I'm getting ready for next week's visit to Bethesda, MD, and the 25th annual Malice Domestic conference. I see that the conference has sold out - registration has been closed, with something over 600 people set to attend. By my (probably inaccurate) count, about a quarter to a third of that number will be mystery authors, ready to meet with, entertain, instruct and sign books for their readers.
So...anyone else heading that way? If so...I hope to see you there. I've been to several past Malice Domestic conferences and enjoyed them thoroughly. This one is shaping up to be another great weekend.
With the annual Malice Domestic conference coming up in less than three weeks, I thought it was high time that I made the acquaintance of some of the fine authors of traditional mysteries who will be honored at the event. One of the honorees this year will be Aaron Elkins, who will be receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award, and I thought it would be good to start by reading one of the books in his primary series featuring the "Skeleton Detective," Dr. Gideon Oliver. Have I been missing a lot?
Well...frankly...yes. I may be late to the party, but I found Dr. Oliver a most enjoyable companion, as he led me through a rudimentary appreciation of forensic anthropology, the scientific study of human remains, in an often funny, if sometimes grisly, mystery.
I found a good example of what that means - and how Gideon Oliver puts together the fragments of a mysterious death to reveal a pretty shocking crime - in "Make No Bones," originally published in 1991, and the seventh book in Elkins' continuing series. It's the subject of this week's audio review on the Classic Mysteries podcast, and you can listen to the full review by clicking here.
In "Make No Bones," members of the Western Association of Forensic Anthropologists are gathering for their biennial get-together - what the organizer calls the group’s "eagerly anticipated bone bash and weenie roast." It’s a combination of a scientific business conference, with academic discussions of forensic science and anthropology, together with a social gathering. The problem, this year, is that the organizer has chosen to hold it at Whitebark Lodge, in Oregon, where the association was formed, ten years earlier. That original ill-fated conference had ended in tragedy, as Albert Evan Jasper, called the “dean of American forensic anthropologists,” died in a fiery bus crash. As the scientists gather again a decade later at Whitebark Lodge, there will be unpleasant surprises in store – not to mention murders, old and new to be solved. It will be up to Gideon Oliver, working with his wife, Julie, and their friend, FBI Agent John Lau, to unravel a grisly set of clues to reveal a deadly secret.
There's a fair amount of police procedure here, and some insight into how these forensic scientists go about finding clues in a handful of bones or bone fragments. But it's also a traditional mystery, with considerable fair play and some very nicely hidden clues. And there's a lot of humor - sometimes very dark, to be sure, but also quite funny. I thoroughly enjoyed "Make No Bones," and I'm looking forward to meeting Aaron Elkins and hearing him speak at Malice Domestic.
The secretive (but friendly) cabal behind this year's 25th running of the Malice Domestic conference has released the preliminary program schedule for the gathering, which will be held from May 3 through May 5 in Bethesda, Maryland.
It looks like another outstanding gathering for readers and authors of traditional mysteries - the kind personified, perhaps, by Agatha Christie, with little in the way of "on-stage" violence and even less of "on-stage" sex.
What you'll find is a wide variety of programs and panels. (DISCLOSURE: my wife will be moderating one of the Sunday panels.) There will be one-on-one interviews with this year's honored guests, including Laurie R. King, Peter Robinson, Aaron Elkins, Carolyn Hart and Laura Lippman. Author panels cover a wide range of topics of interest to fans and authors alike. Plenty of books to be read and plenty of authors signing their books. And there are regular features, including the wonderful Malice-Go-Round (described as being "like speed dating, with authors") and, of course, the grand banquet featuring presentation of the Agatha Awards.
If you've never been, there are still some spaces available - check out the registration information. It should be a wonderful weekend. I hope to see you there.
The folks who bring us the Malice Domestic conference every year have just announced the nominations for the 2012 Agatha Award. Malice, and the Agathas, celebrate the traditional mystery, as practiced by such first-rate writers as Agatha Christie. Nomination for one of the Agatha Awards is quite an honor. Here are this year's nominees:
- The Diva Digs Up the Dirt, by Krista Davis
- A Fatal Winter, by G. M. Malliet
- The Buzzard Table, by Margaret Maron
- The Beautiful Mystery, by Louise Penny
- The Other Woman, by Hank Phillippi Ryan
Best Historical Novel
- The Twelve Clues of Christmas, by Rhys Bowen
- Dandy Gilver and an Unsuitable Day for Murder, by Catriona McPherson
- Murder on Fifth Avenue, by Victoria Thompson
- An Unmarked Grave, by Charles Todd
- Elegy for Eddie, by Jacqueline Winspear
Best First Novel
- Lowcountry Boil, by Susan M. Boyer
- Iced Chiffon, by Duffy Brown
- A Scrapbook of Secrets, by Mollie Cox Bryan
- A Killer Read, by Erika Chase
- Faithful Unto Death, by Stephanie Jaye Evans
- Books to Die For: The World's Greatest Mystery Writers on the World's Greatest Mystery Novels, by John Connolly/Declan Burke
- Blood Relations: The Selected Letters of Ellery Queen, 1947-1950, by Joseph Goodrich, Editor
- More Forensics and Fiction: Crime Writers Morbidly Curious Qudestions Expertly Answered, by D. P. Lyle
- Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies, by Ben Macintyre
- The Grand Tour: Around the World with the Queen of Mystery Agatha Christie, by Mathew Prichard, Editor
Best Short Story
- "Mischief in Mesopotamia," by Dana Cameron, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine
- "Kept in the Dark," by Shelia Connolly, Best New England Crime Stories 2013: Blood Moon Anthology
- "The Lord is My Shamus," by Barb Goffman, Chesapeake Crimes: This Job is Murder
- "Thea's First Husband," by B. K. Stevens, Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine
- "When Duty Calls," by Art Taylor, Chesapeake Crimes: This Job is Murder
Best Children's/Young Adult Novel
- Seconds Away, by Harlen Coben
- The Edge of Nowhere, by Elizabeth George
- Liar & Spy, by Rebecca Stead
- The Code Busters Club, Case #2: The Haunted Lighthouse, by Penny Warner
- Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein
Attendees at this year's Malice Domestic Conference - the 25th annual, by the way - will vote on the final awards, which will be announced at the conference banquet over the first weekend in May. Congratulations to all the nominees!
