I had been looking forward to the LCC event for some time, because the International Thriller Writers Inc. were holding a special track of Thriller panels at the event as well as announcing the shortlists for their first ever awards ‘The Thrillers’. I found it surreal that Bristol was hosting this event as it was the birthplace of Geoffrey Household, who wrote the definitive 1939 thriller, Rogue Male, which remains a formative influence on me, and many thriller writers.
I have to hand it to Myles Allfrey, Liz Hatherell, as well as Adrian and Jennifer Muller for the hard work they put into organising one of the best crime fiction/thriller conferences I have attended [and who remained cheerful and helpful throughout the weekend].
I arrived Thursday with Mike Stotter and Simon Kernick [my partners in crime]. Soon we found ourselves in the lounge with Lee Child, Maggie Griffin, Sarah Weinman and M J Rose and it felt like being at home again. There was a delay in getting our rooms ready so we moved to the bar, where we met Ayo Onatade and Lizzie Hayes of the Mystery Women group. I spent sometime talking to M J Rose, as she has two remarkable thrillers, The Halo Effect and The Delilah Complex, out from MIRA Books. They feature sex-therapist Dr Morgan Snow and are really remarkable. M J Rose, apart from being an excellent thriller writer, has a very interesting website www.mjrose.com as she runs marketing classes for writers and has a real inside knowledge of the industry. It was great to see Sarah Weinman again, as the last time was in 2003, and www.sarahweinman.com is an excellent daily blog-resource tailored toward crime/mystery/thriller fiction I use it to keep in the loop.
We also bumped into Jason Starr, the NY based novelist who has signed with Orion with his latest thriller, Lights Out, so to celebrate we went off to a nearby Italian restaurant. Jason was on great form and told us how he and Ken Bruen had collaborated with the eagerly awaited Bust from Hardcase Crime. I told him that chillies help prevent prostate cancer but decided against a formal demonstration as it was a family restaurant.
On our return we found that our rooms were ready. Mike had a penthouse suite, while Simon and I were sharing a basement room. After some debate with the porter, we managed to get the double bed room changed to a twin well, Simon’s new thriller is entitled Relentless and I didn’t want any rumours to circulate about our sleeping arrangements.
I wandered off and bumped into the great David Morrell, and as we hadn’t seen each other for a couple of years, we headed off to the bar where we organised a table. We were joined by the Irish-American writer Pat Mullan [Blood Red Square], Lee Child, Mike Stotter and Simon Kernick and we spent the evening listening and talking to David Morrell. It was a fascinating night, as not only is Morrell the creator of Rambo [he wrote First Blood] - incidentally his character was named by his wife Donna after a type of American Red Apple - but he is also a professor of literature and really knows his golden-age thrillers. He is without doubt one of my favourite writers. Morrell, with Gayle Lynds, Lee Child, David Dun, M J Rose and many others, set up the ITW, and listening to him talk about his life was fascinating. Mike and I considered that evening one of the best we’ve had for many years - just sucking back a few beers and talking to him was a privilege. These informal meetings are what these conventions are all about. Needless to say it meant that we couldn’t support Ayo and the others in the quiz, but then again we had the weekend ahead of us. If you haven’t read Morrell for a while pick up his latest Creepers: http://archive.shotsmag.co.uk/reviews2005/reviews0905/creepers.html and be prepared to be up all night as it is a white knuckle ride, part thriller, part horror and full-on adventure.
Mike and I went to bed early, as he was moderating the first ITW Panel at nine am, and it was one that I wanted to catch. We left the others in the bar. From what I gather Mike Marshall [Smith], Sarah Weinman, Simon Kernick, John Rickards and that party animal Alex Barclay saw dawn break.
I got up early leaving my room-mate Simon Relentless Kernick to his coma and met Mike for breakfast, then we headed for his panel ‘ITW: Tracking Down a Story Reporters in Thrillers’. David Morrell [as co-president of the ITW] welcomed everyone to the panel and then left Mike to introduce his panellists Jan Burke, Caroline Carver, Denise Hamilton and Peter Guttridge. It was a fascinating insight into how these journalists found themselves in the world of thriller fiction. The fire-alarms went off mid-way through the proceedings and what amused me was when we returned, Caroline Carver who had been ‘mid-sentence’ when the alarm went off, resumed exactly where she left off that’s journalism for you. Also, considering that it was Mike’s first time moderating a panel, he pulled it off in a very professional and calm manner.
