonly called a counterpart to Philip Marlowe, Sam Spade, or both. Something more than half the books were among what Malet called his "New Mysteries of Paris," each set in one of the city's districts, or arrondissements, the series a nod to Eugène Sue's nineteenth-century "Mysteries of Paris." (Cara Black continues the tradition today in her Aimée Leduc mysteries.)

Burma likes to wander the streets, sometimes with his beautiful secretary, sometimes into artists' studios and surrealists' ateliers. But the real attraction to far is the zest with which Burma carries out his wanderings, exclaiming with wonder at a part of the city he had never seen before despite his long residence or remarking, perhaps sardonically, about some monument or public square's best feature.

I'm along for the ride, and Malet must have done something right; Nestor Burma has enjoyed a sixty- or seventy-year career in novels, short stories, television, movies, and, more recently, graphic novel adaptations by Jacques Tardi. Has any fictional P.I. not named Holmes had a longer career?

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Who in crime fiction should have hurricanes named for them?

Hurricane Sandy is on the way, and I've been sealing my windows and stocking up on dried fruit and trite storm metaphors. Between that and those pesky side projects, I've neglected my crime reading, so here's another miscellaneous post to tide you over until after Sandy shall have cut its grim swath of destruction up the Eastern Seaboard and as far inland as Ohio.

1) Last year after Hurricane Irene, I put up a post about storm-related Bob Dylan songs and albums, pointing out the lyrical and historical weakness of "Hurricane." Since then, some blog or Web site has ranked the song near the top, maybe even number one, on its list of Dylan songs. I don't know about you, but I prefer that my rock and roll not falsify history or attempt rhymes like "We're going to put his ass in stir / We're going to pin this triple MUR / der on him." The record is beautifully produced, though, which may fool some people into thinking "Hurricane" is a great song.

2) An article in my newspaper today quoted a supermarket manager's surprise that many shoppers were buying perishable food, considering that the principal reason for stocking up ahead of a hurricane is as a hedge against power outages. It was a marvelously understated way of saying people are stupid*, which may explain why my newspaper did not blow up his comment in a large-type display box.

3) The week's non-crime reading is The Guide for the Perplexed. I may not believe what Maimonides seeks to prove is true, but his tools, at least in Part One — textual analysis, a knowledge of figures of speech, careful attention to the meanings of words — ought to endear him to all copy editors, since we are perpetual guides to those who are perplexed and worse.

4) Finally, who (or what) in crime fiction deserves to have a hurricane named for him, her, or it? I'll start you off with:
Hurricane Stieg, a massive blow that generates countless smaller storms but has no lasting effect.
Now it's your turn. Best suggestion wins my undying admiration.
* An alternate interpretation would have it that he was expressing admiration for his customers' adherence to the cook now, eat later school of disaster preparation.

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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Friday, October 26, 2012

More from Disappeared

My voyages in Side Project City continue. In the meantime, here are a few more selections from Anthony Quinn's Disappeared:
"Since the ceasefire, many paramilitaries had gone to ground along the lough shore — entire families of them, in fact. Some of them forged new careers in politics, others took to alcohol, and a few found God."
"So our prime suspects are a group of paramilitaries with macabre imaginations and an interest in duck hunting."
"It was wariness and silence that distinguished Republican estates after the cease-fire. Not petrol bombs or riots, but silence."
"His mind was like a house that had been repeatedly burgled by a memory thief."
And that's not to mention some incendiary speeches at the wake of a man who had been a good Republican to some people and something quite different to others.

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Books to Die For, Part I

I've begun my reading of Books to Die For with the essays by Scott Phillips on Charles Willeford, Adrian McKinty on Patricia Highsmith, John McFetridge on Trevanian, Mike Nicol on James McClure, Qiu Xiaolong on Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, and Elmore Leonard on George V. Higgins.

In each case but one, the essay is by a crime writer whose work I've read and the subject is another crime writer (or writers) whose work I've also read. In that exceptional case, the setting of the novel under discussion is my home town, so I feel that I can bring multiple perspectives to all six essays.

