BOUCHERCON 2003 - LAS VEGAS a Personal Report

Written by Ali Karim

ali in LA

to feature all the photos would take forever to download but CLICK HERE to see them in their full splendour.



I had decided to attend this event after much deliberation, joining over 1,600 other members of the Crime/Mystery and Thriller community. Accompanying me on this trip was my trusty friend Tony ‘Grog’ Roberts a mystery fan and fellow hellraiser.

We arrived a few days early allowing us to drive around the American South West taking in The Grand Canyon in Arizona, The Hoover Dam and finally Death Valley in California, before we hit Las Vegas.


We checked into The Riviera Hotel on the night of Tuesday 15th October which was traumatic as we had to drag our luggage through the casino to check-in. The Riviera Hotel and Casino is situated at the North End of The Strip (Las Vegas Boulevard) and had seen better days, as it was overshadowed by the newer hotels such as The Luxor and The Venetian, but for me it brought back images of the halcyon days of Vegas of the 1970’s and the linkages to an era when organised crime dominated Vegas’s birth. For hosting a crime and mystery convention, it was curiously apt – sprawling, smoky, noisy and deeply seated in the décor of the 1970’s.

When we walked down the corridor, we bumped into Stephen Booth. This was surreal as at every convention I have attended, I always seem to meet Steve before anyone else. I am a fan of his deeply atmospheric police procedurals set in the Peak District and featuring Detectives Diane Fry and Ben Cooper. If you haven’t read the award-winning series ‘Black Dog’, ‘Dancing with the Virgins’. ‘Blood on the Tongue’ or his latest ‘Blind to the Bones’ – you really shouldn’t miss this remarkable series.

So after that interlude, Grog and I settled into our room in the Monaco Tower of The Riviera. Before long we wondered down to the Casino. We didn’t spot any Crime/Mystery fans so we decided to try our hand at Craps. I traded $20 for some chips and rolled those dice. After much confusion about rolling a seven and then a number, I decided to place a $5 side bet on ‘Snake Eyes’ which is double one, and also the title of an underrated Brian DePalma movie, and the sucker came in giving me over £150 dollars. I left my $5 on ‘Snake Eyes’ and hell it came in again, so I was over $300 dollars up. After losing a $100 of my winnings I cashed in my chips and tipped the Craps dealers and left with over $200 winnings. I decided that would be my book fund to be used later. It was two am so Grog and I had a gin and tonic at ‘The Splash Bar’ in the casino and turned in.


In the morning, I sent Grog to scout the Vegas scene, while I registered and got ready for the writing seminar that I was booked on. In the registration queue I bumped into Martin Edwards a British Crime writer who actually lives about thirty miles from me in the North West of England. It was a surreal moment especially as I was a moderator on a panel that Martin was booked to participate on. The first of Martin’s eight novels, All the Lonely People, was shortlisted for the Crime Writers Association’s John Creasey Memorial Dagger for best first novel of the year. Its first US publication, by Five Star, is in December 2003 and he was here to launch the book. Martin is a very busy guy as he writes a monthly column for Sherlock magazine and has contributed many essays to reference books such as The Oxford Companion to Crime and Mystery Writing. He is also a member of the Murder Squad writers’ group, and in his free time Martin is also a partner in a Liverpool law firm.

After the registration process I grabbed my goody bag and headed off to the writing seminar. The morning session was led by the Thriller Supremo Gayle Lynds. She gave an informal presentation focusing on the elements that make a good story. There was particular focus towards thrillers, which was natural considering that she co-wrote ‘The Altman Code’, The Paris Option’ and ‘The Hades Factor’ with Robert Ludlum as well as her own work ‘Masquerade’, ‘Mosiac’ and ‘Mesmorized’. Her new book ‘The Coil’ is due for release in April 2004 while ‘Masquerade’ is being relaunced in February. The seminar concluded with a Q & A session that allowed the assembled to ask Gayle questions about their own work, and she put me right on several points when it came to villains.

I thanked Gayle and had a quick lunch in one of the Riviera’s restaurants as en route I had the pleasure of meeting with Jeff and Beth Tindall of, an author website development firm who have Karin Slaughter and Laura Lippman to name just two of their Clients. Then I had the delight to meet many of the Rec.arts.Mystery newsgroup that I belong to including Sarah Weinman, Mary, Annie, Judi, Arlene, Mark and many, many others appeared including Beth and Jeff Tindall.

After lunch the second part of the seminar was presented by Jeremiah Healy, who is one of Bouchercon’s guests of honour in Toronto 2004. Jerry Healy has written 17 novels (of which 14 have had Shamus nominations) and over 60 short stories. He writes the renowned Francis Cuddy PI series as well a series of legal thrillers under his pseudonym ‘Terry Devane’. His was formerly a professor of law and is currently the president of the international association of crime writers, so I was somewhat nervous in taking his tutorial class, but I needn’t have been, as it was extremely useful with handouts and real practical advice for writers both published and unpublished. I was heartened to see many published writers attending both Jerry and Gayle’s seminars. At the beginning I thought Professor Healy (who has a military background) was going to shout ‘Drop and give me two thousand words!’ but he didn’t, instead he shared his insights generously and his enthusiasm for writing echoed around the room.

After the seminars I went outside and my game of pinball started. This is because throughout Bouchercon I felt like the steel ball in a pinball machine, as I bounced from people to people, talking, listening and drinking beer and coffee, surrounded by the sound of the metallic cogs of slot machines and keno callers.

After a quick change in our room, I found Grog sprawled on the bed muttering incessantly. There was a half bottle of Jim Beam by his bedside, so after rousing him, we went down to the ‘Bouchercon bar’. This was a weird old clothes shop that had been decked out as the ‘Official’ Bouchercon Bar. Inside my old friend Gary Phillips had a cold beer for me, remembering the drunken shoe photography at Crimescene 2002, where he had the biggest shoes in the house. On the way down I met up with my old friend Simon Kernick, writer of some of the darkest thrillers set in the gangland world of London that I have ever read. Checkout ‘The Murder Exchange’ or the Barry Award nominated ‘The Business of Dying’ if you want action and dark humour.

