From the Booking Desk:
Last night, The Ivy Bookshop in Baltimore Maryland hosted an event featuring five women of mystery. I thought I would write a brief recap of the festivities for those that may be interested.
This past weekend was Malice Domestic, a conference dedicated to the traditional mystery which is held every spring in Bethesda, Maryland. Marcia Talley always uses the unique opportunity of having crime fiction authors from around the country (and world) together in one place to plan a few extra events after the main conference. This year brought them to The Ivy Bookshop for the first time.
The participants were as follows:
Marcia Talley – resident of Annapolis, Maryland and the Bahamas
Frances Brody – from Leeds, England
Sujata Massey – Baltimore resident
Elaine Viets – from South Florida
Hank Phillippi Ryan – from Boston, Massachusetts
Follow the links to the author pages to find out more about each of their work. Hank made a point of saying that events like this were so special because while all of these authors write crime fiction, each of their styles is unique unto themselves. It allows readers to understand the scope of the genre and there is surely something for everyone within this mix of authors.
After a brief introduction to the event, Marcia turned things over to Sujata, who served as the moderator for the event. Sujata wisely chose to present the evening as a conversation on various topics rather than having each author act as a “talking head” and just spout off about their books. This made for a much more dynamic and engaging event.
Topics covered the standards – from “tell us about your heroine” to “what is your writing process like.” Frances broached the subject of “Cabot Cove Syndrome” and all of the authors weighted in on this topic. Basically, one of the challenges of writing crime fiction is to create convincing ways for the protagonist to stumble upon body after body without setting off red flags for the reader AND not wiping out a whole town of citizens in the process. Answers included everything from sending your main character on vacation to making sure that the character has a job where they would be forced to confront this darker side of life.
One of the co-owners of The Ivy, Ed Berlin, asked the authors if their intention was to scare the reader by revealing this underbelly of human nature. Naturally, all the authors thought there was much more to the popularity of crime fiction than that. Elaine talked about how the typical mystery readers enjoys the puzzle and knowing that these threads were going to be tied together by the end.
At this point, I mentioned hearing an author speak at Bouchercon (and unfortunately, I can’t remember who it was at the moment) who said that the crime novel is basically the social novel of today. These crimes (regardless of how realistic you might feel they are) always grow out of the socioeconomic world in which they are set. Crime fiction is as much about human nature, sociology and psychology as it is about the crime itself. This same author theorized that if Charles Dickens and Shakespeare were writing today, they would likely be writing crime fiction — and yes, for the record, a convincing argument can be made that both authors were actually writing crime fiction in their day as well.
All of the authors were very supportive of one audience member who had recently finished a draft of a historical novel and was worried that it wasn’t good enough. As Hank explained it, every writer has doubts about every book they write; but that if you have faith in the work, the revision process will reveal the gem within.
Once the discussion was over and the audience questions answered, the authors happily signed books for all those interested. The owners of The Ivy admitted that it was only recently that they began to see the potential of hosting mystery related events – The Ivy is generally regarded as a more literary bookshop – so hopefully we will start to see more events like this one at the store. If you are in the Baltimore area, be sure to stop by this independent bookstore and show your support!
On a personal note, I was very grateful to be able to congratulate Hank Phillippi Ryan on her recent Agatha Award (Best Contemporary Novel for The Wrong Girl) face-to-face. I have long been a fan of both of Hank’s series and couldn’t be happier to see her get this recognition once again (her first book won the Best First Novel some years back). And I was also delighted to be able to reconnect with Frances Brody, who I first met last year at Malice Domestic and the Festival of Mystery (in Oakmont, PA). Since the opportunities are less frequent, meeting authors from the UK is always such a pleasure, and Frances’ traditional mysteries are wonderful.
If you haven’t read these authors yet, now is the perfect time to pick up one of their books. As Hank said at the event, each of them write their books in the hopes of entertaining the reader and I can assure you, this collection of authors is very entertaining.