Each of the six probably says at least as much about its author as about its subject, with the possible exception of Nicol's on The Steam Pig, first of James McClure's six Kramer and Zondi novels set in apartheid-era South Africa. I can think of no author whose work looms larger over his country's crime fiction than McClure's does over South Africa's. Perhaps it's no wonder, then, that Nicol's fine summation of the great McClure seems to me more self-effacing than the other essays I read.

Scott Phillips (lower left) simulates
a larcenous act as, from left,
John McFetridge, your humble
blogkeeper, and Declan Burke
look on. (If this were a newspaper

rather than a blog, McFetridge,
Y.H.B.K. and Burke would not
just be looking on but also
sharing a laugh.) 

Elsewhere, McFetridge on Trevanian's novel The Main offers the same keen eye for social history that I know from McFetridge's own books. And Scott Phillips' observation that Charles Willeford's heroes "cheat, brawl, lie, and seduce their way, unencumbered by notions of fair play, through a postwar American landscape Norman Rockwell never painted" reminded me of nothing so much as the unsentimental but very funny world of Phillips' own novels.

And now, as Bob Dylan said, the hour is getting late. So I'll leave you with the thought that I see no reason Books to Die For and its editors, Declan Burke and John Connolly, ought not to be considered for next year's Edgar, Dagger, and other crime fiction awards in the critical/non-fiction categories.

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Meet Zorba the crime writer

There's no such thing as the supernatural, just phenomena and states of being outside the usual whose resistance, temporary or otherwise, to explanation induces feelings of uncanniness in characters and readers.

Stuart Neville understood this well in The Ghosts of Belfast (The Twelve in the UK). And another Northern Ireland crime writer, Anthony Quinn, understands it as well in his debut novel, Disappeared.

A retired Special Branch agent's Alzheimer's disease induces a hyper-sensitivity and heightened self-awareness that are just as creepy as and far more convincingly real than twaddle about ghosts.

A mysterious buzzing as two police officers search a hastily abandoned cottage offers further evidence that Quinn understands — and this is crucial for successful creepy scenes — that the feeling of uncanniness is wholly interior to the character. It's nothing "out there."

The book, through its first quarter, is also full of mordant wit:
"Irwin, who was at least ten years younger, represented the youth Daly fervently hoped he had left behind."
"Who do you think it was? The real IRA, the continuity IRA, the INLA, or the truly, madly, deeply IRA?"
Ken Bruen is an indefatigable blurbster, but I see no reason so far to suspect him of  overstatement when he says: "Line up the Edgar for best first novel. Disappeared is a major piece of work." 

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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Monday, October 22, 2012

Charlie Stella, Christy Mathewson, and me

One way I keep sane amid my current wave of side projects is to read for work during the day, for pleasure at night. That way I do what needs doing, and I send myself to sleep on a wave of good thoughts, work the farthest thing from my mind.

My most recent pleasure reading was Charlie Stella's Rough Riders, and man, this guy keeps getting better and better. He sets this novel, his eighth, in and around Minot, North Dakota, where he went to college. A killer from his 2001 book Eddie’s World has entered the federal Witness Protection Program and wound up in North Dakota, working a sting for the feds and also a side project of his own: a murder for hire in return for a share of a heroin stash into which a crooked Air Force physician has stumbled by accident. But a New York detective wants the killer also and tails him across the country to get him.

The plot, needless to say, is complex but not obtrusively so. Nor is Stella condescending in the least toward the characters and the landscape so different from those of his previous books. And he handles the clash between local cops and the FBI, a feature of approximately every American police novel or television show of the last twenty years, with great understatement and, hence, believability.

The jokes are fewer than in Stella’s previous books but the conversational byplay is just as bracing. And that tells me that Stella knows how to write believable human interaction and not just jokes.

Here are my previous posts about Stella (click the link, then scroll down), whom I recently proclaimed my favorite American crime writer.

