The one thing I remember from Bouchercon

(The title of this post is not a joke about how much I drank this weekend but it very well could be…)

Hahaha ok seriously though.

This past weekend, Kellye Garrett won the Anthony Award for Best First Novel for Hollywood Homicide. Attica Locke won Best Novel for Bluebird, Bluebird, and The Obama Inheritance, edited by Gary Phillips, won Best Anthology.

It was pretty incredible to see three major awards go to black authors—especially when the awards are a popular vote by the convention attendees.

(UPDATE: I can’t believe I missed this, but I’m also so thrilled that Kristen Lepionka, who is part of the LGBT community and is a hell of a writer, won Best First Novel in the Shamus Awards!).

But there’s something I’ve been dwelling on since Saturday night, and it’s what Kellye said during her acceptance speech.

She referenced the dismal state of representation, highlighted in this list at Sisters in Crime. It lays out, in a pretty stark way, how unbalanced the crime and mystery field is (and this is just crime and mystery).

There are less than 200 people here who are traditionally-published and not straight and white. Just 81 black writers, 22 Latinx writers, 9 Native-Americans writers, 19 Asian American/Asian writers…

Seriously, give it a look.

Kellye said something important during her acceptance speech: “We need to stop treating diverse writers as a trend and start treating them as the status quo.”

I understand and appreciate the need for diversity, and recently talked about the importance of reading diverse books (both as a writer and as a person). But Kellye’s speech and this list really take the issue and underscore it and highlight it and string it with Christmas lights. It makes the whole thing a little less theoretical and a lot more tangible.

In a large sense Bouchercon was a fun weekend. I was glad to see a lot of folks and a lot of people got to meet my daughter and that was nice. I was going to write a rundown of some of the cool stuff that happened, and the lessons worth sharing… but I keep thinking of standing there in the ballroom, listening to Kellye’s speech, happy as hell for her because she is super cool and it’s a great book, and how I wished more people could hear it, because there are a lot of people in the community who were not in that room.

So, that’s the memory I wanted to share.

Go follow Kellye. She’s a smart and strong advocate for this issue. Bookmark that list and the next time you’re looking for a new book to read, or you’re setting up your own event, recognize it as a resource that is both very valuable but something we should also be sad about.

And congrats to all the Anthony winners. It was a good year.

A brief guide on how to be a cool guy at a conference, and not a dumbass

It’s almost time for Bouchercon, the biggest crime and mystery convention of the year. As such, there will be a lot of socializing, a lot of drinking, and a few dumb assholes saying or doing inappropriate things.

That’s what happens when you shove a ton of people into a hotel for a few days and add a generous helping of booze. That doesn’t make it okay.

I’ve seen other authors sharing tips and survival guides for conferences—many of which are very good (seriously, stay hydrated).

What I haven’t seen is something that shouldn’t be necessary but is probably necessary: a quick guide on how to be a cool dude and not a dumbass.

There’s been a lot of discussion about convention harassment policies, and those are all good discussions—it’s paramount on conventions to create and enforce a safe and respectful atmosphere—but there are some specific behaviors I think it’s worth talking about.

So, I submit for consideration, a brief guide on how to be a cool guy, and not a dumbass:

THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK. Seriously. Just take a second. Say it in your head. Pretend you have to say it to you mom, instead of the woman you barely know standing in front of you. Think about how your mom would react. Hopefully then you’ll realize that anything worth considering so much is probably not a thing you should say.

MANAGE YOUR ALCOHOL INTAKE. If you know you tend to lose control of yourself after you have five drinks… have four. Even better, three. Or, if you find this is something you have a difficult time controlling, maybe it’s time to have a long hard think about your relationship to alcohol.

MIND YOUR HANDS. Once, at a publishing party, I saw a man reach up to brush the hair out of the eyes of a woman he just met. He thought he was being polite and did not notice her entire body freeze. After she quickly excused herself, he seemed genuinely taken aback when I told him that what he did was inappropriate. This should be an easy one, but I guess it’s not: Handshakes, cool. Hugs, sometimes cool if the person is a friend. A gentle, intimate caress? No!

