RARA-AVIS: Bouchercon 2007 Noir Panel

From: Brian Thornton ( tieresias@worldnet.att.net)
Date: 21 Oct 2007

Hello Folks-

Finally have a moment to drop a line about what went on during the Great Bouchercon Noir Fiction Panel of 2007 last month up in Anchorage. First off, the logistics: we were originally slated to have the following panel:

Ken Bruen Jim Sallis Vicki Hendricks (our own Rara Avian!) Bill Cameron

With yours truly moderating.

That lineup was set, and I was excited about it. Ken's a friend of several years' standing, and I had heard good things about Jim Sallis. Vicki I knew through the years we've each spent as members of Rara Avis, and Bill Cameron is local to me, and the author of the very dark LOST DOG (Midnight Ink), so it looked like we were going to have quite a strong panel.

Well, you know what they say about the best-laid plans of mice and men.

First off, Sallis flaked (and was neither gracious, nor professional about it.).

Second, Ken had a surgery that he couldn't reschedule, and was forced to drop out. Far more gracious about it, but another hole in the schedule, nonetheless.

Sean Doolittle, who doesn't consider himself a noir writer (RAIN DOGS notwithstanding), Julia Spencer-Fleming (whom I'd bet no one considers a noir writer) were kind enough to agree to substitute at nearly the last minute.

And we had a terrific discussion of what the history of noir was, where it is now (mentioned Guthrie, Starr, Swiercynski, et. al.), and why it seems to be going through the sort of upswing in popularity that is causing many people who write in other subgenres of the area to try to market their stuff as "noirish," or "a taut, stylish noir thriller," and so on.

The consensus seemed to be that we live in increasingly darker times, and that's part and parcel of why noir is beginning to have a broader appeal. Also, I believe it was Sean Doolittle who laid out David Corbett's maxim that one way to differentiate between noir and hard-boiled was that anything that sold above a certain number of books was "hard-boiled," and anything that sold below that certain arbitrary number (while also being 'critically acclaimed') must be "noir."

Vicki gave some very interesting insight into why she writes the type of stuff she writes, and it's worth hearing. Since she's a denizen of this list, though, I would much rather have her recount it for you herself.


All in all, it was a lot of fun to do, the panelists were first-rate, with no one hogging the mike, and a nice, even spread in responses. We also benefitted from having an informed and attentive audience.

As a moderator, isn't that really all one can ask for?

All the Best-

Brian Thornton

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