And here, for the first time before the crime reading public, is the first of those side projects I keep going on about: my piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer about a century-old baseball book by that remarkable character (and great player) Christy Mathewson that's as fresh as today’s headlines.

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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Sunday, October 21, 2012

All the advertising that's fit to publish

The following ad appeared today on the New York Times Web site with a story published under the headline "Armstrong’s Wall of Silence Fell Rider by Rider":
Ads by Google
what's this?
EPO Cyclist Supplements
Fastest Way to Increase Your
Endurance and Speed - Guaranteed!
I salute the New York Times' commendable separation between editorial and advertising content. But why does the Times Web site not permit comments on that story?

© Peter Rozovsky 2012


Saturday, October 20, 2012

Paul Cleave, or a pro's prose

Paul Cleave's The Laughterhouse offers a disgraced cop at economic loose ends, a multiple murderer who dispatches his victims in extravagant ways, and chapters narrated from inside the killer's head.

That's not the freshest recipe in the crime fiction cookbook, which is one reason I'm so impressed that the novel has held my attention so far. The book is (a back-cover blurb tells me) one of revenge, survival, and impossible choices. But the story lies in the rhythm of Cleave's sentences: short and choppy with occasional longer outbursts, as if the narrator suddenly found himself too tired to stop thinking, for chapters told in first person by the indeed occasionally exhausted detective; short, choppy, with the added distance of third-person narration for the killer's chapters.

Crime  novels where the rhythm of the prose tells the story always remind me of David Peace, and so this one does. The related but distinct rhythms of the detective's and the killer's chapters do at least as much as any plot element to suggest a kinship between the two, and my only complaint through the first eleven chapters of The Laughterhouse is that Cleave uses reference as a verb (on page 54).
Cleave's novel Blood Men won the Ngaio Marsh Award for best New Zealand crime novel in 2011, a competition for which your humble blogkeeper was one of the inaugural judges in 2010.

Read more about Paul Cleave at his Web site and about New Zealand crime fiction at Crime Watch.

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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Thursday, October 18, 2012

What I shot on my vacation

Detectives Beyond Borders is still hard at work on what I'd call side projects if I were a rock group. In the meantime, here's one picture I shot in Cleveland after Bouchercon and another from the day after I returned home.

Regular programming will resume shortly. In the meantime, think of these as your test patterns.

Ohio City, looking toward downtown Cleveland. Cleveland is a flat city, and I didn't even visit the Flats.

I took this in Philadelphia just to finish up the roll of film. That's right, roll of film.

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Detectives Beyond Borders' greatest hits: The Assassin

 Work threatens to swamp the quiet precincts of Detectives Beyond Borders. While I struggle bravely to stem the flood, here an old post that's relevant both to my recent crime reading and to the current American political season. As a bonus, the novel in question, Liam O'Flaherty's The Assassin, contains one of my favorite little speeches in all of crime fiction: "Don't mind him, Kitty. He's mad. Have a sausage."
I've just finished The Assassin, that 1928 novel by Liam O'Flaherty that Declan Burke called "arguably the bravest Irish novel ever written."

The novel is, for the most part, an exploration of the solitary psyches of an assassin and his co-conspirators. It does, however, contain a passage or two that are, one might say, more relevant today than ever. The first may be especially so in the United States:

"Unity was always McShiel's programme, because it did not necessitate taking sides on any definite question. ... As it was impossible to impose a budget on the community sufficiently large to provide emoluments for all the politicians simultaneously, it was obviously impossible to unite them. But the programme was attractive, as it allowed of unlimited intrigue."
Political questions in the United States tend to be less urgent than they probably were in the early years of Irish independence. The cry here is less for unity than for its relative, bipartisanship. This cry tends to arise when one party loses control of Congress or even of Congress and the White House together. Parties in control tend not to discuss bipartisanship as much.

Back to Liam O'Flaherty:
"`Man, man, there are thousands waiting to rush out, waitin' for their chance.'"