SPEAK UP. Guys, it is paramount that we speak up when we see something bad happen. If you stand by and let it happen, or worse, if you create excuses for someone, you’re complicit. Full stop. It’s not fun to call out a friend or colleague. You know what’s also not fun? Being subjected to unwanted physical and verbal advances.

STAND UP. At this coming Bouchercon, badass author extraordinaire Christa Faust is spearheading an anti-harassment posse—folks who will wear little silver stars on their badge or elsewhere, indicating they are there to help anyone who feels like they are being harassed. Being mindful is good. Being proactive and part of the solution? That’s even better.

KNOW WHEN TO PACK IT IN. Maybe you did or said something inappropriate. Maybe you want to apologize. This is not necessarily a bad instinct. But it can turn bad real quick when you hound the person you offended so you can “properly” apologize. Because then it’s less about the apology, and more about you wanting to be absolved, which is basically putting the responsibility of your harassment on the person you harassed. Sometimes you have to know to accept you were wrong, say sorry, walk away, and find some new folks to talk to.

THE RULES HAVE NOT CHANGED, THEY ARE JUST BEING ENFORCED. You hear this a lot, mostly from rotten people—”everyone’s different now, you can’t do this, you can’t say that, now you get in trouble.” No, it’s not that we all sat down and came up with a list of words and actions that are now off limits. It was always shitty to say and do those things. It’s just that now people are emboldened to call you on it. Now there are consequences. Stop pretending like your behavior is a right you’ve been denied, and realize that what’s really been denied is the safety and comfort of other people, by you.

I’m looking forward to a good time down in St. Pete’s this weekend! I know in my heart that the overwhelming majority of the people going are in it for a good time, and that good time will be had, despite the presence of a few bad apples. And I think with a little personal mindfulness, and a little vigilance, we can pare down that bad bunch even further.

It’s almost time for Bouchercon! And here’s where I’ll be…

N@BBCSP_B.jpgYesterday I wrote about the quantum state of conferences—how they’re worth it and not worth it at the same time, and really it comes down to your definition of “worth.”

Which is a pretty good segue into some news about Bouchercon, which is taking place in Florida this year. I will be there! I will be doing stuff!

First up: Noir at the Bar on Thursday night. Will you just look at this line-up? It’s madness. Sheer madness, and I feel extremely lucky to have made the cut. I’ll try to come up with something good to read…

I’ll also be appearing on two panels. They are:

Friday, September 7th, 1 p.m. — Remington Steele Goes Digital? — Writing the Modern PI Novel. I’ll be joining Rebecca Swope (moderator), J.D. Allen, Kristen Lepionka, and Paul D. Marks

Saturday, September 8th, 1 p.m. — Yin and Yang — Cozy and Noir. I’ll be moderating this one, which features Donna Andrews, Ed Lin, Melinda Mullet, Robert Randisi, and Jim Doherty.

Otherwise, I will be wandering the conference hotel. If you want to find me, the hotel bar is a good bet, followed by the pool.

‘Potter’s Field,’ the fifth and final Ash McKenna novel, is available now

New YorkedToday is the day: Potter’s Field is available in hardcover and eBook. It’s weird and bittersweet to be at the end of a road that started with the publication of New Yorked in 2015. Though really it started in 2010, when I first began to write it. Fun fact: the first title of New Yorked was Apophenia, which is the condition of finding patterns in random data, which I thought was so clever and I now realize is probably the dumbest fucking title ever. Glad I didn’t roll forward with that one.

I wrote the series for a lot of reasons, but a big one was that I wanted to write the origin story of a private detective—about what would push someone into that kind of profession. Because I felt like a lot of PI stories are about characters who are jaded and worn and who’ve been at it for a very long time. So I thought it was be cool to start at the start. The fun thing about Potter’s Field is that I get another chance to tell a New York story, but without all the accumulated bullshit of a first-time novelist.

