RARA-AVIS: Bouchercon

From: Moorich2@aol.com
Date: 21 Oct 2003

Just got back from the Bouchercon in Las Vegas after a detour for business to Chicago. In fact my only major complaint about the time in Vegas was having to spend the first two and a half days on the phone and on email with my job.

But, hey, considering the pulps and vintage paperbacks I purchased, I still need that paycheck

Steve Stilwell had a goodly supply of mystery pulps and I picked up two issues of the Ziff-Davis "Mammoth Detective" with stories by Brett Halliday and William McGivern and edited by Howard Browne. I don't have the issues at hand to give a more complete listing as I shipped most of my purchases rather than lugging them through three airports.

Among the paperback finds: RUN FROM THE HUNTER By Keith Grantland (Charles Beaumont) Gold Medal, 1957; THIS GUN FOR GLORIA By Bernard Mara (Brian Moore) Gold Medal 1956; WHERE THERE'S SMOKE By Stewart Sterling Dell Mapback #275, original publication 1946; Ace Doublebook #415 FIRE ON THE STREET By Stewart Sterling(Rep. from 1958) & DEAD CERTAIN By Stewart Sterling (PBO1960); and a Pan edition of Keith Roberts MACHINES & MEN (Original publication 1973). This last is, of course, science fiction but I love Roberts and was very pleased to find this copy.

I was informed by Bill Crider about the true authors of the Gold Medals. I did not know Brian Moore had written several in that line nor did I realize Beaumont had authored one (this may be a collaboration). To confess my ignorance further, I was unfamiliar with Stewart's Fire Marshal Pedley series of which I now have two entries. I have seen Stewart's name but had not read him. Frankly the flip side of the Ace looks more enticing as it features House Dick Gil Vine, which Crider tells me was also a series.

There were 1700 at this convention making it one of the larger Bouchercons. I think Toronto in 1993 remains the record holder in attendance with more than 2000. Despite the size, the con had a very good feel. Multi-track programming can be annoying, as when there were three panels/presentations that I would have liked to have seen but I was on another myself. Also on that panel was Jim Swain, who really knows the world of casinos. I later attended his session demonstrating several ways people have cheated casinos through the years. He's an impressive fellow and I picked up copies of his GRIFT SENSE and FUNNY MONEY, both from Ballentine.

The Private Eye Writers of America awards dinner was a lot of fun, even though none of the cabbies knew where the hell the Little Theater of Las Vegas was.
 Mine said he had been hacking for years and had never had anyone ask to be taken there. Like so many others, we drove past the hidden and dark street sign three times before creeping along, we spotted it and turned to find ourselves in a strip mall. "This ain't a street," my cabbie said, "It's a God damned parking lot." Somehow it seemed an appropriately PI-kinda start for the evening.

The Little Theater troup did a couple of numbers and founder (and former Rara-bird) Bob Randisi made a surprising entrance. Bob's awards plans had former PWA presidents presenting the awards. When he asked Max Alan Collins to present the award for best paperback original, Max reminded him that he was a nominee "But I will announce the winner if you insist." Bob quickly made a substitution. And the winner was D. Daniel Judson's THE POISONED ROSE who in accepting said his publisher (Bantam) "hated this novel." I heard later he had been dropped by Bantam. Hopefully this award will persuade Bantam to reconsider. Judson was also nominated for Best First Novel. The winner of that award was Eddie Muller for THE DISTANCE. Muller admitted he had been shocked by the novel as it did not feature a private eye and in many ways ran counter to all the conventions. He gave a very nice acceptance closing with thanks to his late father, a longtime San Francisco sportswriter who provided much of the inspiration for the novel.

Best Hardcover novel--the top award--went to James W. Hall for BLACKWATER SOUND. Originally a poet, Hall read a poem he had written many years ago that was in the form of an award acceptance. It was quite funny.

Even the fact that there were not enough tables and the line was long for drinks and food did not dampen my enjoyment. I found a reasonably comfortable window ledge and chatted with S.J. Rozan when we were both not busy watching Stilwell throw himself at yet another blonde. It was a good thing to see as proof that he is recovering nicely from serious heart problems.

Finally, Sue Grafton was honored with PWA's Lifetime Achievement Award. After attending a string of 11 straight Bouchercons, Grafton had skipped the last several. She said the older she became the more she simply wanted to sit at the keyboard and write. The award brought her back although she said with eight more letters to go, she was by no means finished with her achievements.

There's more to say about the convention but I've rattled on long enough. I do have one request. Over the last several days I have not received several digests of Rara-Avis. The ones I missed are digests 456, 457, and 458. If anyone could forward them I would appreciate it.

Richard Moore

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