"`To loot,' said McDara calmly, `That's not force. There's no reason in that. That's mob anarchy.'"
Seems to me that McDara, the novel's protagonist, and quite possibly O'Flaherty as well, is one disillusioned or at least disappointed revolutionary. Or maybe revolution is just a more complicated affair than we outsiders can know.

How does politics find its way into your favorite crime stories or maybe into your less favored ones?

© Peter Rozovsky 2009

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Monday, October 15, 2012

Long as I can see the leitmotif: Recurring themes that lend texture to crime novels

Some time ago discussion here at Detectives Beyond Borders turned to those recurring snippets of dialogue or description that do so much to create a novel's feeling or texture.  I enjoyed the conversation, and not just because I got to use the word leitmotif.

Among my recent reading, Dana King's fine mob novel Wild Bill made great play of its FBI agents' worry that their specialty — organized crime — got short shrift in the bureau in favor of counterterrorism, the menace of the moment. More recently, Adrian McKinty's I Hear the Sirens in the Street is shot through with references to emigration from Northern Ireland in the early 1980s, the time and place of the novel's setting, invoked even when a suitcase turns up with body parts in it. (The suitcase's vendor can't remember having sold that particular item because so many people are buying luggage to pack for their permanent trips away.)

Leitmotifs in fiction are more than quirks, less than plot elements. A leitmotif should, according to a definition of leitmotifs' use in music, be "clearly identified so as to retain its identity if modified on subsequent appearances." Used well, it indicates an author in control of his or her material, with a firm idea of what kind of story he or she wants to tell. Leitmotifs might not come to mind right away if someone asks you what happens in a given novel, but they are part of what a novel is about, part of the world it creates.

What are your favorite leitmotifs, or recurring themes, in crime novels? What do they add? And are leitmotifs a necessary part of a good story? Why? Why not?

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Bouchercon 2012 recordings now available!

An oft-photographed scene in Tower CIty, Cleveland,
photo by your humble blogkeeper
VW Tapes is once again selling CDs and MP3s of Bouchercon panels. Buy my "Murder is Everywhere" panel and learn the shocking truth about the crime that has Iceland tearing its hair out!

Here's the Bouchercon 2012 schedule for you to use as a shopping guide. Recordings from Bouchercon 2011 are still available, and I've got a couple of panels on that list, too.

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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Saturday, October 13, 2012

Upcoming books from McKinty, Neville

I've begun my post-Bouchercon reading with early looks at upcoming novels by two of the finest writers from the world's most vital crime fiction scene: Northern Ireland.

Suffice it to say that few authors begin a chapter with the punch that Stuart Neville does, and that Adrian McKinty's Sean Duffy novels (I Hear the Sirens in the Street will follow on the current, excellent Cold Cold Ground) are affecting, intelligent and entertaining stories that just happen to be about police investigating crimes.

Like its predecessor, Sirens is a serious portrait of one man's progress through troubled times (early-1980s Belfast and Carrickfergus, the author's home town). Like The Cold Cold Ground, it feels organic. Every joke, every grim encounter, or musing on the crappy Irish weather, or setback or advance in the police investigation contains the seeds of the whole. And it's a hell of a whole; these books are as smart and fun and harrowing as crime fiction gets.

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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Friday, October 12, 2012

Bouchercon 2012 and after: Stray encounters and sh**ting stars

"I'll take two," I said to the fruit vendor at Cleveland's West Side Market, delighted to find star fruit at just two for two dollars.

"Five for four," she said, filling my bag, "and here's an extra."

"For you," she said, handing me star fruits numbers seven and eight with my change.