I’ll likely be insufferable the next few days as stuff starts to land. I was on the Writer Types podcast with pals Eric Beetner and SW Lauden (they’re all over but here’s a Stitcher link), Dan Malmon continues his very thoughtful and kind reviews over at Crimespree, and I’ve got a LitReactor column to finish, uh, right now…

Click here to find it. It’s okay if you haven’t read the whole series. You can start with this and work your way backward. Or go start at the beginning and know you won’t have to wait for the story to finish. Or buy it to use as a doorstop. Whatever works!

Oh, also, release party July 17 at The Mysterious Bookshop and I’m reading at Noir at the Bar at Shade on Sunday night. Links!

But to all of you who stuck with me through this: Thank you. From the bottom of my heart, it has meant the world to me.

On powerlessness

I keep trying to write something about this, and I keep stalling out, because I figure, what is there to even say?

Or, what could I say that might make any difference, several thousand miles away from where this is happening, in the privileged bubble of my happy family life?

That picture of the little girl sobbing, after being separated from her family, after her goddamn shoelaces were taken away—I saw it while sitting in a locker room. I was about to test for the next level in Krav Maga, a martial art founded by Imi Lichtenfeld in the 1930s to defend Jewish neighborhoods in Bratislava from anti-Semitic gangs. All I could think was: the only thing that’s changed is the uniforms.

I looked at that picture and I shook because this little girl was so tiny and so afraid and I think of how I feel when my daughter is upset or afraid like that, and how it rips my heart clean in fucking two, and this child’s parents aren’t even there to comfort her. They’ve been taken away by a bunch of fuckers who are gleeful in their hatred. What that kid must be going through, what those parents must be going through, it’s a pain I can’t even fathom.

My daughter was born with a heart defect, and twice in the first year of her life we handed her over for six-hour open-heart surgeries. So I know that feeling of your child being taken away and the stakes being very high. But we were handing her over to a team of doctors who demonstrated the utmost care and compassion. And by the end of the day we had her back.

There is no care or compassion here. None. Instead there’s a complete and utter breakdown of empathy and kindness.

We are in the midst of a full-blown humanitarian crisis and I keep coming back to this feeling of: we are the bad guy. If this were a movie, then America would be the regime the freedom fighters would be trying to topple. And we would cheer those fighters, because a government that splits up families and then lies about why they’re doing it—there’s no law here, this is a negotiating tactic for Trump to get his dumb fucking wall—is just full-blown evil.

I don’t know what to do.

I gave money to ActBlue, which is funneling donations to a number of organizations trying to help these families. I found them on a longer list that Mashable put together. But my heart still hurts because all I did was press a button. It feels like nothing.

I can beg and plead for people to vote in the midterms. Cut Trump off at the knees, at least, so his power will be limited. But I begged and pleaded for people to vote for Clinton, for all the good that seemed to do.

I don’t know what to do as an artist. Though, at times like this I tend to fall back to what Kurt Cobain wrote in the liner notes of Nirvana’s 1992 album Incesticide:

At this point I have a request for our fans. If any of you in any way hate homosexuals, people of different color, or women, please do this one favor for us—leave us the fuck alone! Don’t come to our shows and don’t buy our records.

There’s this debate that pops up a lot in artistic communities—especially lately—over how political an artist should or should not be, because you don’t want to risk sales. But I’m pretty comfortable saying that if you can look at what’s happening on the border and you can shrug it off, or worse, justify it—leave me the fuck alone! Don’t come to my signings and don’t buy my books.

Other than that, all I feel is powerlessness.

I don’t speak Spanish. I live thousands of miles away from the border. I’m not a lawyer. I poke around on the internet looking for articles like this in Slate, roundups of how to help, and I hold my daughter extra tight. I hide what I’m feeling from her, because I want to protect her from the horrible fucking place this country has become.