There is a good story by April Smith of The LA Times about the Bouchercon bar and is archived at :-,1,2657294.story

April reported a cool observation from Gary Phillips :-

A crowd had gathered around author Gary Phillips — either because he was wearing the Las Vegas gambling shirt (dice rolling past a royal flush) or because he was handing out free cigars.So what is the draw of the Bouchercon bar?
"You can smoke and drink," Phillips said, grinning at the obvious. "It's a place to keep up an image that's not true."

Then the debonair Lee Child arrived and sat with us. He had a couple of his regular ‘forumites’ with him and we chatted about the Universal appeal of Jack Reacher. Lee was gearing up for a weekend of high activity as he was the toastmaster at Bouchercon, an honour he took very seriously. John Connolly arrived and bought a round of drinks and we talked about his stand-alone ‘Bad Men’ which is due out in the US in the new year.

A young writer M.G (Moira) Kincaid joined us and we talked about her debut novel ‘The last victim in Glenn Ross’ – a mystery set in Scotland. We heard that Jon, Ruth and Jennifer Jordan had been delayed due to flight problems, which was a bummer as I was really looking forward to meeting them. But we drank a toast to absent friends anyway.

The Bouchercon Bar closed around midnight, so the ones with stamina re-grouped at The Splash Bar, down in the bowels of the casino, where our voices competed against the bangs and whizzes of the fruit machines. The late nights had started in earnest as I transferred from Beer to Gin.


The morning came too soon, as I was awoken by a cheerful call from Jon Jordan requesting me to join ‘Team Jordan’ for breakfast. I left Grog to his deep slumber and headed down to meet Jon. I bumped into Simon Kernick and together we went into breakfast. Simon had a panel so he necked a ‘smoothie’ and left Jon, Ruth, Jennifer, Sarah and I to our omelettes and coffee. It was great to meet up with Jon Jordan as he has an excellent book out called ‘Interrogations’ in which he has collated a series of his interviews with crime writers in one volume. More info on this excellent book is at :-

It was also very surreal to see Sarah Weinman as the last time we met had been at The Harrogate Crime Writing Festival in Yorkshire, England.

After chatting with Jennifer who I sometimes write with and meeting Jon’s delightful wife Ruth, we headed to the main convention. I had arranged to meet up some colleagues at 1130, as we had a panel at 1300 hrs on ‘Social and Political Commentary and the Crime Novel’. My colleagues were Martin Edwards who I mentioned earlier and the American writers :-

Steve Oliver’s adventures as a mental patient and cab driver provide the background for his character, Scott Moody. Oliver's recovery from his illness was a little faster, however. He began working as a newspaper reporter withing a few  months of his release from a mental hospital, then turned to technical writing. He worked for Microsoft during the 1980s and early 1990s. He is the author of four novels: Moody Gets the Blues, Moody Forever, Dead Men, and the recently released, Moody in Winter.

Ken Kuhlken’s novels are MIDHEAVEN, THE LOUD ADIOS, THE VENUS DEAL and THE ANGEL GANG. His stories have appeared in ESQUIRE, dozens of literary magazines and frequently in the SAN DIEGO READER. His work has been chosen as finalist for the Ernest Hemingway Award for best first novel, named Private Eye Writers of America best first novel, honorably mentioned in Best American Short Stories, and rewarded with a National Endowment for the Arts Literary Fellowship.

Terence Faherty is the author of ten mystery novels, including three in the Shamus-winning Scott Elliott private eye series set in the golden age of Hollywood.  The first title in that series, KILL ME AGAIN, was reissued in paperback this fall by The Mystery Company.  His other seven books are in the Edgar-nominated Owen Keane series, which follows the adventures of a failed seminarian turned amateur detective.  The Keane novella "The First Proof" will be published in the spring by Worldwide in a volume entitled DESPERATE JOURNEYS.  Faherty's short fiction has appeared in ELLERY QUEEN MAGAZINE and in anthologies published in the United States and in the United Kingdom.  His novels have been reprinted in Japan and Germany.  Faherty lives in Indianapolis, Indiana, with his wife Jan.

We sat out by the pool and sucked back drinks and chatted about this rather dry and controversial topic that we guessed no one would attend. In a surreal moment a bird that was perched on a palm tree above us, decided to let slip some guano, which hit poor old Steve Oliver dead-centre on his head. My mother would have called that a good luck omen, and perhaps it was, as the panel was very well attended with close to two hundred people who decided to skip lunch to listen to our insight. Many came to us afterwards and thanked us for a throught-provoking session. So perhaps Steve Olivers pigeon had indeed been a good luck omen.

The rest of the afternoon I spent in the bar chatting to many many people. I enjoyed chatting to Victor Gischler and the crew. If you’ve not read Vic’s debut ‘Gun Monkeys’ then you’ve really missed out and you should check out Vic gave me an ARC of his follow-up ‘Pistol Poets’ which I excitedly put in my ‘TBR’ bag. I also managed to have a session with Ugly Jim and uber-fan Kevin Burton Smith (of, Sarah Weinman and Jennifer Jordan – as we all provide book reviews for Jeff Kingston-Peirce’s crime-section at We drank beer and talked about the pressures of reading and book reviewing and were joined by Jiro Kimura of the excellent Gumshoe Website ( who insisted in taking more pictures than I did over the convention.

Later that afternoon I chatted to Maggie Mason, Larry Gandle, Russ Isabella and George Easter of Deadly Pleasures Magazine. That was a delight, because over the last year I have become a reviewer and writer for George’s excellent magazine. If you read Crime, Mystery and Thrillers then is a must.

