The annual Bouchercon World Mystery Convention returned to San Francisco for the first time since 1985, drawing a substantial crowd of nearly 1,400 pre-registered attendees to the city of Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon this weekend. In addition, the convention, smoothly run by current Bouchercon chair Rae Helmsworth, also attracted approximately 100 walk-in registrants for the full weekend and nearly 200 day passes, mostly for Friday and Saturday. Bouchercon 2010 feted both an American and International Guest of Honor, in addition to a Distinguished Contributor to the Genre and a Fan Guest of Honor.

Toastmaster Eddie Muller, a native son of San Francisco best known for his Billy Nichols boxing mysteries, launched the event on Thursday, October 14, during opening ceremonies that set the tone for the conference: exuberance at the chance to see friends and colleagues undercut with sadness over the untimely passing of beloved bookstore manager, publisher and stalwart of the mystery community David Thompson on September 13. Thompson was honored first during the opening night’s presentation of the Macavity Awards, when Ken Bruen and Reed Farrel Coleman’s Tower—which Thompson published under his Busted Flush Press—was chosen as Best Novel, and later during Sunday’s Anthony Awards brunch, when the Bouchercon Standing Committee announced that the David Thompson Special Services Award had been created in his honor. Authors Alafair Burke and Reed Farrel Coleman accepted the inaugural award on Thompson’s behalf for his wife, McKenna Jordan. “David saw all of us as family,” Burke told the crowd. “He wouldn’t want us to be sad and start crying again. But if we could just take a moment and toast our glasses to David for all the love he had for books, for us, for readers and for this world.”

Despite the pall cast by Thompson’s absence, the convention carried on in high spirits, with a wide variety of panels and activities. Traditional panels ran Thursday through Sunday morning and covered topics as varied as the readers’ tastes who attended them. Those who preferred their whodunits to take place several millennia in the past packed the room for “Death and the Favored Few,” which featured Lindsay Davis, John Maddox Roberts, Steven Saylor, and Gary Corby discussing their series set in ancient Rome (or Greece, in the case of Corby). Nancy Drew, who celebrates her 80 birthday this year, was honored not only with her own panel—“Superstar: Nancy Drew was a Cosmo Girl”—but also with a birthday party. Highlighting their international lineup, Soho Publishing’s “Flags of Terror” panel featured six of their authors whose settings include Belfast, Johannesburg, Paris, Beijing, New York City’s Chinatown, and WWII-era Europe. Fans looking for a hands-on experience visited the numerous craft rooms set up throughout the weekend, which included English paper piecing and decorating composition books. In addition to the traditional panels, this year’s convention also featured Continuous Conversations each day—on topics including Debut Authors, Traditional and Cozy Mysteries, Suspense Thrillers, and Procedurals—and “30 on the 30,” where a different author would present on the topic of their choice every half hour.

As always, Bouchercon is host to numerous award presentations. In addition to Tower’s win for Best Novel, Macavity Awards—voted on by members of Mystery Readers International—were also given to Rebecca Cantrell’s A Trace of Smoke (Sue Feder Historical Mystery Award); Hank Phillippi Ryan’s “On the House” (Best Short Story); P.D. James’s Talking About Detective Fiction (Best Mystery Nonfiction); and Alan Bradley’s The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Best First Mystery). The Barry Awards, voted on by readers of Deadly Pleasures magazine, were also announced during the opening ceremonies. The Don Sandstrom Memorial Award for Mystery Fandom was awarded to Len and June Moffatt as well as Captain Bob Napier. Best Short Story went to Brendan DuBois’s “The High House Writer;” Best Paperback Original went to Bryan Gruley’s Starvation Lake; Best British Novel went to Philip Kerr’s If the Dead Rise Not; Best Thriller went to Jamie Freveletti’s Running From the Devil; Best First Novel went to repeat winner Alan Bradley’s The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie; Best Novel of the Decade went to Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; and the Best Novel went to John Hart’s The Last Child. The Shamus Awards, presented by the Private Eye Writers of America, were awarded at an offsite banquet. Marcia Muller’s Locked In won Best P.I. Novel; Ira Berkowitz’s Sinner’s Ball won Best Paperback Original P.I. Novel; Brad Park’s Faces of the Gone won Best First P.I. Novel; Dave Zeltserman’s “Julius Katz” won Best P.I. Short Story; Marcia Muller’s long-running San Francisco-based series character—and the heroine of the Shamus-winning Locked In—Sharon McCone was honored as Best P.I. Character; and Robert Crais was given the Lifetime Achievement Award. During the closing ceremonies, the Anthony Awards—which are voted on by all Bouchercon attendees—were presented during Sunday brunch. P.D. James won the Best Critical Nonfiction category for her Talking About Detective Fiction; Hank Phillippi Ryan’s “On the House” picked up another award for Best Short Story; Bryan Gruley won a second time for Starvation Lake in the Best Paperback Original Category; Sophie Littlefield’s A Bad Day for Sorry won for Best First Mystery; and Louise Penny’s The Brutal Telling picked up the Best Novel prize.

The American Guest of Honor title went to Bay area native Laurie R. King, known for her Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russell series as well as the San Francisco-set books starring P.I. Kate Martinelli. Scottish author Denise Mina—best known for her Garnethill Trilogy, her Paddy Meehan series set in 1980s Glasgow and a new contemporary series with DI Alex Morrow, as well as an upcoming graphic novel—was the convention’s International Guest of Honor. Lee Child, the creator of the bestselling series featuring laconic ex-military man and crime-fighter extraordinaire Jack Reacher, was honored as Distinguished Contributor to the Genre. Maddy Van Hertbruggen—who in 1999 created the popular Yahoo online mystery fan group 4 Mystery Addicts that currently boasts almost 1300 members—was honored as 2010’s Fan Guest of Honor.

As authors and fans packed up luggage, swag and those must-have treasures from the basement bookroom, a single phrase seemed to float throughout the emptying Hyatt and out onto the soggy San Francisco streets: see you in St. Louis next September!