What a action packed weekend in Tucson for Left Coast Crime. Here’s a post I submitted to the Murder Books Blog with some of the highlights of the conference.

This past weekend I was fortunate to attend the annual west coast crime fiction conference called Left Cast Crime. The venue changes every year and the 2023 location was in Tucson, Arizona at the beautiful El Conquistador Resort Hotel.

It’s a tough life…

I know, it’s a sacrifice. Getting out of the Northern California rain, hail, and snow was a welcome break, but most important was the chance to reconnect with my crime fiction colleagues. Crime thrillers, suspense, traditional, private investigator stories, and cozy mysteries are well represented at the conference.

Left Coast Crime draws 500 or more authors and readers from across North America. In fact, our own Bruce Coffin ventured out from the far east confines of Maine and attended in 2020 when the event was held in San Diego. That was the year when everything hit pause. After less than a day the conference was cancelled because of this new thing called COVID. We all scrambled to make flight arrangements home…

Last year was better in Albuquerque, New Mexico was better (slightly–the city hadn’t fully reopened after the pandemic) and Tucson was a breath of fresh air.

At many conferences, fiction with a law enforcement edge is often overlooked. But, I’m pleased to report this year the police procedural novel where a detective, sheriff, or police officer is the central character, was well represented.

In fact, DEAD DROP was one of two police procedural titles nominated for the Lefty Award for Best Mystery Novel of the Year. My Detective Nathan Parker series shoulder to shoulder with Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache. Not too bad for an old prison guy.

Wonderful to be nominated alongside these very talented authors.

L to R: Kristopher Zygorski (moderator) Kellye Garrett, Laurie R. King, some prison guy, Gigi Pandian, and Alex Segura (missing Louise Penny)

Even though a police procedural novel didn’t bring home the big prize, authors who represented the genre were easy to spot–back to the wall, sitting at a table so they could watch the door, and constantly scanning the room. No, that’s not exactly what I meant–there were a number of us who write stories where a cop, or detective drive the story.

Readers wanted to know about those stories and the real tales behind them. Authors who wrote police procedural novels attending Left Coast Crime included: Mark Begin, David Putnam, Shawn Wilson, Claire Booth, Terry Shames, Tracy Clark, Frank Zafiro, Colin Conway, Tim Moore, and Neil Plakcy. I’m sure there were others, but you get the idea–the cop-centered novel is far from dead. What’s even more interesting is the vast majority of these authors have real-life experience they bring to their written work.

What Writers get Wrong:

L to R: Holly West (moderator) Colin Conway, Tim Moore, Neil Plakcy, and Frank Zafiro

Call the Cops:

James L’Etoile (moderator), Mark Bergin, David Putnam, Terry Shames, and Shawn Wilson

If you’re planning your conference circuit for next year, consider adding Left Coast Crime. It’s small enough were you won’t get swallowed up in the crowds, and offers a packed program for authors and readers alike. The 2024 conference will be in in Bellingham, Washington, just outside of Seattle. Hope to see you there.

James L’Etoile uses his twenty-nine years behind bars as an influence in his award-winning novel, short stories, and screenplays. He is a former associate warden in a maximum-security prison, a hostage negotiator, and director of California’s state parole system. Black Label earned the Silver Falchion for Best Book by an Attending Author at Killer Nashville and he was nominated for The Bill Crider Award for short fiction. His most recent novel is the Lefty Award nominated Dead Drop. Look for Devil Within and Face of Greed, both coming in 2023.You can find out more at www.jamesletoile.com

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