Sunday, October 21, 2012

Mystery Writers Galore at Legends of the Fall 2012

Last weekend I had the opportunity to spend all day Saturday lost in the world of murder and mayhem.  Mary Joy (co-author On the Road to Death's Door) and I were guest panelists in the this year's Legends of the Fall event at the Booked for Murder bookstore here in Madison, an annual celebration of regional mystery writers and their books.

Sara Barnes, owner of Booked for Murder, was an incredibly gracious hostess.  The store itself is a cozy, one room shop that is the frequent gathering place for book clubs, author events, and book launch parties.

Maddy Hunter, author of the wildly entertaining Passport to Peril mystery series, was the emcee. Maddy provided introductions for all the authors, kept transitions running smoothly, and made readers and authors alike feel incredibly welcome. 

For our panel in the afternoon, Mary Joy and I were thoughtfully paired with another local mystery writing couple (and a married couple!) Betsy Draine and Michael Hinden, co-authors of the intriguing, archeologically-based Murder at Lascaux.  The theme of our conversation with the audience was "writing with a partner," but we also talked about how travel and research are keys to creating the mysteries in our books.

All the other panels were organized into threesomes.  The day started with Marshall Cook, a retired UW professor and author of the Monona Quinn mystery series, set in a fictional small town in Wisconsin, Molly MacRae, who writes the Haunted Yarn Shop mystery series, set in Tennessee's Blue Ridge Mountains, and Sarah Wisseman, an archeologist whose sleuth is museum curator Lisa Donahue.  The theme for this panel was setting.  It turns out that for many mystery writers their stories begin with place.   Marshall Cook readily admitted that one of the reasons he created a fictional town for his books is that the town can "expand or contract depending on how big I need it to be" for a particular story.

The second panel, which focused on character, included John Desjarles, a UW alum now teaching at Kishwaukee College in Illinois and who authors the Selena DeLaCruz mysteries, Libby Fischer Hellmann of Chicago, author of A Bitter Veil, Toxicity, Set the Night on Fire and others, and New York Times bestselling author William Kent Krueger whose Cork O'Connor series is set in Northern Minnesota.  All three of these writers are intrigued with exploring the complexity of culture, bi-culturalism, and racism  in their books.  

Former Chicago police officer Michael A. Black, author of several police procedural series including the recent Sacrificial Offerings, Wisconsin attorney and short story writer Ted Hertel (My Bonnie Lies…), and former CIA analyst Bill Rapp who authored Berlin Breakdown provided insights to a grittier side of fiction as they discussed what it takes to write authentic crime, legal and private eye fiction.

Jerol Anderson, who currently lives in Cambridge, Wisconsin and writes the Jessica Tyson mystery series, fantasy writer Sean Patrick Little whose books The Centurion and The Seven are being considered for film options, and former priest David J. Walker who has authored 12 novels including Company Orders offered an eclectic mix of views, backgrounds, and experiences during their panel.

The daylong event was capped by writers Raymond Benson, who was commissioned to write several of the 007 novels between 1996 and 2002 and whose current Black Stiletto mystery series is being made into a TV series, Chicagoan Sam Reaves author of Mean Town Blues and who writes also as Dominic Martell, and Madison's own Norman Gilliland w hose voice is so familiar on WPR and has penned Midnight Catch which takes place in northern Florida of the 1920s.     

That's a lot of people being murdered in a lot of places under a huge variety of circumstances with a lot of fascinating sleuths unraveling the clues, righting wrongs, and setting the world back on its feet…only to go through it all over again to the delight of readers who love the thrill of the hunt and a bit of escapism.

If you enjoy a good mystery, check out any of the writers above. And of course…check out ours! On the Road to Death's Door is available in both paperback and e-format through the usual venues, including at Booked for Murder!