Then it was back to my room for a quick shower and change and up I went to ‘The Top of the Riv’ for the opening night reception. The venue was perfect as it was room on the top floor of the hotel, with glass windows that surveyed the night skies of Las Vegas. Vicki and David ball of had kindly saved me a place on their table, where Sarah Weinman, Jennifer Jordan and Jo of Ottakars (UK) joined us. Vicki and David provide an excellent resource at with book reviews, columns and interviews from Jon Jordan, and it really is worth checking out. I was too excited to have any of the taco’s, and decided to neck some beer. I handed Lee Child a Budweiser as he took the stage to welcome the guests James Lee Burke and Ian Rankin, both of whom gave excellent speeches and told everyone what an honour it was to be here. The room must have held well over a thousand people and the buzz was invigorating. Deen Kogan the organiser came to the stage and welcomed the assembled and passed the Microphone to George Easter of Deadly Pleasures Magazine who took the stage to announce the shortlist and winners of the 2003 Barry Awards (named in memory of uber-fan Barry Gardner). More info is available :-

George Easter had been suffering from flu so his voice was somewhat hoarse, but he delivered the awards in a most professional manner. The Barry Award nomination committee is comprised of George Easter (Deadly Pleasures publisher-editor), Russ Isabella, Maggie Mason, Larry Gandle, Beth Fedyn, Barbara Peters (Poisoned Pen Bookstore owner), Ali Karim (British "superfan") and Pat Frovarp (owner of Once Upon a Crime). The winners are selected by Deadly Pleasures subscribers and George announced the winners :-

The Don Sandstrom Memorial Award for Lifetime Achievement in Mystery Fandom : Mary Maggie Mason

Best Novel:

WINNER : CITY OF BONES, by Michael Connelly (Little Brown), featuring Harry Bosch

WITHOUT FAIL, by Lee Child (Putnam), featuring Jack Reacher
THE HEARSE CASE SCENARIO, by Tim Cockey (Hyperion), featuring Hitchcock Sewell
NORTH OF NOWHERE, by Steve Hamilton (St. Martin's), featuring Alex McKnight
HELL TO PAY, by George Pelecanos (Little Brown), featuring Derek Strange and Terry Quinn
WINTER AND NIGHT, by S. J. Rozan (St. Martin's), featuring Bill Smith and Lydia Chin
Best First Novel:

WINNER : IN A BLEAK MIDWINTER, by Julia Spencer-Fleming (St. Martin's)

THE DEVIL'S REDHEAD, by David Corbett (Ballantine)
NOT ALL TARTS ARE APPLE, by Pip Granger (Poisoned Pen Press)
THE BLUE EDGE OF MIDNIGHT, by Jonathon King (Dutton), introducing Max Freeman
THE DISTANCE, by Eddie Muller (Scribner), introducing Billy Nichols
BUCK FEVER, by Ben Rehder (St. Martin's)
Best British Novel:

WINNER : THE WHITE ROAD, by John Connolly (Hodder & Stoughton), featuring Charlie Parker

SCAREDY CAT, by Mark Billingham (Little Brown UK), featuring Tom Thorne
THE MASTER OF RAIN, by Tom Bradby (Bantam UK)
THE BUSINESS OF DYING, by Simon Kernick (Bantam UK)
DIAMOND DUST, by Peter Lovesey (Little Brown UK), featuring Peter Diamond
THE YEARE'S MIDNIGHT, by Ed O'Connor (Constable)

Best Paperback Original:

WINNER : COLD SILENCE, by Danielle Girard (Onyx)

BLACK JACK POINT, by Jeff Abbott (Onyx), featuring Whit Mosely
FATAL TRUTH, by Robin Burcell (Avon), featuring Kate Gillespie
THE BONE ORCHARD, by D. Daniel Judson (Bantam), featuring Declan MacManus
PRISON BLUES, by Anna Salter (Pocket Books)

PIPSQUEAK, by Brian Wiprud (iUniverse)

Michael Connelly was unable to attend but sent a letter that George read out. John Connolly was relieved to have won after three previous nominations, and told everyone jokingly that if hadn’t won this year he had planned to send out a hit squad to all the Deadly Pleasures writers/reviewers.

Julia Spencer-Fleming won the first of a series of awards over the Bouchercon weekend, and I chatted with her and her husband on her great debut.

It was George who summed up things rather well, as he explained that in all categories the voting had been a close call and in one award, only one vote swung the winner, so all the shortlisted were winners from his point-of-view.

After the Barry Awards we were treated to an old time radio play ‘Vengeance in Vegas’ by Hal Glatzer.

Following the play I went over for a meeting with the Deadly Pleasures Team at George Easter’s room. I was joined by the reviewer and writers Larry Gandle, Ted Hertel, Bev DeWeese, Russ Isabella and George Easter. It was a great chance to talk about books and our shared interests as well as George outlining his plans for DP in 2004. Moira Kincaid kindly took a photograph of the event which is archived at :-

I would also indicate that DP has a great news page that George updates regularly :-

And he also has an important MB at :-

I guess DP is probably one of the best resources for Crime and Mystery news on the Web, together with Newsgroup rec.arts.mystery (RAM), Shotsmag, mailing lists RARA-AVIS and 4-MA, Tangled Web, January Magazine’s ‘The Rap Sheet’, and Jiro’s ‘The Gumshoe Site’ – in terms of regular updates. That’s where I get my news anyhow.

After our meeting with the DP group Moira Kincaid and I went back to the Bouchercon bar and spent a few more hours talking to the assembled delegates. When the Bouchercon Bar closed, I joined Thriller Writer Peter Blauner and David English of Bookcrazy Radio for a nightcap in The Splash Bar. Peter Blauner is an exceptional writer with five novels under his belt, including the Edgar Award winning Slow Motion Riot’ as well as NY Times bestsellers ‘The Intruder’ and ‘Man of the Hour’. His latest ‘The Last Good Day’ has just been released, which he kindly monographed for me. More details are at his website :-


Yet another late night taking mystery/crime/thriller books.


I got up early and grabbed a flask of coffee and went to my first panel of the day, which was S.J. Rozan in Conversation with Lee Child. This event was very well attended, and a most interesting hour. The highlight was the discussion on both writers viewpoints on September 11th, especially as S.J. Rozan is a native New Yorker, and Lee Child has made NY State his new home. Lee explained how he had taken his parents for dinner at the top of the WTC (‘Windows on the World’) prior to the atrocity and had planned to take his brother for lunch there on September 11th. It was a very moving and personal account and one that provoked deep thought.

