My inbox and timeline are flooded with posts following conclusion of the 2016 Bouchercon, the Granddaddy of mystery writing conferences. With over 1,500 attendees gathered in New Orleans, you’d expect a fair share of tales outlining the debauchery and hedonism in the French Quarter. While there was a conspicuous consumption of beignets and perhaps a few Sazerac cocktails, a few moments stood out apart from the usual occurrences at these writer gatherings.
A moment of compassion by Lee Child. Child writes the wildly popular Jack Reacher series and it’s safe to say he’s a superstar in the writing world. So, he’s out taking a smoke break alone on Canal Street and he’s approached by one of the dozens of panhandlers working the area in front of the hotel. I couldn’t hear what the guy’s pitch was, but after a few seconds, Lee pulls his wallet out and hands the man some cash in exchange for a CD. The man was overcome with gratitude. The CD could have been a bootleg movie, a ripped music track, or the man’s self recorded tunes–it didn’t matter–he was happy to sell one to the tall, thin white guy on the street.
A few of the panhandler’s buddies came up and one of them knew who Lee Child was. Somewhere on the internet there is a photo of Lee Child posing with six street folks, all of whom were temporarily transported from their hustle-to-hustle existence to a brief flash of happiness, all because of a moment of compassion.
The moment when you find your tribe. Writers are a weird, quirky bunch. You know it’s true–come on now. For the most part, writers create alone, in forced isolation and when they come out into the real world, some act like Punxsutawney Phil and hide in their hotel rooms until it’s safe to come out (usually after dark and there is alcohol involved). But here’s the kicker–these writer types are exceptionally open. In an industry that is built on sales figures and book contracts, there is very little jealousy. I mean sure, we’d all like to have the sales numbers of (insert your own favorite best-selling author here) but the writers I hung with supported one another and were genuinely happy for another author’s success. When you look around a room packed with writers of different backgrounds, experiences and know you are accepted and belong–you have found your tribe.
The moment when your yet to be release book is in demand. Crooked Lane Books had a display table of all this year’s titles right next to the door. My book is coming out in December, so AT WHAT COST wasn’t available for purchase in the book room. The titles on the publisher’s table were for display only, clearly marked by a sign. Toward the end of the conference, I walked past the table and noticed that something was missing. The universe was not in alignment. My book was gone. It wasn’t on the floor, or the trash can by the door. (Yes, I looked)
As a writer, my first instinct was that Crooked Lane Books reconsidered their grievous error and dumped my book. No, they were still talking to me, so that wasn’t it. My book was stolen. Someone wanted an advance copy of AT WHAT COST so badly that they committed a crime to steal one. I would have gladly provided a copy, but my book was coveted–that’s the important part here.
I’m going to live in this delusional place for a while because it feels good to believe that someone actually wanted AT WHAT COST before the official release date and didn’t want to do the pre-order thing on Amazon. Believing that I was victimized was a boost to self-confidence more than what probably–actually happened; Harlen Coben needed something to level a wobbly table for his book signing, or Michael Connelly needed a doorstop in his hotel room. Then again, the book was still stolen and I’m a happy victim.