So I'll be eating star fruit for a week. Thank you, Cleveland!
Michael's Produce, West Side Market, Cleveland
Photo by your humble blogkeeper
Among my pleasant Bouchercon encounters were those with Eric Beetner (it was good to be able to compliment him on his Dig Two Graves) and Julie Hyzy, who confirmed the partial paternity I'd claimed for the title of her novel Affairs of Steak and who also won the Anthony Award for best paperback original. (Stanley Trollip, a member of my "Murder is Everywhere" panel, won a Barry Award in the same category for Death of the Mantis.)
I met the gregarious vendors after Bouchercon. But even during the convention, I heard stories from my fellow attendees about Clevelanders' hospitality: the police officer who, asked directions by one attendee, gave her a lift to her destination. The staff member at a popular attraction who, though guided tours were out of season, said, "Come on," opened a door, and let another attendee snap some photos. The museum volunteer who ran outside to assure me that the couple who had slipped into a taxi ahead of me were not usurping my place in line, that the volunteer had, in fact, called a cab for them earlier.

Thank you again, Cleveland.

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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Thursday, October 11, 2012

NoirCon 2012, Nov. 8-11 in Philadelphia

NoirCon 2012 is coming up in Philadelphia, Nov. 8-11. I hope you'll be there with distinguished folks like Lawrence Block, Otto Penzler, Vicki Hendricks, Joyce Carol Oates, Megan Abbott, and Duane Swierczynski, and not so distinguished folks, like me.

Click on the NoirCon link for more information and a registration form. In the meantime, I'll count down the days until the convention with a few special posts including this one from the first NoirCon, in 2008.
If you'll indulge me for one more post before I send NoirCon 2008 fondly into the sunset, I'd like to share a few remarks that Ken Bruen, one of the event's two guests of honor, made over the course of the convention's four days.

Most pertinent to this blog was his statement, and I don't remember the context, that Irish readers seem to lack pride in the country's wonderful crime writers. This was a surprise to me on my side of the Atlantic, considering the wealth of Irish talent about which one can read on Crime Always Pays, Critical Mick, Crime Scene NI and elsewhere.

Bruen also said that "All my influences are American. That's how I learned to read. That's how I learned to write. For an Irish person to say that is a heresy." Perhaps this accounts for his stated love for the U.S.

Finally, thanks to Bruen, I fulfilled a long-held dream of hearing an Irishman say "shite."

© Peter Rozovsky 2008

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Tuesday, October 09, 2012

What they said on my Bouchercon 2012 panel

The panel was "Murder Is Everywhere," the moderator your humble blogkeeper, the place Bouchercon 2012 in Cleveland. The stars:

Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, on the lack of crime in Iceland:
"Now we have Hells Angels. Three of them, and they are on trial for pulling out somebody’s hair extensions.”
Lisa Brackmann on the Chinese taxi driver, “an older guy,” with whom she commiserated on the dizzying pace of change in China:
“He felt that in some ways I had more in common with him because at least I knew what the city was like that he remembered and that younger people didn’t know at all.”
Tim Hallinan:
"There's an enormous invisible stratification. Classes are very rigorously separated. ... When you learn to read degrees of the wai, you begin to get a sense of just how stratified Thai society is. Foreigners largely move outside the stratifications like the traditional detective in a detective novel. He can talk to almost everybody, but he can't talk above a certain level.”
Jeffrey Siger:
“My books discuss issues confronting contemporary Greece in a way that touches upon its ancient roots because it’s hard to discuss Greece without looking back at its history.”
Stanley Trollip:
“We like good food. We like good wine, and so we eat and drink with abandon and enjoyment, and we thought that maybe if you write about what you know, Kubu should do the same thing.”
© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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Monday, October 08, 2012

Bouchercon 2012, Day 4+

Audience member
raising hand to ask
a question at
Bouchercon 1190,
Lower Saxony
(Cleveland Museum
of Art)
1) 5:05 p.m., Sunday — Some other conference has set up a registration table, and people are walking around wearing badges. What are they doing in my hotel?

2) The Cleveland Museum of Art has a fine collection, but it's surprisingly inconvenient to reach by public transportation. As for taxis, the cab I called from the museum at 3:40 p.m. Sunday may one day arrive, but waiting for a tectonic shift would be faster.