After that panel I went to the dealer room which was a bit cramped in terms of space. I invested my Craps winnings in US first editions of Thomas Harris’s ‘Black Sunday’, ‘Red Dragon’ and ‘Silence of the Lambs’. As I had book plates from Harris and a few letters, I guessed that these books with a Harris signature (even if it was to me), would make those books worth a whole lot more.

I met Simon Kernick for lunch and we went to a noodle bar and talked crime-fiction between bites of Teriaki Beef. After lunch Simon and I met up with two of Scotlands premier crime-writers Ian Rankin and Val McDermid who asked me to direct them to their panel which was a conversation between themselves. Royale room 1 was packed, so I decided to venture to a smaller one on ‘Book Collecting’ featuring George Easter, Jon Jordan, Barbera Franchi, Steve Steinbeck and moderated by Barry Zeman. This was a entertaining and lively panel which had ample time for questions from the floor, of which ‘storage’ seemed to be the greatest challenge for the book collector.

The problem I guess with Bouchercon is that there are so many interesting panels, of which many clash that you miss a great number of them. This is inevitable as with over 1,700 registered attendees you need to spread the number of panels to cater for the assembled hordes of mystery and crime fans. The other problem is coping with the sleep-deprivation.

In the corridor, I met up with Lee Child and we decided to have an early dinner in Kady’s Coffee shop. It was a good time to get out of the bustle of Bouchercon and unwind over some food and beer. His new book ‘The Enemy’ is due out in April 2004, and I am pretty excited as it is a prequel of sorts, featuring Jack Reachers Brother. If you haven’t read Lee Child because perhaps he’s too popular, then you are missing some of the most literate mystery/action fiction around. His books are much more complex than one would be led to believe – in fact they ‘kick serious arse’, as our American friends would say.

After dinner, I then headed off to my room for a nap. Then it was back to the Bouchercon bar for a quick beer with Simon Kernick before heading off to the St. Martin’s Minatour reception. This posed a dilemma for me as I had also been invited to The Macavity Awards which clashed with the St. Martin’s Reception, and I had also been invited to The Shamus Awards which was later that night, and I was looking forward to meeting Robert Randisi.

So I had to miss The Macavity Awards which are presented by Mystery Readers International: An organization dedicated to enriching the lives of mystery readers.

The Macavity Awards 2003

Best Novel:

WINNER : Winter and Night, by S.J. Rozan (St. Martin's Minotaur)

Nine, by Jan Burke (Simon & Schuster)
Savannah Blues, by Mary Kay Andrews (Harper Collins)
City of Bones, by Michael Connelly (Little, Brown)
Jolie Blon's Bounce, by James Lee Burke (Simon & Schuster)

Best First Novel:

WINNER : In the Bleak Midwinter, by Julia Spencer-Fleming (St. Martin's Minotaur)

A Valley To Die For, by Radine Trees Nehring (St. Kitts Press)
The Blue Edge of Midnight, by Jonathon King (Dutton)
The Distance, by Eddie Muller (Scribner)

Best Critical/Biographical:

WINNER They Died in Vain: Overlooked, Underappreciated, and Forgotten Mystery Novels, edited by Jim Huang (Crum Creek Press)

The Mammoth Encyclopedia of Crime Fiction edited by Mike Ashley (Carroll & Graf)
The Art of Noir: The Posters and Graphics from the Classic Era of Film Noir, by Eddie Muller (Overlook Press)
Intent to Sell: Marketing the Genre Novel, by Jeff Marks (Deadly Alibi Press)

Best Short Story:

WINNER : "Voice Mail," by Janet Dawson (Scam and Eggs, Five Star)

"Boot Scoot," by Diana Deverell (AHMM, October 2002)
"The Adventure of the Rara Avis," by Carolyn Wheat (Murder, My Dear Watson, edited by Martin H. Greenberg, Jon Lellenberg & Daniel Stashower; Carrol & Graf)
"An Empire's Reach," by Brendan DuBois (AHMM, Nov 2002)
"Too Many Cooks," by Marcia Talley (Much Ado About Murder, edited by Anne Perry; Berkley Prime Crime)
"Bible Belt," by Toni L.P. Kelner (EQMM, June 2002)

It was a real pity that I didn’t get a chance to meet up with Janet Rudolph, but in an event as vast as Bouchercon, it is impossible to meet everyone.

So Julia Spencer-Fleming had now two awards under her belt for her debut.

The St Martin’s Minatour Party was well attended, and I sucked back beers with Gary Phillips which was a delight, and while chatting to Jim Driver (Publisher of The Do Not Press), I heard an Irish accent behind me and was delighted to see Ken Bruen. This was one of those pivotal moments for me, as I had gone crazy after reading his three Jack Taylor Novels – ‘The Guards’, ‘Killing of the Tinkers’ and ‘The Magdalen Martyrs’.  I just wished I had discovered his work earlier as they are terse, dark tales set against the backdrop of modern Ireland. I cannot recommend his work highly enough, they are must reads in the genre. Because I spend a great deal of time in Ireland, I find his books even more appealing and last summer I read a great article about Ken’s work in the Irish Times. So I grabbed my camera and took a few pictures. I then agreed with Ken that we needed to have a good chat and a fair few beers, so we arranged to meet up. I just bought his London books and ‘The White Trilogy’ so I’m otherwise engaged currently.

Then it was a mad dash to grab a taxi to the Shamus awards. Simon Kernick, Gayle Lynds, Jon and Ruth Jordan and I joined the queue at the basement taxi rank. In the queue we bumped into a cheerful but tired Mark Billingham who was going to a publishers dinner. Mark writes a London based police procedural series featuring the Sherlock Award winning detective Tom Thorne and is currently writing the fourth in the series. His last book ‘Lazybones’ is due for release in the US in 2004 and is highly recommended.

We arrived at The Las Vegas Little Theatre under the cover of darkness. Robert Randisi, the President of the Private Eye Writers of America (PWA) greeted us, and it was great to meet with him for the first time. He introduced me to Christine Mathews and Max Allan Collins and ushered us swiftly to the buffet.