We then went to a panel on serial killers moderated by Jan Burke, with Danuta Reah, Keith McCarthy and Kate Charles unfortunately due to a mix-up, Mike Marshall was absent [some of us snickered that perhaps the previous night’s drinking had taken its toll]. This was a pity as I am a huge fan of his SF/horror that he writes under his real name, Michael Marshall Smith, as well as his crime-fiction that he writes as Michael Marshall [The Straw Men, The Lonely Deadhttp://archive.shotsmag.co.uk/reviews0404/lonelydead.html and Blood of Angels ], but as CWA Chair Danuta Reah is also known as Carla Banks [and I loved her Forest of Soulshttp://archive.shotsmag.co.uk/reviews2005/reviews0305/forest.html ], she took up the slack admirably. I bumped into Mike Marshall later and we had a beer, and I took the opportunity to rib him about him missing the panel
At midday, Mike Stotter and I had the pleasure of listening to M J Rose [The Morgan Snow thrillers] and Barry Eisler [ex-CIA and the writer of the John Rain espionage thrillers] talk about the marketing of books. This was a fascinating talk by two exceptional writers who both share a marketing bent.
After lunch, I found that Simon Kernick had roused himself from slumber, and was chugging a five litre flask of coffee in readiness for interviewing Lee Child. He also spilled a bottle of Blue Stratos aftershave on himself [a gift from an unknown fellow crime-writer] as it doubles up as smelling salts. The interview was one of the many highlights of the weekend; Simon grilled Lee, making for very entertaining listening, especially as Lee has a very self-deprecating style and droll sense of humour, and he was not put off by Simon’s aftershave.
Later in the afternoon, I spent time with Nick Stone who debuted with the blistering Mr Clarinet http://archive.shotsmag.co.uk/reviews2006/reviews0106/mrclarinet.html a remarkable novel that gave me nightmares. Nick introduced me to Stav Sherez, who debuted also from the Penguin stable with the CWA Dagger-nominated The Devil’s Playground, a thriller looking at the dark underbelly of Amsterdam, and how the horrors of the past invade our present and future. I was very interested in Stav’s work and having read it I was blown away. It then transpired that Stav and I had a great deal in common, both loved thrillers, and knew the heritage from Ambler, Household and MacLean. I know that Stav will be a name to follow in the thriller genre.
Then it was off for a quick beer with the Poisoned Pen Press party, where we were greeted by Robert, who is a great guy and full of laughs.
Later that evening many of us attended the ITW Cocktail Party which was generously sponsored by MIRA Books, who have a tremendous catalogue of upcoming thrillers, and currently publish M J Rose, Alex Kava and have the rights to publish the ITW’s first anthology aptly titled - Thriller. The champagne flowed and the conversation was warm but then we sat in anticipation when the ITW Board of David Morrell, Gayle Lynds, Lee Child and M J Rose took to the stage to announce its shortlist for the inaugural Thriller Awards. David Morrell was fascinated by the name of one of the ITW sponsors www.Bookbitch.com a name that he repeated several times much to the amusement of many of us present.
David and Gayle read out the nominations and a word from the Awards Chair Jim Rollins: Over three hundred titles were reviewed by our judging committees, along with a slew of screenplays by our film panel. And as stipulated in ITW bylaws, no one on the board of directors, nor myself as chair of the awards, was eligible to compete. Each judging committee was selected to balance men and women, authors and reviewers, while also incorporating an international flare with judges from beyond US borders. Operating under a strict code of silence and isolated from prejudicial interference, they have deliberated for the past several months to pare down the towering pile of submissions to the nominees listed below.
So with great pride and delight, and congratulations to all, here are the nominees (listed alphabetically by writer) for the first International Thriller Awards.
