Thursday, 22 October 2009

Bouchercon World Mystery Convention 40 - Report

My wife and I set off on our 8,000 plus miles round trip after a few false starts.

First off, I live out in the country side, with my house being point 'A' and Carlisle being point 'C'. First on the agenda was dropping my collie dog, Ripley (named after the Alien killer from the movie of the same name) at point 'B' which is about mid-way. Except - on automatic pilot - I turned up at point 'C' wondering what the hell I was doing and why was Ripley sticking his cold nose in my ear.

Realising my error, I decided to fuel up at the petrol station on the city's fringe, and did just that. Turning round I headed back to point 'B'. On arrival, and after a maudlin goodbye to Ripley which he didn't reciprocate because he was too excited about joining the other dogs running around the fields, I went back to my car. Only to find petrol gushing out of the tank all over the floor!

OK, panic mode set in. Set off to my friendly mechanics and discovered that the seal on my fuel tank had ruptured. D'OH!

Had to leave the car, go get my wife's car and then fill up with fuel a second time. Then it struck me: my airport parking was registered for my car and the Automatic Number Plate recognition system wouldn't recognise our new vehicle. Quick phone call put that right, but by now, i was thinking, is this a good idea to set off on a world ranging mission after all these false starts?

Back at the house again and I'd missed delivery of an important package I was waiting on. Telephoned the 'auto' line for the carrier only to find that they could only hold a package for four days due to security reasons (like bombs only go off after five days or something?).

Double D'OH!

OK, so sorted that out. Rearranged for the package to be delivered and left in a 'safe' place. Right. Still feeling like this was a comedy of errors and was i really sure that I wanted to get on an airplane.

Deciding it was now or never, we set off. Got down to Forton/Lancaster services where I felt the need of a caffeine injection, and this was where I got my first pleasant surprise of the day.

In WHSmith my paperback Dead Men's Dust was prominently displayed on the top shelf right next to the number one position. YAHOO! D'OH! Wasn't number one. That was Jeffrey Archer. But my book was being given the 'Book of the Week' treatment, so I was still giddy.

Making it to Handforth Dean I had another pleasant surprise. Met by the receptionists at our hotel, I was informed that they'd spotted my name and had Googled it and found I was a 'famous' author. Chuffed, but modest, I waved off the adulation. Don't know if they were expecting something else, but my rock'n'roll lifestyle extended to an early night in bed.

Then a very early rise. Off to the airport.

Things were going well, and I'd forgotten the woes of yesterday, so I boarded the plane and headed for Newark, New Jersey, arriving after an uneventful flight eight or so hours later.
Collected the bags, re-checked them. Then had four hours of hanging around for a connecting flight to Indianapolis.

Next plane, a jet this time, and we touched down in Indianapolis a few hours later. Off to bagge reclaim.

D'OH! No bags.

A little detective work later and we found our cases sitting outside the Continental Airlines office. They managed to get on an earlier flight than we did and didn't have to hang around for four hours in Newark. Everything was OK now, and off we went, wondering what to expect of Indy.

I was pleasantly surprised to find a beautiful regentrified city, with some wonderful old architecture, deserted streets and an unexpected cold snap! It was freezing cold. Pleased that I'd brought my jeans and leather jacket, first on the agenda was a quick shower and then wrapped in as many layers as possible. Then we left the Omni Severin - a beautiful old hotel in Indy - to go scope out the convention building in the nearby Hyatt Regency.

That's when the fun started.

We met up with old friends Adrian Magson and his wife, Anne, amongst others. As well as the gang from Mystery Mikes bookshop and fellow Brit Steve Warne. A few pints of lager later and it was off to bed, ready for the convention the next day.

That's where the ol' time difference kicked in.

Woke up at 4 am, still on UK time. Hung around like a ghoul outside the hotel, smoking and longing for the Starbucks to open. At 5.30 I was the first through the door and drowned myself in the biggest cup of coffee I could buy (we are talking bucket-sized portions here). That was me ready for the day. About 9 am I was back at the Hyatt, registered for the conference and joined the crowds. Awesome atmosphere. Then I did the ol' 'famous' author bit, signing copies of DMD and JAW at Mystery Mike's bookstore in the booksellers' room, UK editions flown in for the event. The rest of that third day of our epic journey is a bit of a blur. Went for the biggest lunch I'd ever seen in my life at Italian restaurant, Buca's. Busy meeting and greeting old friends and new. Caught up with some more old friends in the shape of Yrsa Siggurdadottir and husband, Olafur, two of some of the loveliest people you're ever likely to meet, and ended the day drinking with them back at the Omni bar.

Woke up at 4.15 when a well-meaning friend from the UK telephoned me. D'OH! So I did the ghoul bit again, smoking and waiting for Starbucks to open. Then realisation set in that I'd been unable to find any of the team from my US publishers, William Morrow and Company, and i was supposed to do a book giveaway at the bazaar on Sunday. Wasn't sure that the books were going to be there. frantic emailing ensued, and everything came right. Another day of meeting, greeting and mingling followed. Met up with internet buddies, Libby Cudmore and Matthew Quinn Martin and chewed the fat for a while. Then caught up with the lovely Jennifer McMahon, amongst others. Went to a couple panels, including ones where Yrsa and Adrian Magson were appearing. Great fun. And very informative. That evening I went to the William Morrow reception at MO's Steakhouse and rubbed shoulders with some great authors. I won't name them for fear of forgetting some names - trust me, they were a great bunch. Back to my hotel and picked up my wife who was feeling terrible after the lingering effects of a flu that had been bugging us both. Off to the Steak and Shake for some grub. My wife had no appetite, but I couldn't let her burger go to waste could I?