3) Good fun at the annual festive post-Bouchercon dinner, a pleasant tradition in which I've been taking part since my first Bouchercon in Baltimore in 2008.

4) Bouchercon makes the news! (Hat tip to The Rap Sheet.)

Waiters serving food at the annual festive post-Bouchercon
Bouchercon Dynasty 18, reign of Amenhotep III
(Cleveland Museum of Art)
Last Bouchercon 2012 picture. Left to right: Ali Karim, your humble blogkeeper, Mike Stotter

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Sunday, October 07, 2012

Bouchercon 2012, Day 4: A librarian makes my day

An oft-photographed scene in Tower CIty, Cleveland,
photo by your humble blogkeeper
As always, one of the pleasures of Bouchercon has been hearing, meeting, and becoming interested in authors I might not otherwise have noticed. In this case, I came to Sunday's politics and crime panel to hear Detectives Beyond Borders friends Lisa Brackmann and Stuart Neville and came away impressed as well with Allison Leotta. My favorite question of the panel came from the effervescent Brackmann, acting as moderator this time: "It's not really political, but what's with the golf [in your books], guys? I don't get it."

The 9 a.m. "Wartime Heroes" panel offered interesting remarks from authors Joanne Dobson and Sarah Shaber about the occupational opportunities that World War II offered to American women, the brief reversion to the status quo in the 1950s, and the explosion of feminism in the 1960s. The authors' answers were neither didactic nor preachy, and I anticipate with interest how they put this fascinating historical material to fictional use.

But I experienced no pleasure greater than an Illinois librarian's comment that she's an avid follower of Detectives Beyond Borders and that the blog has encouraged her in her choices of acquisitions for her library.
Bouchercon is finished, except for the annual convivial post-convention dinner with Ali Karim and friends. As usual, it has passed way too quickly, and I offer special gratitude to the hospitable people of Cleveland, whom I may make the subjects of a separate post.  View the complete Bouchercon schedule here, and I'll be back soon with information about audio recordings of the panels available on CD.

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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Saturday, October 06, 2012

Bouchercon Day 3: Panelist takes a fall

Saturday was the seventh panel I'd moderated at a Bouchercon, the most fun I've had while dressed in respectable clothes, and it almost never happened.

The panel, called "Murder Is Everywhere," was on the docket for 10:15 a.m., and the previous panel ran over. When the moderator thanked the guests and dismissed the audience, one of his panelists plunged off the back of the stage and required brief medical attention. "Oh, great," I thought. "More delays." Happily a small bandage and a few stitches were all the falling panelist needed, and he was later able to joke about the mishap.

Once the stage was cleared of the wounded, Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, Jeffrey Siger, Stanley Trollip (one half of the duo that writes as Michael Stanley), Tim Hallinan, Lisa Brackmann (filling in for Cara Black), and I took over for fifty-five minutes of illuminating and entertaining verbal high jinks that went over the allotted time by no more than a minute or two.

Bearer of appalling
animal parts
I knew the panelists well, and some of them had expressed a desire to do things a little differently, so I tried to avoid questions I'd asked in the past. One got the panel members debating whose country, Iceland, Greece, South Africa, Thailand, Mexico, or China, was worst off. Yrsa's mention of the surprising Icelandic food she had brought to this year's Bouchercon (pickled sheep's testicles) probably contributed to the fun.

Your jovial moderator, photo
courtesy of Annamaria Alfieri
Later, a launch party for Stuart Neville's Ratlines included much beer and much good chat with a group that included Ed Lin, an author new to me who has a book on the way from Soho Crime set in Taiwan.  I am an impatient reader, ready to set aside a book that does not grab me from the first word. This will not be a problem with Ratlines.

Earlier, lunch with Jennifer Jordan, Christa Faust, and Sean Chercover included thought-provoking discussion of what Dr. Faust called "sexualization of the other in porn."

Finally, thanks to the gang who organized Thursday's Snubnose Press edition of Noir at the Bar. Food-service delays forced me to miss most of the event, but I did arrive for the last two readers and the traditional closing salutation of "Fuck Peter Rozovsky!"

