Crime Fest-ing

The dinners at crime festivals are a tricky affair. To rubber chicken, or not to rubber chicken, that is the question. I generally toss a coin in the air and let it decide, but in this case I’d promised the organizer Adrian Muller (married to my UK publisher, not coincidentally) that I would be around as much as possible, and to reward me, he slipped my name care on a table with Meg Gardiner and her husband (why are computer and software people so often widely read and charismatic? They shouldn’t be, really) and Jason Pinter, who is new to being published but not new to publishing. (Meg has posted a photo at http://meggardiner.wordpress.com/2008/06/08/crimefest)

The speeches were three, and as different a trio as one could find short of a Terry Pratchett novel. Karen Fossum told us that she liked funerals, then preceded to narrate a pair of decidedly creepy stories about deaths she had known, one of them involving a teenager in a rabbit suit. This was followed by Jeff Lindsay, author of the Dexter books, who performed—telling is an inadequate verb—a string of jokes about writers (“How many writers does it take to screw in a light bulb?” “Two, one to screw it partway, the other to give it a twist at the end.”) that were both funny and positively surreal as a follow-up to Fossum’s bathos. The Ian Rankin came on and talked about imagination and… well, to tell you the truth I’m not sure what he talked about because by that time we had finished the bottle of wine at the table and my head was too taken up by dead boys in rabbit costumes and abysmally bad puns.

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At one o’clock in the morning I decided that the decaffeinated coffee I’d been served wasn’t, but then again, maybe it was just my brain trying to process the evening. In any case, the 5 am wakeup call for someone else didn’t help, nor the dutiful fretting as to who had thus missed getting a wakeup call…

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So, Sunday I drank coffee, sorted out some of the rest of the tour, and tweaked the questions for my 12:00 closing panel. As I mentioned yesterday, this was Ian Rankin, Natasha Cooper, Jeff Lindsay, and Simon Brett discussing “When the Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll end: Great Closing Lines.” The four topics were originally just the first three, until I suggested that perhaps something to do with closing lines might be more appropriate, and the planners just swept them all together.

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So my first question was, naturally, “Tell us about writing sex.”

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This woke up the audience nicely. I chose to deal with the Drugs side by simply asserting that none of us would think of advocating the recreational use of illicit drugs in our work, but then asked Ian and Jeff, both big on music, “What is it with boy writers and music, anyway?” George Pelecanos, John Harvey, Ian—how am I to guess what subtle emotional insight is to be granted by the character’s listening to music I don’t know?

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Anyway, before that argument could get out of control I shoved them onto closing lines. I had asked the four of them to collect a few examples of memorable closing lines—the good, the bad, and the enigmatic—and we tossed them around for a while, then talked about our own work and how we addressed the problem. Natasha Cooper spoke for us all when she said that she always took something away from a conference and this time it was going to be a fixation on endings. Probably none of the five of us will allow an ending to stand as we first write it for a long time.

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It was the kind of panel one prays for, containing both substance and humor, with panelists who are professional enough to be brief and to the point, who respect each other enough to listen and respond, and who need little direction or control on the part of the moderator. When I moderate a panel, I aim to be invisible, so don’t expect to hear about Laurie King’s thoughts on the subject under discussion. With Simon, Jeff, Natasha, and Ian, it was easy.

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This and other panels are going to be available as free and gratis podcasts from the Crime Fest folk, I’ll post that link when they’ve recovered enough from the weekend to put it up.

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Monday I pack (three whole nights in the same place—wow!) and hire a car, see an old family friend for lunch and head to Bath for an event, in between talking to my publisher, following up reservations for cars and guides in the Orkneys, hotels in Edinburgh, and so on.

 More later.

Comments

  1. Laurie,
    It sounds like things are going very well for you. May they continue to be so.
    I’m looking forward to the podcast link. I find introductions and conclusions to be the hardest things to write. In academic writing, they frustrate me because I don’t like to summarize. I feel intros and conclusions are summaries of the content. Any thoughts? (Of course, you probably won’t have thoughts about that for a while, but if you’re bored during your trip, perhaps you could give some advice to a fledgling writer. Then again, if you’re bored in England, that’s a problem.)
    Safe travels. Be well. Peace.
    Lauren

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