I spent yesterday down in Irvine at the annual MEN OF MYSTERY event… which draws 500+ women to meet 60 male mystery authors. It’s a banquet style setting. Ten “readers/fans” get to sit with an author at each table for the day. There are usually two keynote speakers and a big mass signing session at mid-day. The keynote speakers in past years have included James Patterson, T. Jefferson Parker, Robert Crais, John Lescroart, Joseph Wambaugh, Michael Connelly and yours truly. It’s always a great opportunity to meet enthusiastic readers and catch-up with old friends. For readers, the “table talks” with the author they happen to be sitting with is a great opportunity to learn about writing and breaking into the business. Among the authors there this year were Gregg Hurwitz, Matt Witten, DP Lyle, Tod Goldberg, Rick Copp, Thomas Perry, Bill Fitzhugh, Alan Russell, Nathan Walpow, Bob Levinson, Steve Brewer, Christopher Rice, John Morgan Wilson, and Steve Martini.
As usual, I had a terrific time and I highly recommend the event to any mystery fans who happen to be in the area for next year’s event (you don’t have to be a woman to attend).
But now I’m gonna say something that’s probably going to get me in a lot of trouble. Among the 60 authors were a number of “self-published” mystery writers. To be honest, I think it was a mistake to invite them as “authors” and a disservice to the people at their table. The only advice those authors could give about writing was describing how to write a check to iUniverse or PublishAmerica. And in most cases, their novels are excreble (at least the few pages I read of each wandering through the book room)… so any advice they could give on crafting a novel is, well, best ignored. I can understand inviting those authors if the point of the conference was navigating the world of self-publishing and vanity presses…but otherwise, I think the ten readers/fans at each of their tables got cheated.
There’s one particularly irritating and astonishingly talentless self-published writer who has inexplicably managed to worm his way onto a few panels at mystery conferences in recent years… and there are more than a few of us who can’t stand being in the same room with him. There’s one major author who has had the unfortunate experience of having to sit next to this blowhard at mass signings because of where their last names fall in alphabetical order. This major author would rather flee the room and not sign books… and has done just that … than sit next to this guy. We, of course, love ribbing the major author about his misfortune.