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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Friday, October 05, 2012

Bouchercon Day 2: The juxtaposition

After a one-year absence, DBB is 
pleased to present the return of the 
annual Christa Faust picture
Today's favorite moment at Bouchercon 2012 in Cleveland, other than the photo at right, came during the "Cop vs. Constable" panel, which offered crime writers from the U.K., Australia, Denmark, and the U.S. talking about how laws, social attitudes, and police practices differ between countries and how this affects their writing.

Michael Robotham, acting as participating moderator, asked Michael Connelly: "Can you explain to the rest of the world the O.J. Simpson verdict?" A discussion of law, celebrity, and money ensued.

Not ten minutes before that question, I'd been riding in an elevator with Marcia Clark, a prosecutor in the Simpson trial, who, whether because of the trial's outcome or otherwise, has turned to writing mystery novels. I heard no gnashing of teeth or rending of garments at Robotham's query so I presume Clark was not in the room at the time. But I wonder how she'd have reacted to the discussion or what she'd have said if she'd have taken part.
One day til my "Murder Is Everywhere" panel Saturday (with one substitution due to a family emergency).  View the complete Bouchercon schedule.

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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Thursday, October 04, 2012

Bouchercon Day 1: Rock and roll is here to pay

Some of us remember when rock and roll stood for rebellion, particularly against greed and corporate interests. But rebellion has mellowed into concern for property rights, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame here in Cleveland prohibits photography in almost the entire museum "Due to our agreement with artists and donors."

This led to much good-natured denunciation of the 1960s by me and a crime writer of precisely my age. "Three days of inadequate sanitation, bad food, and lies about the great drugs you never took and the great sex you never had," said I about a certain well-known gathering of the period.

"Oh," said a writer previously unknown to me, beautiful and oh, so very young, "were you at Woodstock?"

"Do I look like Jerry Garcia to you?" I snapped. "That's it; the beard gets shaved off tomorrow."

Besides that reminder of my mortality, the evening's only other disappointment was that, although the exhibits included a number of U2 artifacts, I could find no Paul Hewson postcard to send to Adrian McKinty.
On the way to the Hall (site of Bouchercon 2012's opening ceremony), I chatted and renewed acquaintance with guitar nut and ZZ Top freak Stuart Neville, a copy of whose forthcoming novel Ratlines I should have in my hands by the weekend.

Highlights of a full day's panelizing included my former panelist Thomas Kaufman's nomination of Louis-Ferdinand Céline as a noir writer and Peter Farris' declaration that "I always considered myself a cosmopolitan redneck in some respects."

My "Murder Is Everywhere" panel happens Saturday (with one substitution due to a family emergency). Tomorrow, I'll look forward to a Books to Die For event plus a panel called "Cop vs. Constable: A Comparison of U.S. and Foreign Laws," with Mark Billingham, Michael Robotham, Peter James, Sara Blaedel, and Michael Connolly. View the complete Bouchercon schedule.

 © Peter Rozovsky 2012

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Books to Die For at Bouchercon

Bouchercon is not all about debauchery, gin, and back-scratching. It's sometimes easy to forget that the conference is, at root, a gathering of people who love books and reading.

So, while Ali Karim naturally had his fellow diners spitting up pizza through their noses at last night's dinner, we also talked about crime writers and books we loved. Sara Gran got big thumbs up, as did Stuart Neville, John Connolly, Adrian McKinty, and (yes) R.J. Ellory, among others.

Speaking of Neville, Connolly, McKinty, et al., I have just picked up Books to Die For, and I like it already. BtDF is a collection of essays by 120(!) crime writers about the crime novels that mean most to them.

The opening pages alone will fuel many discussions: a chronological list of the subject authors, from Poe and Dickens to Perihan Mağden and Mark Gimenez. See what I mean? This is not just a bunch of tributes to Chandler, Hammett, and Christie, though they make the list, too. I opened the book at random and came upon James Sallis writing about Jean-Patrick Manchette's 3 to Kill, for example. So, the early guess is Books to Die For will be a treasure house worth dipping into for years.