PANIC by Jeff Abbott (Dutton)
CONSENT TO KILL by Vince Flynn (Atria)
VELOCITY by Dean Koontz (Bantam)
THE PATRIOTS CLUB by Christopher Reich (Delacorte Press)
CITIZEN VINCE by Jess Walter (Regan Books)
BEST FIRST NOVEL
IMPROBABLE by Adam Fawer (William Morrow)
THE COLOR OF LAW by Mark Gimenez (Doubleday)
COLD GRANITE by Stuart MacBride (St. Martin's Minotaur)
PAIN KILLER by Will Staeger (William Morrow)
BENEATH A PANAMANIAN MOON by David Terrenoire (Thomas Dunne Books)
BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL
SLEEPER CELL by Jeffrey Anderson (Berkley)
PRIDE RUNS DEEP by R. Cameron Cooke (Jove)
UPSIDE DOWN by John Ramsay Miller (Dell)
THE DYING HOUR by Rick Mofina (Pinnacle Books)
EXIT STRATEGY by Michael Wiecek (Jove)
MATCH POINT, screenplay by Woody Allen
SYRIANA, based on the book by Robert Baer, written by Stephen Gaghan
CACHE (Hidden), screenplay by Michael Haneke
OLDBOY, screenplay by Jo-yun Hwang, Chun-hyeong Lim, Joon-hyung Lim, and Chan-wook Park;
story by Garon Tsuchiya
MUNICH, screenplay by Tony Kushner and Eric Roth; based on the book by George Jonas
Incidentally, if you have a taste like me for technothrillers, you really must read James Rollins I love his work [www.jamesrollins.com]. In my opinion he out-Crichtons Michael Crichton well worth investigating.
After the announcement, I joined my friend Maggie Griffin for dinner with a gang of colleagues. Maggie manages author promotions and websites for Lee Child, T J Parker, Steve Hamilton, Larry Block and many, many others, as well as being a co-owner of NY’s Partners-and-Crime Bookstore [www.crimepays.com]. To be fair, I thought I was a busy guy until I met Maggie Griffin she makes me feel like a slacker. The restaurant was great and as usual I ended up talking thrillers with Lee Child and an interesting Irish writer Declan Hughes who has a debut thriller out currently, The Wrong Kind of Blood, and seated at the far end of the restaurant were ITW Co-Presidents David Morrell and Gayle Lynds as well as M J Rose.
After that it was on with Lee Child to the Reacher Creatures party where I bumped into NY photographer Mary Reagan, Maureen Carter [the broadcaster and novelist], who I hadn’t seen for five years or so, as well as the inexhaustible Ayo Onatade. I also met for the first time Andy P the webmaster of thewww.reachercreatures.com, the unofficial Jack Reacher fan website. Andy told me about The Hard Way, the tenth Jack Reacher thriller that I was eagerly anticipating as were many, many others. Lee Child is one of my favourite authors as his work is an updating of the golden-age thriller, a genre that I cut my teeth on.
Later still we found ourselves back in the bar, where I spent some time with Denise Hamilton learning about her latest Eve Diamond thriller Savage Garden from Orion as well as Zoë Sharp, who has her latest Charlie Fox thriller Road Kill http://archive.shotsmag.co.uk/reviews2006/reviews0406/roadkill.html out currently.
Mike Stotter treated us all to an award-winning single malt scotch. For which Pat Mullan called him a ‘bad man’. I must admit it was the early hours before I found my bed, and room-mate Simon Kernick returned just prior to the fire-alarms sounding at 0445, 0500 and then 0515. I checked that Simon had returned and then we went back to sleep ignoring the siren.