Bob Randisi is a helluva nice guy and a real stalwart of the PI genre. He is the author of the Miles Jacoby, Neck Delvecchio, Gil and Clare Hunt (co-written by Christine Mathews) and Joe Keough series. Robert not only is the founder the Founder and Executive Director of PWA, he created The Shamus Award and is a co-founder of Mystery Scene Magazine. I have been a follower of his short-fiction collections, of which my favourite ‘The Eyes Have It’ first published the Larry Block short story that became ‘When the Sacred Gin Mill Closes’. Currently Robert has an excellent collection called ‘High Stakes’ which has 8 great short stories.

Christine Mathews organised the Shamus event. She is not only the PWA Membership Chair, but the Event Coordinator. She also organized EYECON '99 in St. Louis in 1999. With her writing she has published well over 60 short stories (which includes her name Marthya Pelegrimas) and her last novel was ‘On the Strength of Wings’.

I managed to have a chat with Elton John look-alike Max Allan Collins who is currently the President of the PWA. He has just finished his sequel to the graphic novel ‘The Road to Perdition’. I have been a fan of his work such as Ms Tree as well as his last novel, the Shamus nominated ‘The Lusitania Murders.’

So after that chat, Gayle Lynds provided a round of beers, and we snuck in the queue for the buffet, which was delicious. Simon, Jon, Ruth and I took our food outside and tucked in. It was a surreal affair as tables were laid in the parking lot of The Little Theatre, and we ate and drank in the darkness. I spotted George Pelecanos who I have followed for many years and went over to pass him my regards. I recently interviewed him for Shots :-

George Pelecanos’s new book HARD REVOLUTION is due out shortly, but I have been fortunate enough to have read the ARC, and it is exceptional. As we sucked back a few beers, George asked about my own novel ‘Wreaths’ and he told me forcefully to get my ass down on the chair and finish it. George also told us about his work recently on US TV and his forthcoming ‘Hard Revolution :-

George Pelecanos: I am currently working as a writer and story editor for the second season of the HBO television series, The Wire. The first season aired in the US last summer (I wrote episode 12) and will be broadcast in the UK sometime in the future. My novel Hard Revolution, due out in 2004, will focus on the week leading up to the Dr. King assassination and the riots that occurred in its aftermath in Washington, D.C. It looks at the little-discussed violent side of the civil rights movement and how one black, working class family gets caught up in the struggle. It’s my Big Blowdown for the 1960s.

I then chatted to Jane and Jon Wood of Orion about their new Crime list, but before we could get too involved we were ushered into The Little Theatre for the evenings Shamus Awards presentation.

It was really glitzy event with the highlight being the presence of Sue Grafton.

Rather than write about it, why don’t you view the whole event which was filmed and is archived on the Bouchercon Vegas website.

Shamus awards on streaming video :-

The Shamus Awards 2003

The Eye Award (the lifetime achievement award):

Sue Grafton

Best P.I. Novel:

WINNER : BLACKWATER SOUND, by James W. Hall (St. Martin's)

NORTH OF NOWHERE, by Steve Hamilton (St. Martin's)
THE LAST PLACE, by Laura Lippman (HarperCollins)
HELL TO PAY, by George P. Pelecanos (Little, Brown)
WINTER AND NIGHT, by S. J. Rozan (St. Martin's)

Best First P.I. Novel:

WINNER : THE DISTANCE, by Eddie Muller (Scribner)

WESTERFIELD'S CHAIN, by Jack Clark (St. Martin's)
THE BONE ORCHARD, by D. Daniel Judson (Bantam)
OPEN AND SHUT, by David Rosenfeld (Mysterious Press)
PRIVATE HEAT, by Robert Bailey (M. Evans)

Best Paperback Original P.I. Novel:

WINNER : THE POISONED ROSE, by D. Daniel Judson (Bantam)

CASH OUT, by Paul Boray (NAL)
JUICY WATUSI, by Richard Helms (Back Alley Books)
THE LUSITANIA MURDERS, by Max Allan Collins (Berkley Prime Crime)
PAINT IT BLACK, by P. J. Parish (Kensington)

Best P.I. Short Story:

WINNER : "The Second Coming," by Terence Faherty (Ellery Queen's Mystery

"Setting Up the Kill," by J. Michael Blue (Hand Held Crime, Summer 2002)
Magazine, November 2002)
"Aftermath," by Jeremiah Healy (MOST WANTED, edited by Robert J. Randisi; NAL)
"Second Story Sunlight," by John Lutz (MOST WANTED, edited by Robert J. Randisi; NAL)
"The Jewels of Atlantis," by James Powell (Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, November , 2002)

I was really pleased to see Eddie Muller get the Shamus for his debut ‘The Distance’ and my new friend Terry Faherty for winning the short story Shamus. I guess we’d have to drink their success later.

Jon Jordan organised a lift to ferry us back to The Riviera as the Charity Auction was due to start at 10pm and there were a couple of items that I had my eye on.

Back at the Riviera, I found Grog drinking away at the Bouchercon bar with Jo from Ottakars. After letting Lee Child and others know the results of the Shamus Awards, I grabbed the lift back to go to the Top of the Riv for the Charity auction.

The auction was a real fun event with Harlan Coben and Max Allan Collins alternating as the Auctioneers. The banter from the two was priceless and made the event a hilarious series of running gags. On a more serious note the event attracted over £22,000 dollars for The Clark County Literacy Charity. The two top items were character placements in future novels by Lee Child and Ian Rankin, both which went for $2,000 each!

