The 46th Bouchercon World Mystery Convention, crime fiction’s annual event for fans and authors alike, drew roughly 1,400 people to Raleigh, N.C. over October 8-11.
Chaired this year by Al Abramson, the convention, held in the South for the first time in the organization’s history, kicked off on Thursday with opening ceremonies presided over by co-Toastmasters Lori Armstrong and Sean Doolittle.
This year's event welcomed two American and two International Guests of Honor in 2015. The American Guests of Honor, Tom Franklin, author of the Edgar Award-nominated Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, and Kathy Reichs, author of the long-running Temperance Brennan series that became the basis for the television series Bones, told audience members during a panel on Sunday that this was their first Bouchercon. Zoë Sharp, who writes the Charlotte “Charlie” Fox bodyguard series, and Allan Guthrie, who, in addition to being an author, is also an agent, were feted as International Guests of Honor. Sarah R. Shaber, whose series featuring history professor Simon Shaw is set in Raleigh, was the weekend’s Local Guest of Honor. The creators and webmasters of the popular site Stop, You’re Killing Me, Lucinda Surber and Stan Ulrich, were also recognized as Fan Guests of Honor. The married couple is most recently pouring their energy into next year’s Left Coast Crime, which will be held in Phoenix, Arizona.
Beginning Thursday morning, fans congregated in meeting rooms spread across two adjacent Raleigh hotels—which allowed for eight events to happen simultaneously—for an abundance of panels, where authors discussed topics as varied as the makings of the traditional mystery and tough, urban stories. For readers looking for a harder-edged read, there were offerings such as “The Appeal of the Hardboiled Mystery” and “Weaponry in Crime, Mystery & Thriller,” while those whose tastes skewed lighter had options like “Mix with Care: Humor and Mystery” or “The Comfort of Mystery in a Random World.”
The lure of the classics never wanes and this year attendees were in for a treat with a special panel featuring Dashiell Hammett’s granddaughter, Julie Rivett, as well as Hammett’s biographer, Richard Layman, in conversation with moderator Peter Rozovsky. For the second year in a row, Rozovsky also moderated his “Beyond Chandler, Hammett, and Spillane,” which saw panelists, including Anthony Award winner Laura Lippman, discuss authors they felt had been as influential as the big-name crime writers but who had fallen out of the lexicon.
In keeping with Bouchercon tradition, Thursday’s opening ceremonies doubled as the first of two awards ceremonies at the convention, when the Macavity and the Barry Awards were presented. Voted on by the members of Mystery Readers International, the Macavity Awards went to Alex Marwood’s The Killer Next Door (Best Mystery Novel), Julia Dahl’s Invisible City (Best First Mystery Novel), Hank Phillippi Ryan’s Writes of Passage: Adventures on the Writer’s Journey (Best Mystery-Related Nonfiction), Craig Faustus Buck’s “Honeymoon Sweet” (Best Mystery Short Story), and Catriona McPherson’s A Deadly Measure of Brimstone (Sue Feder Historical Mystery Award). The Barry Awards, voted on by readers of Deadly Pleasures magazine, included Greg Iles, whose Natchez Burning won Best Novel, and repeat winner Julia Dahl, whose Invisible City picked up another Best First Novel award. Allan Eskens’s The Life We Bury won Best Paperback Original, and the Best Thriller went to Those Who Wish Me Dead by Michael Koryta.
Attendees of Bouchercon vote on the Anthony Awards, which were announced Saturday evening, after the Silent Auction. Laura Lippman, who unfortunately could only attend part of the convention and couldn’t stay through the ceremony, won Best Novel for After I’m Gone. Lori Rader-Day picked up an Anthony for Best First novel for her debut The Black Hour, while Catriona McPherson’s The Day She Died won for Best Paperback Original, making this the second year in a row that McPherson has won in the same category (in 2014, her previous standalone, As She Left It, took home the prize). Art Taylor’s “The Odds Are Against Us,” from Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, won Best Short Story, and Hank Phillippi Ryan’s Writes of Passage: Adventures on the Writer’s Journey racked up another win with a Best Critical or Nonfiction Anthony nod.
The David Thompson Special Services Award, created after Murder by the Book in Houston’s Thompson’s unexpected death in 2010, was also presented during the Anthony Award ceremonies to mystery community power couple Bill and Toby Gottfried, both enthusiastic and tireless advocates for the genre who help promote it through conventions (they’ve attended Bouchercons since 1985), book groups, book buying, and, of course, reading.
As fans combed through the book room and waited in line to get their favorite authors to inscribe their favorite book, there was talk both of treasured moments from the weekend’s convention—for many it was seeing fan favorite Kathy Reichs at her first-ever Bouchercon—and eager anticipation for 2016, when the action heads to New Orleans September 15-18.