Monday, September 26, 2016

a Paris past, post-Bouchercon and the awesome Twin Cities

Wow what a gift! My friend, Maureen in Portland, just sent me this wonderful 1948 map of Paris by arrondissement along with a Metro ticket. Hmm wonder if I can use it in November?
After Bouchercon, the wonderful agent who represents Lisa, myself and Duane Swerzyinski invited us for dinner. A cajun prawn dish and home made cookies.
Then on to Minneapolis/St. Paul for a library talk. Pat Frovart, who I and many people love, took me to lunch and her 'old' bookstore, Once Upon a Crime, now run by Devin and Jessie. Pat, who owned Once Upon a Crime bookstore for years with her husband, Gary, were honored with the Raven award at the Edgars. Gary, passed away a few months ago, and is deeply missed by the mystery community. Just want to say Pat is doing well, and as she says 'Now I've got time to read for pleasure, not work"
To me this is what the Twin Cities really are about :)
Cara - Tuesday who missed seeing Susan Spann at Bcon zut!

a Paris past, post-Bouchercon and the awesome Twin Cities

Wow what a gift! My friend, Maureen in Portland, just sent me this wonderful 1948 map of Paris by arrondissement along with a Metro ticket. Hmm wonder if I can use it in November?
After Bouchercon, the wonderful agent who represents Lisa, myself and Duane Swerzyinski invited us for dinner. A cajun prawn dish and home made cookies.
Then on to Minneapolis/St. Paul for a library talk. Pat Frovart, who I and many people love, took me to lunch and her 'old' bookstore, Once Upon a Crime, now run by Devin and Jessie. Pat, who owned Once Upon a Crime bookstore for years with her husband, Gary, were honored with the Raven award at the Edgars. Gary, passed away a few months ago, and is deeply missed by the mystery community. Just want to say Pat is doing well, and as she says 'Now I've got time to read for pleasure, not work"
To me this is what the Twin Cities really are about :)
Cara - Tuesday who missed seeing Susan Spann at Bcon zut!

Mississippi Moves Me

Annamaria on Monday

My post-Bouchercon trip the length of Mississippi was dream-like.

That lead sentence requires a digression.  A lot of what I am about to say will come across as implausible.  I am worried that you won’t take it as the unvarnished truth.  You see, I have a tendency to wax enthusiastic.   More than one person has taken the passion with which I speak as over-dramatization.  Not to say exaggeration.  I feel the need, before I go ahead with my story to let you know that, though I am reporting facts, you may find all this a bit over the top.   You will make up your own mind, but in my own defense, I can offer this possible extenuating circumstance:  It is quite likely that I was born exuberant, evidence of which is visible in this photograph taken when I was just shy of fourteen months old—too young to put on airs.
 


That said, here is what happened to the grown-up version of that kid in the days following Bouchercon 2016.

I left NOLA on the legendary City of New Orleans.  Contrary to Arlo Gurthrie, I traveled north, and after six hours descended at Greenwood, Mississippi on the banks of the Yazoo


It was not my first trip there.  One of the most astonishing chapters is my implausible life deals with my unlikely relationship with the Viking Range Corporation, which is headquartered in Greenwood.  It started in 1985, when David and I were renovating the kitchen in our house on Waverly Place.  Enthusiastic cook that I am, I wanted a serious stove for my new kitchen.  It took three months of researching and cajoling before an architect friend came up with the Xerox of a Xerox of a Xerox of a flyer about a product called the Viking range.  The page showed a fuzzy drawing and listed specifications that matched my wants.  At the bottom was an address in Greenwood.  I called the 800 number and spoke to Fred Carl.  I thought he was a salesman.  In the course of placing my order, I advised Mr. Carl that his company needed to make itself better known.


Little did I know that Fred Carl was the founder of Viking and the designer of the first-ever professional range for the home.  At the moment I called, discouraged after two years of trying to get his idea off the ground, Fred Carl was contemplating giving up to the whole effort as a pipe dream.  No one believed him that there would be a market for such a thing.  My call provided him with a story to tell: a woman from New York had placed an order and was sending him a deposit check.


In the course of the next thirty-plus years, during which Fred’s invention revolutionized the kitchen appliance industry, I have from time to time, described myself as the “patron saint” of the Viking Range Corporation.   I performed no miracles.  But Fred and Margaret Carl have always treated me as if I played a pivotal role in the birth of their business.

On my second trip to Greenwood, that treatment continued.





One of my Viking friends—Dale Persons—arranged for me and my friend Marie Moore to do a signing at the lovely local store—Turnrow Books.  Marie is the author of a wonderful series of travel mysteries, more about which here.   With both of us writing about exotic locations and sharing a warm friendship, we made a good team.  The event on Monday evening was a huge success.  An SRO crowd and many books signed.



Monday afternoon was what put me into Alice-in-Wonderland territory.  Viking’s president, Kevin Brown, invited me to tour the plant.   Some of Viking’s employees who had been there from the beginning turned out to greet me.  Kevin took us around and pointed out several improvements in production and product testing instituted since my last visit ten years ago.