As I had consumed sufficient beverages, I got into the swing of things and won two bids myself. Firstly I got 4 signed books by one of my favourite authors David Morrell as well as a character role for myself in his next thriller. I also won a second item – A critique of my current novel in progress ‘Wreaths’ by the award-winning writer William Kent Krueger which was yet another thrill. I realised that my credit card would be damaged heavily but it was for a very worthy cause. I was especially pleased when I met up with Mr Krueger as it so superb to have my novel critiqued by such a distinguished author that I just had to have some more beer to calm down. William Ken Krueger’s debut novel ‘Iron Lake’ had won both Anthony and Barry Awards for best first novel and introduced his series character Cork O’ Connor, which he followed up with ‘Boundary Waters’ and ‘Purgatory Ridge’ which incidentally won the 2002 Minnesotta Book Award. He has also released a standalone in February 2003 entitled ‘The Devil’s Bed’ while Cork O’ Connor returns in early 2004 in ‘Blood Hollow’. I was fortunate to meet with him directly after the auction and we talked about ‘Wreaths’ - my Techno-Thriller. I would add that Mr Krueger is a really nice guy and so generous in offering this critique for charity.

So after this event it was back to the Bouchercon Bar and then onto The Splash Bar for yet another late night. I got chatting to Luci Davin and Donna Moore of Mystery-Group 4-MA about Eddie Muller and Ken Bruen, two writers that they had recommend to me, and who I found brilliant. I always look forward to Donna and Luci’s referrals as they have such good taste in Mystery. We drank toasts and I felt rather drunk.


I was up early despite only having two hours sleep, as I wanted to catch the panel ‘Multiple Identities’ moderated by Kent William Krueger. This was an interesting panel about the role of the series character(s) and featured Terry Faherty, Joe Gores, Gar Anthony Haywood and the Scottish crime-writer Quentin Jardine. The panel actually was a great deal funnier than I had anticipated.

Due to tiredness I grabbed a litre of Coffee and then joined the 1000+ people to listen to the Ruth Rendell interview with Joe Meyers. This was a surreal event in so far as listening to the prolific Rendell talk about her work in Vegas of all places. As I walked to meet my lunch date, I was prodded from behind and as I turned, I saw that the man doing the prodding was none other than Michael Connelly. He shook my hand and said it was great to see me again! Mr Connelly is such a class act, as the last time we met was around two years ago when I interviewed him for Shots :-

I was so impressed that he recalled our interview back in Borders in Oxford last year. I told him that I was impressed with the new direction he’d taken with Harry Bosch in ‘Lost Light’ – which in my opinion was high risk. We talked about his work again, and then we agreed to meet up at the Orion Party.

Lunch was a delight, as I had a chance to take Maggie Griffin and Brian M Wiprud to a Cantonese restaurant a block away from The Riviera. As I had been spending most of my days in the artificial light of the convention hotel, it was nice to experience daylight. En route we bumped into Grog who was taking a jog, to work off the beer.

For the one or two of you who don’t know who Maggie Griffin is - she is one of the busiest people I know. Not only does she provide website management for a huge roster of authors such as :-

She is also a co-owner of the Partners & Crime Bookstore in Greenwich Village NY and a really strong advocate of the genre.

Her partner is the very entertaining Brian M Wiprud (BMW to his friends), the author of the hilarious caper-comedy-thrillers ‘Pipsqueak’ and ‘Sleep with the fishes’. If you haven’t read his work, then you have missed a real gem of a writer, always entertaining and always a riot!

After lunch we strolled back to the convention, and I ran up to catch a panel I had been long anticipating ‘Rogue Males’ with David Dun, Jerry Kennealy, Jay MacLarty, Clinton McKinzie and David Morrell, moderated by Jamie Katz. The reason for my excitement was that I have been a huge horror and thriller fan for many years, and a legend in the Horror and Thriller world for me has always been David Morrell.

I grew up reading the classics in the British Thriller world, cutting my teeth with writers such as John Buchan, Geoffery Houshold, Hammond Innes. Alistair MacLean, Eric Ambler, Dornford Yates, Adam Hall (aka Elleston Trevor), Len Deighton, John Le Carre (aka David John Moore Cornwell), Ian Fleming and many, many others. David Morrell and Lee Child are two writers whose work reflects that age, when baddies needed a damned good thumping. I recently interviewed Lee Child and we talked about British Thrillers (among other things), and the article was published online at :-

The Persuasive Lee Child -

And it was re-printed in the latest issue of George Easter’s excellent Deadly Pleasures Magazine.

While David Morrell may be most closely associated with writing First Blood, and creating the iconic ‘Rambo’ – named thanks to his delightful wife Donna from a type of American Apple, which is a real surreal twist. He is however much bigger than Rambo, with over 22 million books in print, spanning the International Thriller, the dark world of Horror but for me Morrell is a word that I use for ‘Action’, and his latest ‘The Protector’ can only be described as ‘Searing’. I really can not recommend the works of David Morrell or Lee Child highly enough, and would urge you to seek out their work, because if you like solid character driven action then they are your men :-

The panel ‘Rogue Males’ was interesting especially when David Morrell talked about his love of the Golden Age of the British Thriller. Unfortunately most of the panel were not as well versed in this period. David Morrell is a Professor of Literature and his understanding and insight in this period of Thriller history is vast. The strange coincidence that links both Morrell and Lee Child is that Lee told me "Seriously neglected among modern works would be 'Rogue Male' by Geoffrey Household - the protoganist in that story could have been Jack Reacher's granddad." While David Morrell actually corresponded with Geoffrey Household, and dedicated one of his early novels to him.

After the panel, David Morrell and I caught the last half hour of the Mike Connelly interview with James Lee Burke which was a real hoot. James Lee Burke was extremely funny and Mike Connelly’s droll comments peppered what must have been one of the highlights of the weekend.

I was fortunate to spend the afternoon in the Bouchercon Bar with both David and Donna Morrell which was a real delight. David felt that perhaps the ‘Thriller’ sub-genre was not that well represented at Bouchercon as it was more focused to toward Mystery and Crime. I told him I would fix that problem as the Lee Child party was on that night and that he should accompany me to The Peppermill and later we would have drinks with Gayle Lynds – another kick-ass Thriller writer. So after thanking David and Donna for buying me beers and being such good company, we agreed to meet up later that night and talk Thrillers!

I was fit to drop at this stage so I went up to my room and joined the slumbering ‘Grog’ for a well-deserved nap.