The morning came too quickly, considering the fire-alarm debacle, so I showered and breakfasted and joined Mike Stotter for an early panel on ‘Fresh-Blood: New Talent’. This was moderated with great skill by Laura Wilson, considering she had Alex Barclay, David Harrison, Dreda Say Mitchell, Stav Sherez, Nick Stone, James Twining, Louise Ure and Sue Walker. All I can say is that the genre has some great new names emerging, of which I find Twining, Barclay, Sherez and Stone of particular merit. Laura Wilson’s work is, of course, excellent and her latest - A Thousand Lies remarkable. http://archive.shotsmag.co.uk/reviews2006/reviews0206/thousandlies.html
Then it was off to support the ITW again, as Mike and I are both members. The ITW Panel: Switching Gears [When Mysteries become Thrillers] moderated by David Morrell and featuring Christine Goff [who writes bird-watching mysteries], Debbie Mitsch who is involved with book promotional work, Debby Aitkinson and the legendary Michael Newton a writer with over 180 books to his name. Mike Stotter and I are big fans of his work and it was a pleasure to shake his hand. If you’ve never read Newton, it’s time to start [but you’ve got a lot of ground to cover! www.michaelnewton.homestead.com
Then another highlight was listening to publisher and mystery/thriller authority Barbara Peters [www.poisonedpenpress.com] interview the legendary Jeffery Deaver. I was pleased that reference was made to Deaver’s love-letter to the golden-age thriller,Garden of Beasts http://archive.shotsmag.co.uk/reviews0904/gardenbeasts.html, one of the most remarkable thrillers I have read for many years.
Then it was time to retire to the bar for lunch and a chat.
The last panel of the day for me was an important one, as I was moderator ‘ITW:In from the Cold The Spy Thriller Today’. I was flattered to be have been asked to share the same platform as four remarkable writers. It was terrific fun, despite trying to keep the politics away from espionage which is an impossible task as both areas are interlocked. My fellow panellist and author Pat Mullan wrote about the panel in the March ITW Newsletter which made me blush [no mean feat considering I am a man of colour].
One of LCC's most talked about panels was ITW's "In from the Cold: The Spy Thriller Today". It consisted of ITW members David Morrell, Gayle Lynds (both co-presidents), Barry Eisler and yours truly, Pat Mullan.
The Saturday (March 18) panel attracted about 100 people, who listened to their favorite authors speak. Morrell opened by passionately explaining ITW's mission - to bring thrillers in from the cold and to recognize, warm and assist their authors. The moderator was charismatic Ali Karim - scientist, writer, assistant editor at Shots Magazine (UK), and a man of encyclopedic knowledge of thrillers. He guided the panelists through a wide-ranging discussion, from the post-Berlin Wall era to the aftermath of 9/11. "Who are the new bad guys today?" he asked. "Where are the new threats coming from?" And most importantly: "Is the world safer today?"
Each of us spoke from our personal, diverse experiences. Acclaimed author Morrell shared his thoughts based on his former job as a special operations man. The pioneering Lynds called on her days inside a government think tank, where she had top-secret security clearance. The articulate Eisler spoke about how his time as a CIA agent informs his novels. And I could only allude to my stint in the U.S. Army and my years in the murky world of international banking.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about the panel was summed up by an attendee, who said: "That panel really held my interest. No one turned the promotion of their book into a dominant topic." Pat Mullan [Author of Blood Red Square and Circle of Sodom]
Then it was a quick shower and change into a suit and tie for the Gala Dinner. Adrian and Myles announced that, due to the fire-alarm debacle, the management of the Bristol Marriott were providing complimentary cocktails for all LCC delegates prior to the Gala Dinner a most generous gesture which ensured that there was plenty of lubrication prior to the dinner.
At the dinner I was fortunate to share a table with the very droll Bill Fitzhugh [I really enjoyed his debut [Pest Control], my friend Mary Reagan [who works for Crimespree Magazine as well as many others], Zoë and Andy Sharp, Mike Stotter, as well as the Yorkshire novelist and former police officer Colin Campbell Through the Ruins Of Midnight.
After dinner we were greeted to a very droll presentation by toastmaster Lee Child, as he announced the LCC awards.
Fan Guests of Honour were celebrated first:
And they gave very memorable and moving thank you speeches; especially Ms. Moore who was passed a handkerchief by Adrian Muller when she spoke in case she cried!
Peter Guttridge won the Lefty Award for Cast Adrift - but Shots had already crowned him ‘The King of Crime Comedy’ - and Tony Broadbent the Bruce Alexander Award from terrific shortlists:
The shortlist for the Lefty Award for best humorous crime novel published in the English language for the first time in 2005:
The Bruce Alexander Award for best historical crime novel (set anywhere in the time period up to 1956—fifty years before LCC16) published in the English language for the first time in 2005 shortlist:
I think Tony Broadbent made a very interesting comment: that many of us in the genre owe Lee Child a great deal for his help to new authors and writers, as the man is so generous with his help. I second that comment.
