|Megan Abbott (photo by Drew Reilly)|
1. Lost in the Amazon: Authors discuss their bad reviews specifically the hysterically funny, sometimes illiterate, often just plain perplexing bad reviews that plague amazon.com.
2. Hot Ice: Thriller and crime writers talk about the subgenre of the caper and heist novel.
3. Shadows Rising: Movies for the crime fiction fan. Megan Abbott was on this panel. I've always wanted to hear her talk about movies. Prior to becoming a novelist she studied and wrote about crime in the movies - specifically the film noir genre. Plus I hoped to get some titles of movies I hadn't yet seen. I'm even more addicted to mystery movies, crime thrillers and heist movies than I am to the vintage crime and adventure fiction I normally write about on this blog.
Panel #1: Linwood Barclay, Bill Crider, Lisa Lutz, Elaine Viets. Alafair Burke was also scheduled but had to cancel her visit.
Colin Cotterill as the moderator had done his research and looked up as many bad Amazon reviews (especially the one star reviews) for each of the writers on the panel. As the discussion of bad reviews continued he would ask questions, wait for a reply, then produce evidence from his pile of Amazon.com print outs. Linwood Barkley commented: "Aren't you forgetting to say 'Perhaps this will refresh you memory!' " The classic Thurber cartoon uses that line for its caption. Colin might as well have been producing kangaroos as evidence for the hour.
Lisa Lutz and Elaine Viets also brought along email that were mixtures of praise, encouragement and slams. These included a letter from a Japanese linguistics professor who teaches Elaine Viets' books in a class on American culture that outlined his misunderstanding of some slang terms including a word I think Elaine made up. The sentence in question? "She felt a kazoing south of her belt." The professor wanted to know if "south of the belt" is related to the American slang phrase "South of the Border." Cue the uproarious laughter. But I joined Lisa Lutz' mystification of the word "kazoing." I can imagine what it might mean, but it's brand new to me.
It was all in good fun but we must all know that the internet allows for so much anonymous venting and name calling. No one really ever brought up the rather obvious point that a large number of these bad "reviews" are done by people with too much time on their hands who are simply entertaining themselves by manipulating and creating artificial controversy for the hell of it. The anonymity and hiding behind a user name in the world of digital communication has created a widespread outlet for antisocial havoc. I often wonder how many of these reviews are real or just forms of mean spirited creative writing intended only to fuck with people.
Panel #2: Keith Thomson, Eoin Colfer, Peter Spiegelman, Sean Doolittle, Chris Ewan. Moderator: Benjamin Whitmer.
What I did learn was that there were some interesting books out there by these guys. I knew of Eoin Colfer's juvenile series about Artemis Fowl which are genre blending fantasy/crime capers. His new adult novel Plugged is about a casino bouncer and is set in New Jersey. He sold himself several copies of the book. I bought one and so did about fifty other people right after the talk. Mostly I imagine because Colfer is the damn funniest Irish writer I've heard speak in a long time. He had the audience in stitches and probably in his pocket as well. Keith Thomson admitted his books were less caper novels than straight espionage thrillers. He explained the origins of the Alzheimer's plagued spy in the book who was based on the father of his girlfriend's former boyfriend. That story was so fascinating I'll probably seek out his book someday. I had a Chris Ewan book in my TBR pile at home (planned for the EuroPass series I'm contributing to), but his mention of his respect for Westlake and The Hot Rock from which he borrowed a few ideas got me to buy two of his books.
Panel #3: Todd Ritter, David Corbett, Megan Abbott, Wallace Stroby, Russell McLean. Moderator: Jeremy Lynch.
This discussion of crime films was a daunting task. How to cram such a huge wealth of movies into a mere hour? Jeremy Lynch, entertainment editor for Crimespree, confessed it took considerable collaboration through many email exchanges to come up with the final format. The discussion was divided into three rounds. Each member of the panel would pick one film to represent the category of each round. After hearing all five films discussed in each round the audience would vote on the most persuasive argument for the most noteworthy of the five films. The rounds were "Pre World War 2 Movies," "The Cold War Years," and "The Sacred Cow You Would Most Like to Gore."
|Ralph Meeker & Leigh Snowden in Kiss Me Deadly|