Marie and I found fodder for mystery writers in some of the equipment—like the laser beam that can cut steel as if it were butter, right out of the final scene of a James Bond flick.  We particularly like the oven that bonds porcelain to steel.  What a way to turn a dead body to ashes.  There are even hooks on which to hang a corpse!

It was fascinating.


Then Kevin invited me to the center of the factory floor where he showed me the latest, top-of-the-line 48-inch range with a big blue bow on it.  “This is your stove,” he said.  I said, “No, my stove is not exactly like this.” And I proceeded to describe the differences between the one in my kitchen and the one before us.  It took Kevin three tries, and Marie and Dale chiming in, before he got it through to me.  He was giving me that gorgeous thing as a gift!


I remain astonished.


The next morning, Marie and I traveled north.  She gave me a tour of her alma mater, Ole Miss in Oxford, and I enjoyed a wonderful stay at her home in Holly Springs, where she introduced me to her husband and some of her friends.  Believe me.  Truly.  Southern hospitality is not just a myth. 




Sunday, September 25, 2016

Bouchercon and Beyond -- New Orleans to Cape Cod

Zoë Sharp

On the road -- the road from North Truro to Provincetown, Cape Cod, in fact.
As I write this blog, I am still on the road after Bouchercon in New Orleans. My mind is a jumble of impressions, both good and bad. Mainly good, it has to be said. Here are a few of them I'd like to share with you.
The French market in New Orleans, a short streetcar ride from the convention hotel and well worth the experience, despite the humidity and the heat.
New Orleans street, down near the French market. Why can't a terrace of houses in the UK look this cool?


The downside of New Orleans was the homeless population, who at times seemed to outnumber the tourists.

The upside was coming across characters like this one, although I'm pretty sure the cat had use of its legs ...

I always look sideways when I'm walking down any street, because you never know what treasures are lurking in side alleys, like this, not far from Bourbon St.

Buggy rides were available, drawn by some of the most patient-looking mules I've ever seen. This one was a beauty.

Not sure where this is, but it's lovely. Pic courtesy of Cara Black
Part of the joy of events like Bouchercon is running into blogmates, past and present, such as Cara Black and Yrsa Sigurdottir. Pic courtesy of Cara Black
Yrsa's fabulous convention shoes. Pic courtesy of Cara Black

I was lucky enough to be on two great panels. One on vigilantes, with (l to r) Joseph Finder, Stuart Neville, moderator John Gilstrap, Reavis Z Wortham, and ZS. Pic courtesy of M'Lou Greene

I was moderator for the violence panel, (l to r) myself, E.A. Aymar, Melinda Leigh, Thomas Pluck, S.G. Redling, and Taylor Stevens. Strangely, nobody took me up on my suggestion to turn it into a practical ... Pic courtesy of Jodi Dabson Bollendorf

Signed with the other contributors to the CRIME + MUSIC anthology, including editor Jim Fusilli (front row, second from left) Pic courtesy of Three Rooms Press
Was over the moon to learn that last year's Bouchercon anthology, MURDER UNDER THE OAKS, won the Anthony Award. Was honoured to have my Charlie Fox short story 'Kill Me Again Slowly' included. Pic courtesy of editor Art Taylor

Lovely to catch up with friends from the UK (l to r) me, Kirstie Long, Caroline Raeburn, John Lawton at the Soho Press party. Pic courtesy of Cara Black
The sun finally set on New Orleans and it was time to move on to Texas! But before we left NOLA had one last bolt to fire at us ...
... in the form of a rip-off cab driver. As state law decrees dire things if you do anything nasty to  cab drivers in real life, I may have to take my revenge strictly in print!
It's been a good few years since I was last at Murder By The Book in Houston, TX, so it was wonderful to be back.
The Wild Detectives in Dallas was a very cool place to talk and sign with fellow Brit author John Lawton. A lot of fun.
Downside of this part of the trip? The US SIM card I bought in NOLA gave me a day's working time and allowed one solitary phone call before dying. H2o Wireless customer service was dismal. (Artistic rendering of what I felt like doing to my phone after spending some time trying to get the problem sorted out.)
Heading north-east. Changing planes at La Guardia on the way to Boston had the upside of a fabulous view of Manhattan island as we came in to land.
After 20 hours travelling, we finally arrived on the evening fast-cat ferry in Provincetown, Cape Cod just as the sun was going down. Is it just me, or does the Pilgrim's Tower look strangely Florentine ...?
Great poster produced by Tricia Ford at North Truro Library for the talk there by John Lawton and myself. I definitely need to get a blow-up done of this one!
Run aground. Little boat embedded in trees just outside Truro, Cape Cod.
Beautiful doorway in Provincetown, Cape Cod.
Provincetown Public Library was worth a visit just for the architecture, never mind the books.
The locals were friendly.
last word ...