By OLINE H. COGDILL
Each year, I write about Bouchercon, the largest conference for mystery fans.
Bouchercon, for those who are not familiar with it, is a fan-based conference, which means that it is for readers to connect with their favorite authors and meet new ones. This year, Bouchercon is September 15 to 18 in New Orleans.
The conference doesn’t stress the craft of writing, like Sleuthfest, though anyone interested in writing will glean something from Bouchercon.
The main focus of Bouchercon is to look at trends, isssues, and how authors work. For example, this year I am moderating the panel “Even in the Quiet Moments,” subtitled “A good story doesn’t always rely on all-out action,” with authors M.O. Walsh, Tracy Kiely, Leigh Perry, William Lashner, and Annette Dashofy, at 3 p.m. Sept. 17.
I have only missed one Bouchercon since 1997. (Full disclosure, last year I joined the Bouchercon board.) Each Bouchercon has been different—some well organized, some a mess; some in cool areas, some in places I never want to return to.
No matter, I have never had a bad time at Bouchercon.
And because Bouchercon is in a different area each year, I think it is a great excuse to read authors from that area.
So here is a quick primer on Louisiana authors for those going to Bouchercon, or those opting for armchair travels. These are in no particular order and I am sure I have missed a few, so please tell us who I’ve missed.
James Lee Burke: Burke’s novels about Dave Robicheaux have been a longtime favorite. Through the years and some 20 novels, Burke has allowed the Louisiana detective to change and go through many life experiences.
Bill Loehfelm: The rebuilding of New Orleans is a metaphor for the emotional recovery of police detective Maureen Coughlin, who finds a fresh start with the city’s police force. Loehfelm’s novels feature an authentic view of New Orleans’ myriad neighborhoods, bars, and restaurants.
Greg Herren: The prolific Herren writes two series about New Orleans’ private detectives. The darker Chanse MacLeod and the lighter Scotty Bradley are both gay men with a strong connection to their homes in New Orleans. Herren’s wicked sense of humor especially shows in his Scotty novels.
Nevada Barr: The author of the bestselling Anna Pigeon novels lives in New Orleans, but has set only one novel, Burn (2010), about the National Park Service ranger in her hometown. In Burn, Anna is assigned to the New Orleans Jazz National Heritage Park where the rangers’ duties are to preserve the area’s music.
Attica Locke: Locke’s novel The Cutting Season (2012) showed the changing face of racism and classism on a Louisiana antebellum mansion that’s managed as a tourist stop by an African American woman whose ancestors were slaves on the plantation.
Tom Cooper: Cooper, who lives in New Orleans, delivered a funny, yet poignant novel with his debut. The Marauders is set in Louisiana’s Barataria swamp after the ecological disaster that was the BP oil spill.
Ethan Brown: Investigative journalist Ethan Brown has two nonfiction books set in New Orleans, the newly released Murder in the Bayou and Shake the Devil Off.
Charlaine Harris: Harris’ popular Sookie Stackhouse novels invented a new genre—the Southern Vampire mystery. Set in Louisiana, these novels gave us a whole new look at vampires and were the basis of the popular HBO series True Blood.
David Fulmer: Fulmer wrote four well-received novels about Creole detective Valentin St. Cyr, set in Storyville, the red-light district that thrived during the early 1900s in New Orleans.
Barbara Hambly: Hambly’s excellent novels devled deep into Big Easy history with hero Benjamin January, a former slave who is a surgeon and music teacher in 1830s New Orleans.
Julie Smith: Smith’s novels about police detective Skip Langdon took readers to the New Orleans Jazz Festival, Mardi Gras, and city government. Smith also may have been the first to write about a group of people who connected virtually, through an online bulletin board, in her novel New Orleans Beat.
Sophie Dunbar: The late Dunbar has four charmingly light mysteries about New Orleans beauty salon owner Clair Claiborne. Her books are Behind Eclaire’s Door (1993), A Bad Hair Day (1996), Redneck Riviera (1998), and Shiveree (1999). Dunbar died of cancer in 2001.