Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Mysterious Night in Cleveland

There were so many reasons to go to Cleveland for Bouchercon. First of all, it’s the biggest mystery conference in North America, and I am a mystery author. Author Page
 
Secondly, my aunt and my cousins live there and I haven’t seen them for a long time.(OK, maybe not as long as the pic to the left might suggest.)

On Saturday, Vince and I take off from the conference and drive to my cousin Kathleen’s lovely home in a beautiful neighbourhood just outside the city. I am a little dazed as I walk in the front door. I know I’m often blond headed, but tonight I have a couple of really good excuses.

I mean, I have spent two and a half days in the presence of best selling mystery authors. Some of whom I have worshipped for many years. I have listened to panels on justice: the roles that wealth, race and influence play on verdicts in the courts; comparisons and contrasts among justice systems throughout the world. How a writer can realistically portray the opposite gender in his/her novels. Sitting beside Elizabeth George’s husband. How authors can make a morally challenged character likeable. Meet the Canucks. Creating suspense, giving out clues without tipping your hand. A chain of reveals about the character and the plot while heading for the crescendo. The thought that ordinary people can be evil. How can the villain be the hero of a novel? Listening to Sara Paretsky, Mary Higgins Clark, Rhys Bowen, Robin Cook, Charlaine Harris, Derrick Haas… and trying to behave like a moderately known or at least well dressed and polite Canadian author. O Canada, Anthony Bidulka, Linwood Barclay, Howard Shrier, Vicki Delany, Mary Jane Maffini – I can’t list them all so go to www.crimewriterscanada.com when we’re done here: must we really set our books in the US to obtain an audience (our American friends in the audience say NO). Our own Lou Allin getting a ride to the liquor store in a Cleveland police officer’s patrol car. Talking on a panel of my own and forgetting what I was saying in the middle of my convoluted statement (at least they laughed). Sitting beside Elizabeth George’s husband.
Linda as Bud and Kathleen as Otto.

If that’s not reason enough to be dazed, when I walk into Kathleen’s front door, her sister Linda greets me in a rather odd outfit (see picture). At first I don’t recognize her, and when I do, I figure she’s either come out of the closet or has gone a little dotty. Either way, I don’t think I should mention it until she does.

Sean is dressed rather jauntily, but he often is, so I think nothing of that. Suddenly, our hostess comes downstairs in lieder hosen and a mustache. Now I’m pretty sure something is up.

The mystery is explained once I get my costume and my script. My amazing family is putting on a murder mystery dinner for me and Vince! Can you imagine having such creative, thoughtful, brilliant people as cousins? Am I not a lucky lucky bastard (said in a British, Monty Python accent)?

John and Bonnie Lassie
We get into our roles pretty easily (scarily so, really). I am Hedy Shablee. I perfect my accent of British-Irish-Canadian mash so well it almost gets stuck.

Tiny Bubbles and her mom ( I mean Bud Wiser)
 Carolyn is a Bonnie Lassie in her kilt and John is her lines coach (he doesn’t do a great job which leads to more frivolity); Rachel is a smartly-dressed Tiny Bubbles and Sean is Ralph Rottingrape. Aunty Betty is the dead body, just so she doesn’t have many lines. She acts it out very nicely. And finally Linda’s outfit is explained; she’s the detective, Bud Wiser. If you are doing some detecting of your own and notice a theme of alcohol in this mystery play, heavy on the wine, you would be correct. Which tells you once again how well my cousins know me!







Kathleen must have rehearsed that German accent for Herr Otto: it’s pitch perfect. 





Tracy, in a slinky red dress that highlights her gorgeous blond hair and figure, is, of course, Marilyn Merlot.





Vince is a natural for Papa Vito, with his Guido Sarducci accent.He looks pretty naughty, don't you think?

 We have a ball. I don’t guess the correct murderer – it’s Papa Vito, not Herr Otto – but I blame that on Vince. After all, who would guess their own husband? (See, I can rationalize anything.)



I write down two phrases from our fun: “the familiar-looking dwarf” and the “opera-singing Nazi Vampire”. Those are two lines that must end up in one of my stories somewhere.

I am tired (I’m old, which explains the brain fart in the middle of my panel) as we drive home Sunday, but I am pumped too.
The conference was a source of nourishment, but the evening with my cousins was phenomenal. I love those amazing, smart, loving, creative, inspired people. They were my childhood best friends. They are a part of who I am. Lucky lucky bastard me. 
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