Monday, October 23, 2017

The Bouchercon Report

by Shari Randall

Bouchercon, the world mystery conference, was held in Toronto last weekend. It brings together the many tribes of the mystery world: the cozies, the thrillers, the traditionalists, the classicists, the paranormals, the kids. Novelists, short story writers, collectors, vendors, publishing pros, readers, academics, and super fans from all over the world joined together to celebrate our genre. Women with tattoos and cardigans, guys in skinny jeans and bespoke suits, formal wear and t-shirts – everyone was welcome at the Sheraton Toronto Hotel for the party. Organizers Janet Costello and Helen Nelson and their team did a splendid job.

Oh, Canada! The inside of one hotel is very much like another, but occasionally a Canadianism would remind me that I wasn’t in the US any more. Canadians sensibly, I think, call rest rooms “washrooms.” The money took a bit of thought, but most American conference-goers appreciated the beautiful and high tech Canadian currency. Tim Horton’s, Canada’s answer to Dunkin Donuts, wasn’t bad. (What can I say – I’m from New England. We like our Dunkin.)

Like every mystery conference I’ve been to, Bouchercon was a case of too many panels and too little time. My own Bouchercon battle plan was over four pages of scribbled appointments, panels, parties, and interviews.

The only time I left the hotel was for the St. Martin’s party, in the bar of the beautiful Restaurante Lena, and for high tea at the Library Bar of the Fairmont Hotel. High tea is one of my favorite things to do – just look at me hoisting a cup of tea in my photo on the WWK landing page. The Library Bar’s clubby ambience, top notch food, and overstuffed seating puts it at the top of my all time favorite teas. Plus I got to see Art Taylor in a fascinator, and that doesn’t happen every day.

At every mystery conference I go to, I uncover more layers of mystery’s fandoms. This year I met some members of the Wolfe Pack, the devotees of the gourmet genius, Nero Wolfe, his sidekick Archie Goodwin, and his creator, Rex Stout. This always-sold-out event pays homage to the gourmet/gourmand detective with a lavish feast replete with wine, merriment, and song.


The Guppy Get Together! Dozens of Guppies gathered at the hotel bar Thursday night. What a pleasure to meet people I’ve only “met” on the list serv and get hugs from friends I only see on Facebook.

The packed Ellery Queen Panel, hosted by Art Taylor, was a highlight for many attendees. Fifteen authors paid homage to EQ and to longtime editor, Janet Hutchings, celebrating her 25th year with the magazine.

The Librarians Tea with librarians and authors at every table. Fellow blogger KM Rockwood joined me for what is usually a very relaxing and delicious break in the conference whirl. But emcee Hank Philippi Ryan ended up leading a panel discussion through a fire alarm (typically Canadian in its restraint – a gentle ting bell sound, flashing light, and a calm explanation of every stage of the fire department’s visit). Unnerved Americans remained seated as the Canadians in the group explained the different approach and Hank kept the discussion moving. Hank was an example of grace under pressure, for sure.

This year I’m stepping into the shoes of Sisters in Crime National’s Cari Dubiel as Library Liaison. At the Board meeting, I met the wonderful ladies who make SINC such a valuable organization for writers and readers. Serving on the board with fellow blogger Tina Whittle is icing on the cake.

One of the best things about Bouchercon is that it’s a place where nobody blinks twice if you discuss the merits of attending the psychopath panel or the California dreaming panel, or the forensics panel, or the mystery-solving pets panel.

But every conference is about the books. Several publishers had book giveaways. The Harper Collins giveaway lined the East Ballroom with many wonderful authors – Laura Lippman! Debra Crombie! Wendy Corsi Staub! Free books and a chance to meet favorite authors – it was heaven.

Here’s a picture of my haul.

What’s your favorite conference?


  1. Sounds like you had a great time, Shari! I hope to see you next year in St. Pete! It will be my first conference so I can't offer up a favorite.


  2. It’s sounds like you had a great time at Bouchercon. My favorite is Left Coast Crime, where I find the size more manageable and the panels superb.

    ~ Jim

  3. Bouchercon was overwhelming, though I heard some excellent speakers. I'll do Magna Cum Murder in Indianapolis next year.

  4. Great seeing you in Toronto, Shari! And thanks for the shout-out here about that EQMM hour, which was surely a highlight of Bouchercon for me as well!

  5. Thanks, Shari, for sharing your experiences at Bouchercon with us. I nearly attended, especially since I have friends in Toronto, but I decided that I needed a writers craft conference rather than a fan one and decided to attend New England Crime Bake instead. It will be my first time at Crime Bake. I've attended Sleuthfest in Florida, which is another writers craft conference, and found it to be very helpful. And, of course, one of my favorites is Malice Domestic in Bethesda, devoted to the traditional mystery. That group is my tribe.

  6. Wow--the titles you picked up. What a haul! Until I've got a title out--no conferences for me.

  7. I've enjoyed every conference I have attended.

  8. I had a great time at B'Con St. Louis -- overwhelming, yes, but fun. A couple years ago, I attended Killer Nashville. Also a great conference and a more manageable size. One of my all-time favorites was a tiny little conference in Manhattan, Kansas. I'm still sad they don't do that one any more. Ah, heck. I'm with Warren. I've enjoyed every conference I've ever attended.

  9. Boucheron was wonderful (and, yes, all the Canadianism - except Air Canada, urgh - were a part of the wonderfulness) but Malice is my favorite. Perhaps because it's the one I've been to the most.

    Malice just has that smaller, more intimate feeling. It's a tea party whereas Bouchercon sometimes felt like a frat party.

    I tried to remember that Bouchercon would go at the speed I set so I made sure there were more intimate lunches and dinners, plus the tea, to keep my head above the overwhelming waters.

  10. I'm so glad to learn about all the other conferences. The idea of a smaller, more intimate conference definitely appeals to me.... I Aimee's comment about tea party vs. frat party. I definitely felt that way at times.

  11. Kait - I hope I'll see you in Florida! The high point is definitely meeting online friends in person.

  12. I've been to Bouchercon twice, and like Margaret said, I found it overwhelming twice. My favorite conference is one in which I've met with you often and that's Malice Domestic. I've been to it ten or eleven times now and like the warmth and friendliness of all who are there

  13. Bouchercon was great. And I especially enjoyed the Librarian's Tea, fire alarms and all.

    I did encounter one person who walked down 32 flights of stairs when the alarm went off. Some people were apparently trapped in elevators, too.

    Someone explained that it had been set off when a truck backed into an alarm box in the basement parking area.

    I have to second that AirCanada was an appalling experience. Although I was almost 3 hours early to the airport, I nearly missed my flight. (If you ever want to go in comfort and style, take Emirate Air if they fly to your destination.)

    In addition to Bouchercon, I've gone to Malice Domestic, which I have enjoyed, and Murder as You Like It, a small conference in Mechanicsburg, PA.

  14. Gloria, I'm with you - Malice is great.

    KM, I had no idea you had such a bad experience with Air Canada. I heard other horror stories, too. Surprised me, since I've always thought of Canada as a friendly, together country and the airport wasn't.