NoirCon, Brigadoon, Writerage, and Two Hard Boiled Eggs

The cave at Brigadoon

I realise I never got around to finishing the write up of Noircon. Life intervened. There was that September that would never leave! And then the October that barely shouted hello as it scarpered past. And now we’re past the midpoint of November and eek! So much to be done — thus, I need to be doing it and not so much with the blogging.

Besides, life lately? Tappa tappa tappa. Writing whether for myself or as part of the grading process (woefully behind on that >_<) means I’m hunched over some one of my various bits of technology a lot of the time lately. At least with the holiday break this week, a good chunk of that tapping is on a novella and the novel, so hurrah.

Jingle & Bell, the neighbours

I had a lovely weekend at Brigadoon, AKA Universal Pathways, on a retreat with my HVPN pals and a couple of cutie donkeys. Not much work done, of course, but a way to recharge the creative and human batteries.

Let’s see: NoirCon — Saturday kicked off with the True Crime panel. Alison Gaylon, Megan Abbott, Wallace Stroby and Dennis Tafoya chatted about their favourite true crime books and writers and so did the audience and wow, this panel could have gone on all day long and no one would have objected. From vicarious taboo thrills to trying to understand one’s messed up family, folks were keen.

Robert Olen Butler’s keynote struck a chord with me partly because it was the most overtly academic piece but also because he knows that weird balancing act of being both inside and outside academia. He teaches MFA students, but heartily defines that genre: “Literary means ‘doesn’t sell jackshit’.” Heh. His unified field theory on fiction is that the best stuff is about yearning and described the tepid sort of lit fic as ‘no frame around the picture’ (which is what a lot of people object to as the genre has solidified in recent decades; people like story).

He then broke down what he called cinematically written scenes: the opening of Great Expectations and the moment when Spade gets the call about Archer in The Maltese Falcon. Excellent analysis and touching on one of the repeated themes of the con, that television and film have had a lot of influence on crime writing lately — and that’s not a bad thing.

The Jewish Noir panel featured Jay A. Gertzman, William Lashner and Kenneth Wishnia who quipped, “Thanks for breaking the Sabbath with us.” There was also a comment on the fact that the Jewish comedians always come on before the strippers (the Burlesque panel being next). There was a great discussion of the quintessentially noirish outlook of Jewish philosophy: that you must try to heal a chaotic world, an impossible and endless task, and how neatly the work of David Goodis fits into that.

The Burlesque Noir panel had Susana Mayer, Lulu Lollipop, Timaree Schmit and Frank De Blasé. A part of the audience had their tongues hanging out a little too much, hoping desperately for some skin. Instead of dissing romance writers (as many people did throughout the weekend) I think crime writers need to get together with the rom folks and find out how to get a little more satisfaction in their lives. Lulu even brought that up, saying she’d heard a lot about blood and murder on the panels, but considering how much noir is about sex, there was scant mention of it. A fun panel nonetheless with some terrific sassy women who know their history. And a great recommendation of a 70s art book:

The final big panel was the interview with legendary author Lawrence Block who was his usual amusing self: “Where will you spend eternity? On a fucking panel!” Nonetheless he managed to amuse everyone with his tales of travels and writing and Swierczynski managed to find some questions he’d not already addressed in various panels over his long career, so everyone was happy.

The next NoirCon will be in 2014. Consider checking it out if you like all things noirish.

What else? I have had my bookshelves featured at Overflowing Libraries and my own self featured at In the Booth with Ruth.

Oh, and two hard-boiled eggs!


  1. I like donkeys. (Jokes about feelings of kinship with asses are probably well-deserved.)

  2. “Literary” means the people using the term seriously don’t know jackshit. But they sell OK, just like everything else does. when enough of the herd can be culled into the buying-THE DESCENDANTS or Marge Piercy or whathaveyou pen. Everything not having that sort of pen, no matter what it is any longer (even romance is starting to suffer thus, as you and your peers in the field know), sells, if fortunate, Acceptably.

    1. katelaity says:

      The only lit people who sell okay (or better) are the handful who make up the NYT-favoured few. The rest make no money at all as lit journals do not usually pay, so they have academic position in creative writing to turn out more writers writing for each other in the little journals no one else reads.

      1. Yes, but…this is increasingly true of, at least, all fiction writers…though you might substitute other Marks of Cain in the stead of the jiggered NYT Bestseller list or coverage in the NYT BOOK REVIEW for other sorts of fiction. The steady audiences all sorts of fiction have had are shrinking in some ways, while growing in others…but the latter tend to be less remunerative so far, with the odd exception of the ebook superstars.

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