Another great moment was when Guests of Honour Anne Perry and Boris Akunin came to the stage and we were enthralled when Jeffery Deaver read out his poem on the current state of publishing. That was a wonderful moment with a very serious message do not listen to the doom-sayers that proclaim that no one is reading anymore!
I met Jeff afterwards and commended him on his poem, and he informed me that he would put it on his website http://www.jefferydeaver.com/Other_Projects/LCCSpeech/lccspeech.html
After the Gala Dinner, what’s a man to do but head for the bar for more single malt whisky with Mike Stotter where we toasted all the shortlisted and all the winners of the awards. We drank with Peter Guttridge as well as Martyn Waites, whose latest thriller, The Mercy Seat http://archive.shotsmag.co.uk/reviews2006/reviews0106/mercyseat.html shows his talent blossoming. I had a quick drink with Barry Eisler who, like his Japanese American assassin John Rain, also appreciates fine malt scotch. If you haven’t read Eisler, man where you been?
The night reminded me of the title of a great golden-age thriller from Alistair MacLean ‘Night without End. It was great to drink and talk to people who, like me, are in thrall to the love of the written word, so I’ll steal a stanza from Jeffery Deaver:
“We traveled for thousands and thousands of miles
From the Continent, States and British Isles.
We've managed to get here by hook and by crook,
For something immortal . our love of the book.” © 2006 Jeffery Deaver
For the first time Simon Kernick and I went to bed at the same time, much to the amusement of many gathered around us!
As morning again came too quickly, I decided to sleep in as the convention was now taking its toll on my mind and body. I met Ayo for breakfast and went to the last panel, ‘Stump the experts’ which was a lighthearted gathering with Rhys Bowen leading Barry Eisler, Peter Guttridge, Zo%#235; Sharp and Gayle Lynds through a fictional crime. I can say that none of the assembled should give up their day-jobs as writers, because it was a hilarious look at real-life crime solving and none of them caught the criminal, but by God, was it funny watching and listening to them. A suitable and light-hearted close to a very good convention.
Mike Stotter and I ended the convention by having a pot of coffee with David and Donna Morrell, with Gayle Lynds (badly suffering from a feather allergy) joining us. I decided then that I would make the trek later in the year to the ITW’s inaugural conference www.thrillerfest.org in Phoenix, Arizona, as I think it is a remarkable organization. I was flattered when David and Gayle offered me an Honorary Associate Membership to the ITW [last year] for my work in promoting the thriller genre. They are two writers whom I admire hugely so let me tell you a little about their latest work.
David Morrell’s last novel Creepers was remarkable as it features a group of urban infiltrators stalking an abandoned hotel to seek hidden treasure, only to be confronted by the evil that lurks within the hotel’s walls. I hugely enjoyed Gayle’s last espionage thriller The Coil http://archive.shotsmag.co.uk/reviews0404/thecoil.html and am excited about her upcoming The Last Spymaster a book that many have been speaking about.
Finally I managed to meet up with Kernick, Zoë and Andy Sharp, Judy Bobalik and the legendary organizer of 4-MA Mystery Group, Maddy Van Hertbruggen where we talked about our love of thrillers. At this stage I realized I had lost my voice so decided to head off home as my throat hurt, and Mike had taken the scotch with him!
But I managed to just have enough voice left to thank Myles Alfrey, Liz Hatherell, as well as Adrian and Jennifer Muller for the wonderful weekend all made possible by their efforts, and all who attended.
Thank you all and yes, I had a bloody good time!
More information on the International Thriller Writers Inc is available at:
I would strongly recommend membership the ITW will be a very important industry group.
And it might be worth considering coming to see history made at the ITW’s first conference Thrillerfest at the end of June: www.thrillerfest.org
The writers I met in Bristol and who I recommend you investigating are :-
Also look out for these rising stars :-
Nick Stone Mr Clarinet
Stav Sherez The Devil’s Playground
James Twining The Black Sun & The Double Eagle
Alex Barclay Darkhouse
Martyn Waites The Mercy Seat
Carla Banks Forest of Souls [OK, she’s really Danuta Reah!]
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