Awoken at 4.45 am by another well-wisher from the UK. D'OH!! The return of the ghoul.
Strabucks. A pattern was beginning to build. But I was good, because today I was appearing on a panel about serial Killers. It went great. Loads of folk loved the panel and went off in search of my books and Mystery Mike couldn't keep up with demand. A very nice feeling, believe me.
More meeting and mingling, in the 1800 plus crowds. Caught up with more old friends, maggie griffin, Lee Child, Andrew Grant - sounds like I'm name dropping now. Got a few new fans, ladies who loved my English/Scottish/Irish accent, dependent on who I spoke to, who promised me they weren't stalkers, they were just following me because they loved to listen to my voice. it helped that I was giving them the Ol' Roger Moore eyebrow and combining it with a croaky Sean Connery. Then me and my wife headed off to a equestrian supplies store outside of town, taken there by a lovely lady we met called April. Had to treat my wife to a new saddle, and get it shipped back to the UK. She deserved it, after all the work she does to support me. Then it was back to the hotel and the idea of a nap sounded great. No chance. I did a little editing on my latest book instead. Then visited Starbucks where I was told that I should have had a frequent visitor card.

That eveing we went to Lee Child's annual reacher Creature bash at an awesome venue named the Slippery Noodle. caught up with some old ITW buddies including Gino Brogden, Andrew Patterson and Maureen Manning amongst others, then were joined by good friends Adrian and Anne Magson. The atmosphere was terrific, the company good, but the time was catching up and we had to retire before I fell face-first into my beer.

Woke up the next morning (Suday) at 7 am, so at least i got some sleep. Then it was the usual. Ghoul. Strabucks. Off to the Hyatt, for the book bazaar at 8.30.

The bazaar was an awesome experience, where I was swamped by people after copies of Dead Men's Dust. William Morrow and Co had kindly donated 50 free hardback copies of the book, and they were eagerly snatched up. I was out of stock in minutes, and left with a feeling of euphoria thinking 'I've arrived' (maybe it was because the books were free, my little devil kept whispering in my ear), and this was further compounded by all the well-wishgers who I met afterwards (I told the little devil to shut the hell up).

The convention was over, but not the good times. We met up with Adrian and Anne again, then with Ali Karim, and joined his ntable for drinks in the Hyatt bar. Again, I'm afraid I'm going to miss some names, but the company included Heather Graham, Alexander Sokoloff, Kelli Stanley, Donus Roberts and many other notables of the crime fictoion genre. two major notables were Jon and Ruth Jordan, who run Crimespree magazine, and they were absolutely fabulous folk. It helped when Ruth was telling people that my DMD should be THE book of the year throughout the convention. We all trooped off to Buca's for more of the largest protions of food I'm ever likely to see. Then it was back to the Hyatt for a night cap. Yrsa and Olafur were there, and we again caught up with them. Then it was off to bed.

Final day (and a half).

We headed off for the airport and found that our plane was delayed. but that was OK, because we met up with Ali Karim in the departures lounge and the time flew by. Ali is a real gent, a scholar, and an all round nice guy. What, and who he doesn't know in the crime/thriller/horror genres isn't worth bothering about. He gave me some great advice. Thanks Ali. Off Ali went for his plane, and we waited for ours. Finally boarded the plane, to be told that we would have a hour and a half's flight. Woo Hoo! Then we were told that we'd have to taxi for an hour while air traffic control at newark cleared the skies. D'OH!

Still it shortened our connecting time at Newark.

We boarded the plane and were told our flight back to the UK would be only 5 hours 55 minutes. Woo Hoo! But then we'd have to taxi for an hour while we awaited a take off slot. D'OH!

We finally arrived back in the UK at about 7.40 am, did the ol' security, customs, collected the bags gig and went out to collect our car that I'd had the foresight to have delivered to the airport. By now we'd been on the go since early the previous morning and I don't recall much about the 150 or so miles home. But we did it, and arrived home safe and sound and ready for action.

Next on the agenda was prepping for my up-coming book launch (tonight). So much for well-laid plans. I went out like a light. Yesterday's just a whoozy blur. Today's the first time I've felt like anything approaching human.

Loved it all and can't wait for Bouchercon 41 in San Francisco next year.


Lee Hughes said...

Great retelling of your trip. Sounds like you had a spot on time. I wouldn't worry about the ol' name dropping. If you visit their sites and recounting, they'll be name dropping you. You put in the hard work now you're enjoying the benefits.

Matt Hilton said...

Cheers, Lee. Just trying to keep it real. But I appreciate your support, as ever.

Paul D. Brazill said...

A touch of the Terry Scott's about the trip! Glad it turned out alright in the end.

Matt Hilton said...

Aah, well, I suppose life would be pretty boring if everything always went to plan.

My next adventure will be Carry On Coffee-ing.

Col Bury said...

You can't resist the fiction can you, Matt? I mean, people really followed you around to hear your accent? Come on now!

Sounds like you had a trip to remember, fella.

Good on yer for the detailed update n insights into authordom.

David Barber said...

Yes, agree with above, but, name drop, name drop, name drop. Hard work deserves acclaim and you've put the hard work in. All the very best to you.
P.s. Heather Graham?? Felicity Shagwell from Austin Powers 2 or someone else??

Matt Hilton said...

Different Heather Graham, but lovely nonetheless.

Col, it's true. I had my own little group of admirers (and just incase they're reading this, a lovely group of ladies they were too). Apparently some people from the USA are suckers for the Brit accents. Even I sounded sophisticated apparently!!!
You seen Roger Moore on the new Post Office advert? That was me.