Saturday, 07 August 2021

My first Bouchercon was in 1997 in Monterrey, California. It was one of those life-changing moments. At least 2,200 people showed up to listen and relish all things mysteries—great panels, discussions among authors, the ever-important bar.

I vowed to attend as many Bouchercons as possible, and have pretty much kept that promise, having missed only two through the years. I skipped the Alaska Bouchercon because the year before we’d taken a family cruise to Alaska and the 2012 in Toronto because it was more important to celebrate my friend’s birthday.

So after 2020 Bouchercon that was scheduled for Sacramento had to be canceled because of the pandemic, many of us were so looking forward to gathering in New Orleans for the 2021 Bouchercon.

Alas, it was not meant to be, and it’s the right thing to happen.

With Covid numbers rising in Louisiana, and other states, and many die-hard Bouchercon attendees canceling, the organizers last week made the painful, and correct, decision to cancel our 2021 Bouchercon.

But, instead saying canceling, let’s just say the 2021 Bouchercon as been postponed.

The 2025 Bouchercon will be in New Orleans at the same Marriott that was to host the 2021 conference. The hotel was wise to allow this to happen and Marriott no doubt earned a lot of goodwill among its customers.

And the organizers have found a way to still give readers a taste of the conference.

Two online/virtual events have been scheduled and are free and open to everyone, whether registered for Bouchercon or not.

Friday, August 27: Alafair Burke will be in conversation with James Lee Burke, top left, hosted by Heather Graham with introductions from Rachel Howzell Hall. The conversation begins at 7 p.m. ET; 6 p.m. CT; 5 p.m. MT; 4 p.m. PT; midnight GMT.

Saturday, August 28: The 52nd 2021 Anthony Awards ceremony begins. Black tie optional…or watch in your PJs, say the organizers. The ceremony features the Anthony nominees and award presenters Michael Connelly, left, Tess Gerritsen, Dennis Lehane, Caroline and Charles Todd, Jonathan Maberry and a special welcome from Craig Johnson.

Only previously registered attendees will receive an Anthony ballot.

The ceremony is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET; 6 p.m. CT; 5 p.m. MT; 4 p.m. PT; midnight GMT.

A joint statement from Bouchercon co-chairs Mike Bursaw, Heather Graham and Connie Perry states:

“Having to cancel the in-person New Orleans Bouchercon was one of the hardest decisions we have ever had to make, but, as the saying goes, the show must go on! These events will be free and open to everyone (so please tell your friends!). Please watch for details on how to watch online in upcoming emails from This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

“From our hearts to yours, turn on your computer (or whichever device you prefer) and enjoy two nights of Blood on the Bayou: Postmortem New Orleans Bouchercon 2021. We hope to see you there!”
Although it is too late to tape a full array of panels, these two events give us a taste of being there, and make us miss Bouchercon.

I know many who had registered for New Orleans immediately signed up for the 2022 Bouchercon, which will be in Minneapolis.

“Next year in Minneapolis” became a rallying cry on Facebook and Twitter.

Until next year, keep reading and stay safe.

Anthony Award Nominations
Best Hardcover Novel
What You Don't See, by Tracy Clark (Kensington)
Blacktop Wasteland, by S.A. Cosby (Flatiron Books)
Little Secrets, by Jennifer Hillier (Minotaur Books)
And Now She's Gone, by Rachel Howzell Hall (Forge Books)
The First to Lie, by Hank Phillippi Ryan (Forge Books)

Best First Novel
Derailed, by Mary Keliikoa (Camel Press)
Murder in Old Bombay, by Nev March (Minotaur Books)
Murder at the Mena House, by Erica Ruth Neubauer (Kensington)
The Thursday Murder Club, by Richard Osman (Pamela Dorman Books)
Winter Counts, by David Heska Wanbli Weiden (Ecco Press)

Best Paperback Original/EbyBook/Audiobook Original Novel
The Fate of a Flapper, by Susanna Calkins (Griffin)
When No One is Watching, by Alyssa Cole (William Morrow)
Unspeakable Things, by Jess Lourey (Thomas & Mercer)
The Lucky One, by Lori RaderbyDay (William Morrow)
Dirty Old Town, by Gabriel Valjan (Level Best Books)

