Bouchercon 2014: Murder at the Beach a Testament to Long Beach’s Growing Literary Scene


Major Crimes‘ Jonathan Del Arco will be at Bouchercon, sitting on the Major Crimes panel.

The very first Bouchercon was held in Santa Monica in 1970 and was named after Anthony Boucher, an esteemed mystery writer, critic and science fiction editor. What began as an unassuming get-together between enthusiastic readers and writers has grown into a convention expected to draw over 2,000 attendees, authors and fans alike. This World Mystery Convention is a nonprofit, all-volunteer run organization.

Ingrid Willis, Long Beach resident and this year’s Bouchercon chair said, “It’s like a comic con without costumes. This year we have over 600 authors attending. We’re expecting about 1,800 to 2,000 people to come. We’re really excited, proud and happy that it’s coming to Long Beach for the first time.”

Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 12.58.55 PMThe 45th Annual Bouchercon will start Thursday, November 13 and will run until Sunday, November 16. Between the Hyatt Regency Long Beach and the Long Beach Convention Center, mystery lovers can meet well-known authors like Edward Marston, author of 40 crime novels set in six different historical periods.

The conference will begin with a rousing social event on November 13 entitled “Author Speed Dating,” which will include a continental breakfast served with a large side of literary introductions. Authors will attend the breakfast, not by simply eating and conversing, but by going from table to table, dictated by the ring of a bell, to tell their fans a little bit about themselves.

Willis said, “In a two-hour time frame, fans will get to meet almost a hundred authors and they’ll be able to look for them and interact with them throughout the conference.”

Bouchercon is an outstanding social event, facilitating lifelong connections between writers, authors and fans who maybe don’t know they’re writers yet.

Tyler Dilts, author of the Long Beach Homicide Series and an enthusiastic Long Beach resident and past Bouchercon attendee, said, “The support I’ve had from other writers has been amazing and much of it grew out of my participation in the convention and really, without it, I can’t imagine that I would have been able to achieve the success that I have.”

The fact that Bouchercon has finally landed in Long Beach is gratifying for many residents. Dilts, whose novel, A Cold and Broken Hallelujah, was just released earlier this fall, says the timing couldn’t be better. “The novel is set in Long Beach,” he said, “and the confluence between the world of novel and the world of Boucheron is very exciting for me.”

Dilts explained that Long Beach has always been a great place for writers, but in recent years its growth as a literary hub has expanded exponentially. “That’s partly due to the creative writing program at CSULB,” said Dilts, “but even more so thanks to people like Sean Moor of Gatsby Books who’ve worked tirelessly to build the community and give it places to flourish. It’s one of the best cities for writers anywhere.”

Just a few of the intriguing events at Bouchercon 2014: Murder at the Beach, will include none other than members of the FBI setting up a mock crime scene. Attendees can put on a tyvek suit and learn how to approach the scene through the eye of a professional. Cat Warren, a nationally known dog trainer, will be giving a Cadaver dog demonstration, showing attendees what it takes for a dog to sniff out deceased persons. Several author panels will discuss the writing and creative process, featuring shorter, more intimate sessions led by the individual authors.


Author Jeffrey Deaver, who will be appearing at Bouchercon 2014.

Tammy Kaehler, Long Beach resident, author of the Kate Reilly Racing series and member of the Bouchercon 2014 organizing committee, said, “What I get from attending Bouchercon is inspiration and camaraderie. As a writer, I’m inspired by all the talk of clever plot twists, interesting settings, and fascinating characters. The end of every day finds me exhausted, but also exhilarated because I’m part of the shop talk, discussing ideas and new directions and experiments in my own writing.”

The Anthony Awards, which are handed out to authors for Best Novel, Best Short Story, Best First Novel, Best Children’s or Young Adult Novel and more are a highlight of the conference. Registered attendees can nominate writers and then vote for them during the convention.

This year’s guests of honor are Simon Wood, Al Abramson, J.A. Jance, Edward Marston, Eoin Colfer and Jeffery Deaver, each of them boasting a long list of achievements and major involvement within the Bouchercon community.

Wendy Hornsby, Long Beach resident and author of the Maggie MacGowen mysteries, started attending Bouchercon 20 years ago. Although she will not be attending this year’s convention (it was between Bouchercon or a trip to Paris, France) she has a fondness for Long Beach’s writing culture and a real appreciation for Bouchercon.

Bouchercon02Hornsby said, “Years ago, in a dark back corner of Acres of Books, a treasured Long Beach institution, I found a used copy of a book by Margaret Millar. As I read it, I knew that it was time for me to stop thinking about writing and to just do it. Three years later I sold my first book. Now and then I pull Ms. Millar’s book, Stranger in My Grave, off my shelf as reminder of why I write.”

“Writing is a solitary undertaking,” she explained, “What I enjoy most about the conference is the opportunity to just schmooze, to have great conversations about writing, books, and publishing with all sorts of people. Some of my best friends, and an agent, are people I met at conferences.”

It is a Bouchercon tradition to support at least one local charity before, during and after the conference. The committee chose the Long Beach Public Library Foundation and Write Girl to benefit from the convention’s proceeds. Events surrounding the conference will include reaching out to the Long Beach community. [Pictured right: boxes of books to be stuffed into gift bags.]

“We have about 60 authors, including one of our guests of honor, Eoin Colfer, going out to classrooms between Monday and Wednesday this week to talk to 6th graders about what it’s like to be an author, about reading and writing,” Willis explained. “That’s really what Bouchercon is about. Reading and getting people excited about reading and introducing kids and everyone to books. It’s not about selling your book, it’s the camaraderie and the friendship and the fans.”

“I’m energized from being around so many of my tribe,” said Kaehler. “The crazy, obsessive writers who are driven to get the details right and craft interesting stories for others to read.”

Willis said excitedly, “It’s always great to get to meet your fans. It’s a way for the authors to become more human as opposed to just representing a book. Bouchercon is nothing but crime fiction 24/7. Readers and authors will be sitting in a restaurant discussing hemlock as a poison and what happens when you hit someone with a hammer.”

Hornsby, whose first two books were set in a Bluff Park mansion, has always been inspired by Long Beach. In Midnight Baby, Hornsby depicts a body being dumped in the Naples canals and her main character, Maggie MacGowen, takes a stroll down Second St.

“The great climate, the ocean, the harbor, the diversity of its people and neighborhoods, Long Beach is a treasure trove of book and story possibilities,” said Hornsby. “Something to remember for people who have flown in from the far corners to attend Bouchercon: Long Beach has never had a Polar Vortex. And, Go Beach.”

Tickets are $75 for day passes and $195 to attend the full conference. Tickets can still be purchased here.

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Asia Morris has been with the Long Beach Post for five years, specializing in coverage of the arts. Her parents gave her the name because they wanted her to be a world traveler and they got their wish. In her off-work hours she has competed in cycling races in Milan, Barcelona, Seoul and Brooklyn.