Dispatches from Malice Domestic

PhelanburkeIf you want to know who won the Agatha Awards, check here.

Pari Noskin Taichert blogs on the honor of being nominated over at Murderati.

And because I wanted to offer a different perspective on the conference, I asked St. Martin’s Minotaur Publicity Manager Rachel Ekstrom to report from the field:

Hi everyone.  I’m the Publicity Manager for Minotaur, St. Martin’s mystery and crime fiction imprint. Sarah asked me to write up a brief report of Malice Domestic from my point of view. This was my third Malice, and I was delighted to be back. When I go to conferences, my main goals are to:

  1. Connect with authors.  A lot of my authors go to Malice, and it’s a good occasion to meet face to face, and get to know each other beyond the phone calls and emails.  We do talk shop but not always.

WinspearwallMinotaur and St. Martin’s had quite a few authors in attendance: Kathryn R. Wall (right, with Jacqueline Winspear & Rhys Bowen), Sarah Stewart Taylor, Jane Cleland, Rhys Bowen, David Skibbins, Robin Hathaway, Cynthia Riggs, Donna Andrews, Michael Allen Dymmoch, Vincent O’Neil, Con Lehane, Alex Sokoloff, Joan Hess, Camille Minichino, and Cathy Pickens. I caught up with most of them, but was surprised at how hard it was to find people in the crowd between events. Of course, lots of people hang out at the hospitality room or the bar. I got to talk with more authors, some published by other houses, such as Marcia Talley, Rochelle Krich, Claudia Bishop, Jan Burke (above center, with Susan Anderson and Twist Phelan), Mary Jane Raffini, and Sue Ann Jaffarian.

Damatotalley(Barbara D’Amato and Marcia Talley pose for the camera)

  1. Talk to reviewers. Conventions are a chance to shake hands with the people I might not meet in New York, and to talk about Minotaur’s upcoming books. This time I was happy to talk to Maureen Corrigan of the Washington Post and Fresh Air, Bill Thompson of Eye on Books, Dawn Dowdle, and Karen Kullgren, among others.

  2. Learn more about the mystery world and soak up the scene. It’s always nice to meet the fans, who make it all possible for the authors and publishers in the first place. I was glad to talk with Margaret Fenton, who organizes the Murder in the Magic City conference and agent Domenic Abel. It was great to chat with the delightful Christina Hogrebe and Kelly Harms from the Jane Rotrosen


I love going to panels, and it’s hard to choose which ones to go to, as many of my authors were on different panels at the same time, and lots of topics looked intriguing. Some highlights were:

Using the Mystery to Confront Social Issues. The panelists and audience touched on the subjects of adoptive single mothers, race, disabilities, national health insurance, war (the

Vietnam war, no one was touching Iraq yet), and polygamy.

Chick Lit Mysteries: We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby! This panel was lively and hilarious. Some of these authors did not start out trying to write chick lit, but set out to write satire or “wry social commentary” -I think this is Elaine Viets’ phrase.

No Slackers Need Apply: Hard-Working Detectives and Their Demanding Dream Jobs

At first I was misled by this title-I though this would just be a talk about the different jobs sleuths have in crime fiction (taxi driver, lawyer, pet sitter…) but it was an academic and insightful lecture on mystery fiction’s important place in literature. Maureen Corrigan also teaches a class at Georgetown, and I highly recommend getting a transcript of this talk.

The main point was that though mysteries sometimes have the reputation of being mindless escapes, they are all about thinking, and the subject of work. They are about “finding out the truth in the world.” The work of detectives and amateur sleuths (I’m paraphrasing here) is demanding, autonomous, unites intellectual with physical labor, and provides meaning by restoring order.  I could go on and on about this, but to end on a high note–an audience member asked Corrigan to weigh in on the current

state of mysteries and she responded that mystery fiction is the most exciting and ambitious branch of American literature.

Overall, it was wonderful spending time with others who care deeply about mysteries–this was especially obvious during the moving and often funny remarks at the Agatha ceremony.

Kathryn Hall Page, the Guest of Honor, had a lot of emotion in her voice.  I think it was she who said that Malice is truly a reader’s convention, first and foremost, and she spoke of the of readers of traditional mysteries as a family.

Robert Barnard, who got the Malice Lifetime Achievement Award, joked that he had only been writing for 32 years, not yet a lifetime, and hoped his next honor wouldn’t be as “Ghost” of Honor.   

Finally, there was Navy event going on at the same time as the Agathas, with lots of men in uniform… and many Malice attendees made comments like “those guys should join our party”, etc.  As Malice seemed to be about 90% female, it might have been a good idea!

I hope to see everyone again next year.