I am reminded that time is running out to make early travel plans to attend a couple of fine and mysterious conferences next year. Or, at least, to do so at a discount.
I am planning to attend two such conferences in 2013. The first, to be held May 3-5 in Bethesda, MD, will be the 25th annual Malice Domestic conference - home of the Agatha Awards. It's for lovers of traditional mysteries, typified by Agatha Christie. Among the honorees in attendance in 2013 will be Laurie R. King, Laura Lippman, Aaron Elkins, Peter Robinson and Carolyn Hart. If you register before December 31, you'll not only get a price break but you'll be eligible to submit possible nominees for the Agatha Awards.
Then, in September, come to Albany, New York, for the 44th Bouchercon, the granddaddy of all mystery conferences, which will run from September 19th through the 22nd. Once again, there's a special low rate if you register before midnight on December 31st. There's always a star-studded guest list of authors for this one; in 2013, the honorees will include Sue Grafton, P. C. Doherty, Tess Gerritsen and Steve Hamilton, among others. As always, attendees get to participate in the selection of the Anthony Award winners.
Of course there are others. Left Coast Crime (happening in March) comes to mind, but I'm an east-coaster, so I don't often get out to that one (though people who have attended love it just as much as I enjoy, say, Malice Domestic). There are some great conferences in the U.K. as well, and one of these years I really do want to try one.
If you've never been to a mystery writers/fans conference, and you really enjoy reading and talking about mysteries, why not make 2013 the year you attend your first conference? All the conferences I've attended have been a treat from first to last - a chance to meet and talk with literally hundreds of your favorite authors. Find out what's new, what's in the publishing pipeline, meet some new authors and get autographs from longtime favorites. Everyone is friendly, everyone loves talking mysteries. Still a reading neophyte? Not to worry; EVERYONE you meet will have suggestions for you about books you'll enjoy. It's a wonderful way to take a short vacation while talking about something you love, the conferences are NOT particularly exspensive, and the host hotels are pretty reasonably priced. I hope to see you at a conference in 2013.
Well, that headline may have it a bit backwards: I am talking here about an excellent "forethought" on the part of the Malice Domestic board, the folks responsible for the annual conference for readers and writers of the "traditional" mystery - the organization that presents the Agatha Awards to books that carry on those traditions.
Malice Domestic has added another award to be presented at next year's conference - to mystery writer Carolyn Hart, who has several series and a number of stand-alones to her credit. She will be honored next year with an award caled the Amelia Award, presented, as their e-mail puts it, to "someone we feel has contributed significantly not only to the Malice Domestic convention but to the Malice Community. Malice Domestic 25 is a milestone year for us and we felt that the celebrations would not be complete without honoring someone who has been a part of Malice from the very beginning."
Next year is the 25th annual Malice Domestic conference, which will be held in Bethesda, MD, outside Washington D. C., from May 3 to May 5, 2013. Other honored guests at the conference will include Laurie R King, Guest of Honor; Laura Lippman, Toastmaster; Aaron Elkins, Lifetime Achievement; Peter Robinson, International Guest of Honor; Cindy Silberblatt, Fan Guest of Honor; and Malice Remembers Dick Francis.
It ought to be quite a gathering. I'm already registered, and I urge you, if you enjoy "traditional" mysteries, to consider joining us there. On-line registration is open; you can find full details at the Malice Domestic site.
This is being written on my way home from Malice Domestic 24, the convention for traditional mystery readers and writers. It was a great weekend, and I'm sorry to see it end.
But look what's coming next year: Malice Domestic 25, the 25th anniversary edition, which will be held in Bethesda, MD from May 3 to May 5, 2013. As of today, here are the great writers being honored at next year's convention:
- Guest of Honor: Laurie R. King
- Toastmaster: Laura Lippman
- Lifetime Achievement award: Aaron Elkins
- International Guest of Honor: Peter Robinson
- Malice Remembers: Dick Francis
- (Plus a Fan Guest of Honor, Cindy Silberblatt)
Will I be back? As they say, God willing and the creek don't rise...but I am duly registered for next year. When Malice is ready for online registrations, I'll post an update. But if you're a traditional mystery fan - and why else would you be reading this? - now is the time to mark your calendars.
UPDATE 5/1 It looks as if Malice is using Yahoo to book early registrations for next year. Check it out here.