Best Short Story
"Dear Emily Etiquette" by Barb Goffman EQMM (Dell Magazines)
"90 Miles" by Alex Segura, Both Sides: Stories From the Border (Agora Books)
"The Boy Detective & The Summer of '74" by Art Taylor, AHMM (Jan/Feb) (Dell Magazines)
"Elysian Fields" by Gabriel Valjan, California Schemin' (Wildside Press)
"The Twenty-Five Year Engagement" by James W. Ziskin, In League with Sherlock Holmes (Pegasus Crime)

Best Juvenile/Young Adult
Midnight at the Barclay Hotel, by Fleur Bradley (Viking Books for Young Readers)
Premeditated Myrtle, by Elizabeth C. Bunce (Algonquin Young Readers)
From the Desk of Zoe Washington, by Janae Marks (Katherine Tegen Books)
Holly Hernandez and the Death of Disco, by Richie Narvaez (Piñata Books)
Star Wars Poe Dameron: Free Fall, by Alex Segura (Disney Lucasfilm Press)

Best Critical or Nonfiction Work
Sometimes You Have to Lie: The Life and Times of Louise Fitzhugh, Renegade Author of Harriet the Spy, by Leslie Brody (Seal Press)
American Sherlock: Murder, Forensics and the Birth of American CSI, by Kate Winkler Dawson (G.P. Putnam's Sons)
Howdunit: A Masterclass in Crime Writing by Members of the Detection Club, by Martin Edwards, ed. (Collins Crime Club)
The Third Rainbow Girl: The Long Life of a Double Murder in Appalachia, by Emma Copley Eisenberg (Hachette Books)
Phantom Lady: Hollywood Producer Joan Harrison, the Forgotten Woman behind Hitchcock, by Christina Lane (Chicago Review Press)
Unspeakable Acts: True Tales of Crime, Murder, Deceit, and Obsession, by Sarah Weinman, ed. (Ecco Press)

Best Anthology or Collection
Shattering Glass: A Nasty Woman Press Anthology, by Heather Graham, ed. (Nasty Woman Press)
Both Sides: Stories from the Border, by Gabino Iglesias, ed. (Agora Books)
Noiryorican, by Richie Narvaez (Down & Out Books)
The Beat of Black Wings: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Songs of Joni Mitchell, by Josh Pachter, ed. (Untreed Reads Publishing)
California Schemin' by Art Taylor. ed. (Wildside Press)
Lockdown: Stories of Crime, Terror, and Hope During a Pandemic, by Nick Kolakowski and Steve Weddle, eds. (Polis Books)

Photos: James and Alafair Burke, top; Michael Connelly

Missing Bouchercon, but Canceling the Correct Action
Oline H. Cogdill
Saturday, 31 July 2021

Readers are grabbed by a novel’s first lines, those sentences that set the tone of the story, and often the characters.

Here are a few first lines that recently intrigued us, and made us want to read these novels.

Hairpin Bridge, by Taylor Adams (Williamm Morrow): “It starts with a bridge. A precarious steel monster with a fierce turn on its south ramp. Spanning six hundred feet across an obscure valley on the fringes of a bankrupt silver-mining town, all rendered perfectly obsolete by the interstate.” (This isn’t the first line but is on page 9.)

Mercy Creek, by M.E. Browning (Crooked Lane): “Everyone had a story from that night. Some saw a man, others saw a girl, still others saw nothing at all but didn’t want to squander the opportunity to be a part of something larger than themselves. To varying degrees, they were all wrong. Only two people knew the full truth.”

The Stranger in the Mirror, by Liv Constantine (Harper): “I’d like to think I’m a good person, but I have no way of knowing for sure. I don’t remember my real name, where I’m from, or if I have any family. I must have friends somewhere, but the only ones I recognize are the ones I’ve made in the two years since the new me was born—every memory before that has been wiped away.”