I don’t know that this changes anything or helps anything. I don’t know what it means to the broader fight. I just wanted to say something before I climbed into bed and stared at the ceiling for a little while.

I do believe in the best of us, still. I believe we will get past this. I will watch and wait and help where I can and be the best father and husband and citizen I can be and maybe right now that can be enough.

Maybe it’s enough for us to stoke the fire in our hearts, to make sure that flame doesn’t go out, even in high wind and heavy rain, because those fires will keep us warm and light the way in the dark, so we can see ourselves through this.

And yet it’s so easy to say because I’m too far away to say it to the little girl whose shoelaces were taken away.

If you can help, please help. If you can’t—please keep that fire alive. Just do that. I feel like we’re going to need every source of flame we can muster.

‘The Woman from Prague’ in paperback and ‘Potter’s Field’ release party

praguepaper.jpg

The Woman from Prague is out in paperback today!

There are already copies at The Mysterious Bookshop, which I’ve signed, or you can click through to this page to find links to a variety of book-buying locations.

I loved writing Prague, and I was very happy with how people reacted to it: Publishers Weekly and The Boston Globe called it a hot read of the summer, plus PW gave it a starred review—my first. James Grady, author of one of my favorite spy/espionage thrillers of all time, Six Days of the Condor, gave it a very nice blurb. Booklist called it a “spy thriller in all the genre’s old-school glory.” That’s pretty cool.

And now you can get it in an edition that is slightly lighter and cheaper than the hardcover!

I’ve also set the release party for the fifth and final Ash McKenna book, Potter’s Field. It comes out July 10 but we’re doing an event for it at The Mysterious Bookshop on July 17. Alex Segura, author of the Pete Fernandez books, will be doing a Q&A with me. We’ll have hardcover copies of Potter’s Field AND paperbacks of The Woman from Prague, plus some of Alex’s books, and lots of other books because it’s a bookstore. And maybe cupcakes.

But definitely booze.

Here’s the link to the event on Facebook. If you still do Facebook, and wouldn’t mind hitting the RSVP button that, it would be a big help (so I know how many cupcakes to get). Otherwise—sign up for my newsletter to get at least one gentle reminder beforehand, but also book recommendations and links to craft essays and whatnot.

Coming in January: ‘Take-Out, and Other Tales of Culinary Crime’

tacotruck.jpg

Someone else noticed before I did.

Over the course of a few months, I wrote and published stories involving a bagel maker, and warring food trucks, and a restaurant scam. A friend asked when my collection of food noir stories was coming out. When he said that, I was working on a story about a bouncer at a pastry shop.

It’s not surprising I’d fall into a theme, with writing about food. I like to eat. But it’s more than that, too.

Food is the thing that binds all of us, across continents and cultures. No matter where you go, there are signature dishes and traditions of hospitality. Sharing a meal is as much about emotional sustenance as it is about the physical.

Which makes food a fantastic storytelling device, especially within the confines of crime and noir fiction. They’re intersections where passions collide.

In total, I wrote more than a dozen stories with components of food or hospitality.

And now Polis Books is going to collect them in Take-Out—and it will include three stories that haven’t been published anywhere. The whole jam will be available in paperback and eBook, and it’s coming out in January.

That should fill the hole in your heart between Potter’s Field (coming in July and available for pre-order) and The Warehouse (due sometime in the back half of 2019).

I’m really excited to see this hit, because I think it represents some of my best short story work. Two of them were shortlisted for Best American Mystery Stories, and one (the title story, “Take-Out”) made the final cut. Another (“Foodies”) was nominated for a Derringer Award. One (“Confessions of a Taco Truck Owner”) I read at Noir at the Bar, and Todd Robinson told me he was putting it in the next issue of Thuglit before I even left the microphone. Best short story acceptance I ever got.

More on this soon. Three cheers to Jason Pinter for agreeing to publish it, and Josh Getzler for sealing the deal. This is going to be a fun one.

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