Due to fatigue, I slept through the International representatives reception at The Top of the Riv, but had a shower and re-appeared at the Bouchercon Bar with Grog to meet up with David Morrell. Together we sat with Steve Booth, M. G. (Moira) Kincaid, Simon Kernick. We were soon joined by Jon Jordan who also was dazzled to meet David Morrell and they chatted about Thrillers, but soon I indicated that our presence would be required at The Peppermill as we were invited to join Lee Child at his Reacher Creatures reception.

The Peppermill is a real Las Vegas Lounge, which sits back from the Riviera on the North Strip. It was dark, smoky and full of Jack Reacher fans. Somehow I ended up sitting amongst a couple who were attempting to have sex on my chair, but hell this was Vegas.

David Morrell and I chatted as the Waitress brought us complimentary beer from Lee Child. This was a most generous gesture.

A real pivotal moment was when Lee Child came over and chatted to David Morrell, which was captured by Brian Wiprud and is archived on Lee Child’s website.


Special thanks must go to Maggie Griffin who looked tired on her feet, as she passed French Medals to all the Reacher fans as souvenirs for the night. I noticed Gary Phillips, Eddie Muller, Ken Bruen and many other writers mingling with the fans. Lee Child was on his feet throughout posing of pictures and talking to his assembled hard-core fans. David Morrell really enjoyed being at the party. We however had to leave early as we’d been invited to the Orion Party at the Top of the Riv. So after thanking Lee and Maggie for their generous hospitality, we walked back to The Riviera.

David Morrell and I then arrived at The Orion Party. I went up and thanked Jon and Jane Wood for the invite and introduced them to David Morrell. Jon and I talked about the 9 writers that make up the ‘New Blood’ series that Orion are promoting for January 2004. Some of the writers are familiar to the hardened folk at Shots, such as US crime writer Denis Hamiliton, James Lee Burke’s daughter Alafair, but others such as Steve Mosby, Stuart Archer Cohen, Victoria Blake, Richard ‘Frozen’ Burke, Massimo Carlotto, John Connor and David Corbett are new names on these shores. I told him that Mike Stotter and I are hard at work reading though the novels, which are of an exceptionally high standard.

The party was in full swing, and I had the opportunity to photograph many of the attendees, which was a veritable who’s who of crime/mystery fiction. Particular highlights for me was talking to the hugely underrated Steve Hamilton. His last novel ‘Blood is the Sky’ is a real ground-breaker and I expect it to be among the award winners of 2004. Talking to Michael Connolly, Ian Rankin and George Pelecanos was a real blast for a fan-boy like myself. But the real delight was meeting James Crumley, and I took a great deal of pictures of the man who gave us the iconic masterpiece ‘The Last Good Kiss’. He was a delight to meet, and I told him about the applause he received at last years CWA Dagger awards when his novel ‘The Final Country’ received the Silver Dagger. Towards the end of the evening, Lee Child arrived back from his own party at The Peppermill. It was a real blast to see three ‘top of their game’ thriller writers David Morrell, Lee Child and Gayle Lynds talk about the International Thriller.

Finally I got a chance to have a laugh with Harlan Coben, who is such a real gentleman, and a very, very funny guy – and a damned fine writer to boot.

So as the party started to dissolve, I joined up with Ken Bruen and we headed back to the Peppermill to continue drinking. I said my goodbyes and David Morrell seemed to have had a fine time, and he thanked me for my tireless enthusiasm, but really the treat had been all mine, as meeting David Morrell had really been a total blast for this Thriller Reader!

So I found myself back at The Peppermill with Grog on a table flanked by Ken Bruen, Eddie Muller and Chris Mooney and covered with bottles of beer. It was a blast from what I remember. It was a real treat to suck back beers with these guys. Chris Mooney is a young writer who has published two ground-breaking thrillers ‘Deviant Ways’ and ‘World Without End’. His new book ‘Remembering Sarah’ is due out in April 2004. It was great to find that Ken Bruen had also read Chris Mooney. One of the highlights was toasting Eddie Muller’s Shamus victory for ‘The Distance’. I don’t know about ‘World Without End’ but the early hours spent in The Peppermill reminded me of the title of an Alistair MacLean thriller ‘Night Without End’. Basically I had a great night. In a drunken moment, I challenged Ken Bruen to have a ‘Pub-Crawl’ along the strip the following night i.e. to have a drink in every bar/hotel along the Strip from the Riviera to the bottom of the South End of the Strip – What the hell was I thinking? We shook hands on it too!

I left at around 5am, with Chris Mooney and Grog, as we couldn’t keep up with Ken Bruen and Eddie Muller who were still rocking as we left. In the car park of The Peppermill I tripped over a kerb-stone and landed badly in a pool of engine oil that some clunk-bucket of car had deposited. I managed to hobble back to my room covered in used engine oil. Back in the room I was too tired to shower so I collapsed on the bed staining the sheets with used engine Oil.


The morning came way too quickly.

There was no way on earth that I could have made M.G. (Moira) Kincaid’s panel at 0900 hrs. I had to try and wash off all the oil with a badly sprained ankle which throbbed like a bastard.

I managed to organise a couple of litres of coffee to be sent up by room service. After consuming the reviving liquid I hobbled down the stairs in black glasses, as my eyes hurt almost as much as my ankle.

I made it to the ‘Kiss Bang Bang’ Panel with Val McDermid, Steve Booth, Laurie King moderated by Dana Stabelow. This panel explored classic opening lines to mystery novels, but soon degenerated into raucous laughter partly thanks to Val McDermid’s witty observations.

After the panel, it was another litre of Coffee and off to the Anthony brunch which had queues that snaked along the corridors like a Harlan Coben plot.

Our brunch companions comprised Lauren Henderson (of ‘Tart-Noir’ fame), Mark Billingham, Brian Wiprud, Maggie Griffin, Peter Blauner, Simon Kernick, Jo of Ottakars (UK) and M.G. (Moira) Kincaid. There was more coffee and a piece of steak that needed a laser to cut, but the fruit was good. As I had been surviving on a pure protein diet with Coffee, it was good to get some fruit at last. Simon Kernick looked wrecked, but he had splashed himself earlier with a bottle of ‘Blue Stratos’ aftershave and the fumes helped keep us all awake. This brand of aftershave is often used when someone feints and no smelling salts are available. Mark Billingham had been wearing Denim, and he actually reminded me of the guy in the ‘Blue Stratos’ TV Commercial, but Simon was having none of it, so we spent the time discussing the merits of cheap British aftershave.

