Writing on Sunday morning from seat 23C on a JetBlue flight from JFK to Oakland.
As we do when heading to the Big Apple, #1 and I took off at the crack of dawn (on Wednesday) so as to get in on time for a scrumptious dinner with Ian and Lexa, our Upper West Side hosts. ThrillerFest didn’t kick off till Thursday at 6, so the next day I paid off on a promise and trailed after my daughter through the twisting alleys of Soho and the Village. The various clerks at clothing boutiques kept giving me a “what are you doing here” look. I jauntily explained that I was arm candy. Along the way I picked up a wicked sunburn and a delicious Mexican meal at a hole-in-the-wall on Hudson Street. We ducked in to Partners & Crime, said hi to Steve, discussed old thrillers, bought a copy of Eric Ambler's A Coffin for Demetrios, and hand-sold a copy of Dot Dead to an unsuspecting patron of the store.
At 4 we met the mega-talented Brett Ellen Block, author of the Macavity-nominated Lightning Rule, at a midtown café that #1 had checked out on the Net. The establishment took the literal meaning of café to heart and served no tea. It turns out that Brett and I aren't coffee drinkers at all, so we were relegated to watching #1 slurp down two of those fancy flavored concoctions. Brett was gallant enough to say she liked the décor, and we both congratulated #1 on finding a great place to while away a couple of hours. We escorted Brett to a signing at a nearby Borders and then headed to ThrillerFest, still burdened by shopping bags filled with #1’s booty. At the opening reception, #1 learned that she would not be the youngest attendee – that honor was seized by Greg, the son of Carol Fitzgerald of Bookreporter.com, who was playing Jimmy Olsen with his Minolta. Among many others, said hi to Joe Hartlaub, the ace reviewer for Bookreporter.com and to screenwriter Alex Sokoloff, whose The Harrowing is doing so well.
Getting together with the anarchic Inkspots, those of us published by Midnight Ink, for a group dinner was not easy. Planes were late, emails went unread, children whined. Bill Cameron, author of Lost Dog, and Mark Combes, author of Running Wrecked (which sold out of the book room before I could buy one), #1, and I headed over to a Greek restaurant, just around the corner from the hotel. Joe Moore of the hot-selling Cotten Moore series said he would make it eventually despite Continental’s efforts to hold him hostage, so we munched on pita and appetizers till he miraculously appeared. And then Joe’s co-author Lynn Sholes and husband Tommy showed up. Next time we’ll make sure we invite that Luddite Tim Maleeny via phone and not anything as new-fangled as email. The restaurant cut us much slack and we had a ball.
The first panel on Friday morning, moderated by Steve Berry, might have been the best of the conference even if I was sitting next to an 18-year old daughter while M.J. Rose, Barry Eisler, and John Lescroart, discussed sex in thrillers. They chatted while standing in front of the audience, passing out mimosas to one and all (except for not-yet 21 #1). A refreshing change from the talking heads of so many convention panels. Interesting to note that both men on the sex panel call Northern California home.
I’ve said before that these conventions remind me of summer camp and I spent a fair amount of time Friday saying hi to campers I’d met at previous sessions. At the book signing I had a chance to meet a hero of mine, Vicki Hendricks. JB Dickey of the Seattle Mystery Bookshop loaned me his personal copy of her Miami Purity last year and I’ve been afraid to visit a dry cleaner since. Sometime during the day, #1 took a prolonged lunch while Steve Torres, author of the Concrete Maze, and I snuck over to the Grand Central Market where we lost track (!) of each other when he went off wandering in search of a glass of milk. That evening #1 acted as cicerone and guided us through the labyrinthine twists and turns of the subways tunnels as we headed for cocktails in.... no not Siberia, but close – Brooklyn. Hilarity broke out amidst tutorials on taxidermy, the Ruthenian language, and the romance world taught by, inter alia, our host, Otto, and Romantic Times's Liz, Stephanie, and Elissa. #1 and I shared a car back to civilization with MWA Exec VP Dan Hale and the gifted conversationalist Twist Phelan.
Saturday was more panels. At the morning’s first, under prodding from Kristee Montee, aka P.J. Parrish, private eye and novelist Carolina Garcia-Aguilera admitted that her guilty pleasure movie was Love Story. I couldn’t stifle myself. I blurted out to the crowd that I was an extra with Ali MacGraw in the hockey scenes of said movie. #1 and I would certainly never miss any panel with one of the keep-'em-in-stitches author, fisherman, traveler and comet lovin' guy Brian Wiprud. In the bookroom afterwards we saw fans scrambling for his books. Picked up Bill Cameron’s Lost Dog for summer dog days reading. He was signing next to Laura Caldwell and we started bantering with her, too. Her The Rome Affair sounded great, so we picked it up (and paid for it, too).
Had a chance to talk with the courtly Fred Rea who lives in Vero Beach, Florida. A critical scene in Two Graves takes place down there, and he pledged to read the chapter to ensure accuracy. On my last visit to NYC, I stopped by Black Orchid where they had one copy of Dot Dead. Kathy, an inveterate reader of crime fiction, bought the copy while I was there. She stopped me in the hall Saturday afternoon. She told me she’d only bought the copy because she didn’t want to hurt my feelings. (I’ll take it.) She figured it was some kind of computer thriller. Knowing she might see me at ThrillerFest, she read it last week. To her surprise, she told me, she loved it! Couldn’t put it down. She’s recommending it to friends. So there I was in the Grand Hyatt, accosted by a crowd of fans numbering one.
Saturday night #1 and I ensconced ourselves in the virtual nerve center of the conference – the downstairs bar. The ThrillerFest folks had provided a hospitality room upstairs, but with a teabag and a cup of hot water running four smackers, it couldn’t compete with a place that served booze. We relaxed with the Big D contingent, the aforementioned Dan Hale, Harry Hunsicker, whose newest, Crosshairs, is out next month, his charming wife Alison (who talked over the intricacies of NY shopping with #1), and James X(?), a Yalie working for a hedge fund who wasted no time in dissing his alma mater’s rival up in Cambridge. Not sure of his last name but he’s got a top-notch agent who's shopping around a manuscript that uses what James has learned in his working life – sounds pretty good. I'd left a note on Sarah Weinman's blog promising to buy her a drink; didn't see her in the bar so I guess I still owe her.
Funnily enough, as #1 and I were walking down Broadway on a mission to load up on H&H Bagels to smuggle into California, we ran into Joel and Margot, friends from Palo Alto. They were with Margot’s sister-in-law and brother, a Yalie working for a hedge fund who wasted no time in dissing his alma mater’s rival up in Cambridge. Are Yale grads especially suited for the rapacity of the hedge fund world? Do they have some kind of inferiority complex in re to that Cambridge institution? Hmm. Maybe I can use that in a future thriller.