Razorblade Tears, by S.A. Cosby (Flatiron): “Ike tried to remember a time when men with badges coming to his door early in the morning brought anything other than heartache and misery, but try as he might nothing came to mind.”

Her Last Breath, by Hilary Davidson (Thomas & Mercer): “I didn’t know what to wear to the funeral. Any other day, I would’ve called my sister for advice, because Caro always knew the right way to do things. But she was dead, and I’d never hear her soft, husky voice again."

Unthinkable, by Brad Parks (Thomas & Mercer): “When I came to, breaching that little-understood divide between the murky depths of insentience and the bright conscious world, the first thing I became aware of was my tongue.”


First Lines
Oline H Cogdill
Monday, 19 July 2021

We all know what a tough year 2020 was—no need to go into detail.

But we may be bounding back with in-person conferences, starting with Killer Nashville International Writers' Conference, scheduled Aug. 19 through Aug. 22 in Franklin, Tennessee. And, yes, safety measures will be in place.

This is a game changer in terms of mystery writers’ conferences, which, I think, readers and authors want and need.

It was necessary that in-person events such as Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Awards went virtually for 2020 and 2021.

Malice Domestic’s 2020 conference was virtual and the conference just wrapped up its expanded More Than Malice 2021 conference with an exciting array of authors who don’t usually attend this event.

Left Coast Crime’s 2020 conference was shut down after one day when it opened that March; it was a stunning moment when, after a day of great panels, the city of San Diego was forced to stop the conference from going forward. I know, I was there. Left Coast Crime rebounded in 2021 with a terrific virtual conference and is on point for a live event in Albuquerque in 2022.

Bouchercon had to cancel its 2020 conference, which was scheduled for Sacramento, but plans are going forward for an in-person 2021 event with the gathering to be in New Orleans at the end of August.

But before the in-person Bouchercon, we will have Killer Nashville International Writers' Conference, which is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year.

And Killer Nashville is coming in with a bang with featured keynote speakers Walter Mosley, left, J.T. Ellison, and Lisa Black.

Mosley is the author of the Easy Rawlins novel; his latest is Blood Grove. A Grand Master of the Mystery Writers of America, he has won numerous awards, including an Edgar Award for best novel, the Anisfield-Wolf Award, a Grammy, a PEN USA’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and several NAACP Image awards.

Ellison is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than 20 critically acclaimed novels, including Tear Me Apart and All the Pretty Girls. In 2012, Ellison teamed up with New York Times bestselling author Catherine Coulter to co-write a new FBI series, the first of which was The Final Cut.

Black introduced characters Maggie Gardiner and Jack Renner in her acclaimed suspense novel That Darkness and continued their story in Unpunished, Perish, and Suffer the Children. As a forensic scientist at the Cuyahoga County Coroner’s Office, she analyzed gunshot residue on hands and clothing, hairs, fibers, paint, glass, DNA, blood and many other forms of trace evidence, as well as crime scenes. Now she is a latent print examiner and CSI for the Cape Coral Police Department in Florida, working mostly with fingerprints and crime scenes.

In addition, Killer Nashville will include more than 60 panels and workshops on the craft of writing, business, trends and forensics and law enforcement presentations.
The conference also will include agent roundtable sessions and manuscript critiques, a mock crime scene, and a “ready, set, pitch” workshop. A bookstore also will be at the location.

Registration is $419 for the four-day conference; scholarships are available.

Killer Nashville also hosts several award contests with the winners and finalists recognized during the awards dinner.

These include:

The Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award: To honor the best books published in North America

The Claymore Award: Looks for new authors to assist being publishes.

 The John Seigenthaler Legends Award: Given to an individual who has championed First Amendment Rights. The 2021 award will be presented to Walter Mosley.

Killer Nashville was founded by author, playwright and actor Clay Stafford, who is the CEO and president of the conference. He also is Writer in Residence and Creative Writing Instructor at Battle Ground Academy in Franklin, Tenn.

Photo Walter Mosley; photo by Marcia Wilson

Killer Nashville on Schedule
Oline H Cogdill