Saturday, May 20, qualified as a good day even by my dickish standards.
I’d never been to the Gaithersburg Book Festival before, mainly because it’s always on a Saturday and I’d have to leave the house. Ed Aymar (more on him later) suggested me as a moderator for a panel, the folks at GBF took him up on it, and I had no graceful excuse not to go.
Everyone associated could not have been nicer, and the preparations were clearly first rate. I’ve never been treated nicer at an event, not even when I was the main attraction. (VIP parking.) The Beloved Spouse and I got there early to drop off books and to catch Austin Camacho’s thought-provoking talk on black private eyes, or, more accurately, the dearth thereof. (There will be more on this topic in the weeks to come.)
Austin’s gig led into the aforementioned Ed Aymar (who gets around more than a herpes virus) interviewing Jen Conley about her short story collection, Cannibals: Stories from the Edge of the Pine Barrens, which is nominated for an Anthony. Ed broke the ice with doughnuts, then Jen carried him for 45 minutes.
At 12:15 I had the privilege of moderating a discussion with Matthew Betley and Rick Campbell. Both write military thrillers, which is a little outside my normal wheelhouse, but the stretch was invigorating. Both were excellent panelists with plenty to say and engaging manners. I’d love to meet them both again for a less formal conversation, especially after Matt wins a Barry for his novel, Overwatch.
Next up was Neely Tucker interviewing Christina Kovac and Adam Brookes about how their journalistic backgrounds affect and inform their fiction. Another interesting set that could have lasted longer.
There was more to come, and we unfortunately had to bail before Nik Korpon spoke with David Swinson and Mark Hannan. We had things to take care of before the evening festivities, for which we needed to be in fine fettle.
Noir at the Bar has become an international institution. (Fuck Peter Rozovsky.) Ed Aymar has pretty much made the DC events his own and no one is complaining. Last year he encouraged audience participation by allowing the listeners to choose a winner, who received an engraved dagger. This year’s prize: an engraved machete. Ed don’t play.
Neither did the readers. The upstairs area at the Wonderland Ballroom was filled for the middle event in what was billed as a “Noir at the Bar Crawl,” which opened Friday night in Richmond and would conclude on Sunday in Baltimore. Ed assembled a first-rate line up: himself, Kim Alexander, Jen Conley (also doubling up), yours truly (who rarely falls so early in any alphabetical list), Nik Korpon, Adam Meyer, defending champion Eryk Pruitt, J.D. Smith, David Swinson, Neely Tucker, and the man who knows more euphemisms for female genitalia than any three cunts I know, Steve Weddle.
I’ve been to several Noirs at Bars; none matched this. Not a weak story in the bunch, but a few stood out, notably Weddle’s Scott Phillips-esque examination of TV’s The Love Boat, Ed Aymar’s whorehouse robbery, Neely Tucker’s delicious dialog, Jen Conley’s true confessions, and Nik Korpon branching out into performance art that included audience participation. None were sufficient to prevent Eryk Pruitt from defending his crown, as he walked away with cutlery for the second year in a row.
I’ve had better days, but none as a writer. Many and sincere thanks to everyone connected with the Gaithersburg Book Festival. May 19, 2018 is already reserved on my calendar. As for Noir at the Bar, that’s a special group of reprobates. I’ve been to several, and no one puts on a show like Ed Aymar. If you’re in the area for the next one and not easily offended, there’s no way to have more fun.