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Bombay Sapphirecon (Post I from Bouchercon 2012)

I arrived in Cleveland and ran smack into Ali Karim before I'd checked into the convention hotel. No surprise there; Bouchercon would not be Bouchercon otherwise.

Chatted briefly with John Connolly about Books to Die For, which gets its U.S. launch here. Renewed acquaintances with Kirstie Long, Christa Faust, Mike Stotter, and Barbara Fister, among others. But mostly I realized with frightening clarity something I'd missed by not staying at the convention hotel during Bouchercons 2009, 2010, and 2011: Order a drink at the bar, and you don't have to pay for it -- some nonsense about charging it to the room, you see.

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Look out, Cleveland

I'm busy selecting my Bouchercon wardrobe, so posting may be light, erratic, or both for a few days. At left is Harvey Pekar's Cleveland, part of my research for my first trip to this year's Bouchercon city.

I also know a bit about Cleveland through the crime writer Les Roberts, a former Chicagoan and Californian who writes mysteries about a Slovenian American P.I. named Milan Jacovich and has become so favorite a Cleveland son that he's one of this year's Bouchercon guests of honor. I read one of the novels years ago, before Detectives Beyond Borders, and I found Jacovich a highly engaging regular-guy protagonist.

Once I get to Cleveland, I'll moderate a Bouchercon panel called "Murder is Everywhere" with authors Timothy Hallinan, Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, Cara Black, Jeffrey Siger, and Stanley Trollip (Michael Stanley) on Saturday, from 10:15-11:05 a.m. (Here's the complete Bouchercon schedule.)

I'll also head for the West Side Market and the Cleveland Museum of Art, though I'll miss the Harvey Pekar statue dedication. And I'll look for some good kielbasa, because it's there.

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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Monday, October 01, 2012

Amara Lakhous on conflict Islamic style

Thursday's "Wide world of hate" post took up the diversity of ethnic resentment, conflict, and suspicion as revealed in crime fiction.

Amara Lakhous' Divorce Islamic Style, a social comedy in the guise of a spy story, offers this:
"I have to constantly remind myself that I’m Tunisian, and this neighborhood is full of Egyptians. Many people don’t know that there are rivalries among the Arabs. For example, it’s not smooth sailing between Syrians and Lebanese, between Iraqis and Kuwaitis, between Saudis and Yemenis, and so on and so on. It’s why they can’t seem to come up with a plan for unity, in spite of a common history, geography, Arabic, Islam, and oil. The model of the European Union will have to wait!"
That the Tunisian is really an Italian impersonating a Tunisian – albeit an Italian whose grandfather had been born in Tunisia of Italian parents before returning to Italy, where he longed to return to the land of his birth – suggests the fun Lakhous gets up to.

Here's what happens in the dormitory where the undercover Tunisian finds a place to stay:
“The non-Egyptian tenants are divided into two categories. Mohammed, the Moroccan, and I are in second place; we’re Arabs and we can communicate linguistically with the majority, limiting insult and injury where possible. But for the Senegalese and the Bangladeshi there’s no escape: they’re at the bottom. They have to submit or leave. To be Muslim isn’t enough. It’s better to be an Arab Muslim, but it would be fantastic to be an Egyptian Arab Muslim!”
Lakhous, Italian and born in Algiers, is only my latest reading encounter with Algeria. Didier Daeninckx built his novel Murder in Memoriam around the 1961 Paris massacre of Algerian protesters. Yasmina Khadra challenges easy notions that the Islamic world is either fundamentalist suicide bombers or Western sellouts.

Coincidence, or did the bloody end of Algeria's colonial ties to France make the country a moral crucible for relations between the West and the Islamic world?

While you ponder the question, here's a song by the Algerian-based-in-France singer Rachid Taha that you've likely heard before, though perhaps not in this version.

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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