After the brunch, I hobbled down to the front to photograph the Anthony Awards. I have to admire Lee Child’s stamina. That Toastmaster Gig has to be one of the most active roles in the whole of Bouchercon. Considering all the events, Lee Child delivered the awards in a debonair and cool manner.

Julia Spencer-Fleming got ‘The Hat-Trick’ – Barry, Macavity and Anthony for best debut novel – this was an amazing triumph – Scooping three of the most prestigious awards at Bouchercon.

The Anthony Awards 2003

Best Novel:

WINNER : CITY OF BONES, by Michael Connelly (Little, Brown)

MURDER IN THE SENTIER, by Cara Black (Soho Press)
NORTH OF NOWHERE, by Steve Hamilton (St. Martin's)
HELL TO PAY, by George Pelecanos (Little, Brown)
WINTER AND NIGHT, by S. J. Rozan (St. Martin's)

Best First Novel:

WINNER :IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER, by Julia Spencer-Fleming (St. Martin's)

THE DEVIL'S REDHEAD, by David Corbett (Ballantine)
AN EYE FOR MURDER, by Libby Fischer Hellman (Poisoned Pen Press)
BLUE EDGE OF MIDNIGHT, by Jonathon King (Dutton)
THE DISTANCE, by Eddie Muller (Scribner)

Best Paperback Original:

WINNER : FATAL TRUTH, by Robin Burcell (Avon)

BLACK JACK POINT, by Jeff Abbott (NAL/Onyx)
SIX STROKES UNDER, by Roberta Isleib (Berkeley Prime Crime)
PAINT IT BLACK, by P. J. Parrish (Pinnacle/Kensington)
A KILLING SKY, by Andy Straka (Signet)

Best Critical:


INTENT TO SELL: MAKING THE GENRE NOVEL, by Jeffrey Marks (Deadly Alibi Press)

Best Short Story:

WINNER : "Too Many Cooks," by Marcia Talley (in MUCH ADO ABOUT MURDER, edited by Anne Perry, Berkeley Prime Crime)

"To Live and Die in Midland, Texas," by Clark Howard (in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, Sept/Oct, 2002)
"Murder in the Land of Wawat," by Lauren Haney (in MAMMOTH BOOK OF EGYPTIAN WHODUNNITS, edited by Mike Ashley, Carroll & Graf)
"Bible Belt," by Toni Kelner (in EQMM, June, 2002)
"A Man Called Ready," by Bob Truluck (in MEASURES OF POISON, edited by Dennis McMillan, Dennis McMillan Publications)

Best Cover Art:

WINNER : MEASURES OF POISON, edited by Dennis McMIllan (Dennis McMillan Publications), Jacket design by Michael Kellner

MURDER IN THE SENTIER, by Cara Black (Soho Press), Jacket design by Cheryl L. Cipriani
THE TERRA-COTTA DOG, by Andrea Camilleri (Viking), Jacket design by Paul Buckley  
THE EYE OF CYBELE, by Daniel Chavarria (Akashic Books), Painting by Jennifer Harris, jacket design by Melissa Farris
PARADISE SALVAGE, by John Fusco (Overlook Press), Jacket photograph by Larry Rostant

So after the Awards, we all said our various goodbyes, and drifted away. I was so tired that I went back to my room to get some sleep. Luckily for me the chambermaid had changed my oil-soiled sheets so I fell into the bed and slept like a log.

That was until 6pm when Grog came back to our room with a plate of Burgers and told me that Ken Bruen was sitting at The Splash Bar anxiously waiting for me, as we had planned that nightmare, liver-damaging pub-crawl along the strip……………….

Let’s just say that I did get up and join him and many others for our last night in Vegas. All I can say is that we had a few drinks, some of us went up to the top of the Stratosphere Tower to the worlds highest rollercoaster which was not quite as scary as drinking with Ken Bruen as the photograph below proves.

Shots eZine would like to thank Deen Kogan and the Bouchercon Committee for hosting a wonderful event. Robert Randisi and Christine Mathews for the invitation to The Shamus Awards. Orion Books for the invite to their gala party. St. Martins Minatour for the invite to their reception. Lee Child and Maggie Griffin for the invite to the Reacher Creatures party. Janet A. Rudolph, Editor, of The Mystery Readers Journal for the invite to The Macavity Awards. George Easter, Russ, Bev, Ted and Larry Gandle for hosting the Deadly Pleasures gathering. Jon, Ruth and Jennifer Jordan for the Beer and Company – meeting you guys was wonderful.

I would personally like to pass special thanks to Gayle Lynds and Jeremiah Healy for presenting a most informative writing-seminar which really focused my mind in achieving the goal I set myself when I first learned to read. I would also like to thank William Kent Krueger for agreeing to provide me with a critique of my novel ‘Wreaths’.And my very best wishes to everyone I met in the four-day party that is Bouchercon. And for those I missed, hell, Toronto is only next year


Ali S Karim is an industrial chemist, freelance journalist and book reviewer living in England. Apart from his duties as Assistant Editor for Shots eZine, he also contributes to January magazine and Deadly Pleasures Magazine, and is currently working on Wreaths’, a violent techno-thriller set in the world of plant viruses and out-of-work espionage agents.

Bouchercon 2003

Clockwise : Brian Wiprud, Maggie Griffin, Ali Karim, Eddie Muller. Mark Billingham, George Pelecanos, Michael Connelly. Riviera Casino Security detaining Ali Karim and Ken Bruen after a drinking binge. Gary Phillips and Simon Kernick. Ian Rankin and Lee Child. Robert Randisi and Max Allan Collins. Ian Rankin ‘Come Fly with Me’. Finally Lee Child, Ali Karim and David Morrell suck back a few beers.

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