On Saturday, January 5, 2019, I attended an event called Unspeakable Crimes: LGBTQ Mystery Writing at East City Bookshop in Washington, DC. I thought that my followers might enjoy getting a sense of what this event was like. This is not intended to be a full recap of the evening, but rather a flashback to highlights in the hopes of encouraging folks to attend local book events in their area.

Let us start off with the venue: East City Bookshop. Immediately upon entering, it is clear why this is such a beloved indie bookstore. The smaller top floor is chock full of the most splendid collection of unique greeting cards you are going to find. Each table contains book-related tchotchkes, ephemera, and collectibles perfect for those impulse buys. (Yes, I did succumb) Downstairs is where the books themselves live and let me tell you, this is an excellently curated collection. There is something for every reading taste and the perfect books were spotlighted to make browsing a true delight. (And yes, I did leave with a new book as well)

Most important for our discussion here is the store’s dedicated event space. Unlike many bookstores where events are squeezed into the already tight space of the store, preventing shoppers from accessing the shelves, East City Bookshop has a nice sized area downstairs where more than a dozen chairs can be easily set up without too much disruption to the bookstore itself. The back wall, behind the speakers, is emblazoned with the store name – making for the perfect backdrop to any event. (Local authors, this bookstore should be on your radar)

On this particular winter evening, OutWrite had organized a very special evening for the sizable audience on-hand. The panel was comprised of three notable mystery authors who write about LGBTQ characters: Brenda Buchanan, John Copenhaver, and Cheryl Head. Moderating the proceedings was local cozy mystery author and current President of Sisters in Crime National, Sherry Harris.

The conversation covered the expected topic of LGBTQ representation in the mystery genre, but because all those involved are so passionate about fair representation for all, many other topics were touched upon. Sherry asked questions about why they chose “mystery,” how romance factors into their books, and of course, what’s next for each of them. 

Just a few highlights:

  • Cheryl talked a bit about how even though she is a faithful viewer of the WETA (the local PBS channel) mystery line-up, she rarely sees people that look like her as part of those shows.
  • Brenda mentioned that the Young Adult writing community is so much further ahead in terms of diversity – now other areas much catch up.
  • All the writers talked about how it was the protagonist that came to them first. Since John’s book feature two narrators, he mentioned that Bunny was (and remains) his favorite.
  • When asked about how much romance they include, Brenda said that she likes when those moments feel organic to the moment and John stressed how important it is that they not read like porn film scripts.
  • When my husband, Michael, asked about what their “muse” was, Cheryl returned with a funny quip: “the deadline” while Brenda recounted a touching story about how she says good morning to photographs of her mother and grandmother each day before starting her writing regime.

As always happens at events like this, the audience garnered new knowledge, had a few laughs, and was able to mingle with the authors and get books signed after the official presentation.

All in all, a very fine evening!