Lone Wolves and Loose Cannons
Bruce DaSilva (moderator), Jerry Ackerman, Mick Herron, Andrew Grant, Ben McPherson
The lone wolf/loose cannon character represents:
- A savior who comes in from the outside to sort out the mess. Like Lee Child's Jack Reacher, he shows up, saves the day, then departs.
- Capable of doing things other people wish they could, or at least wish they could do without suffering any consequences.
- Obliged to help those weaker than themselves, or at least in need of their assistance.
- Some archetypes: The vigilante (Dirty Harry) who operates outside the rules. The day job/secret life, often in disguise (The Scarlet Pimpernel).
Dark Romance and Dark Smiles
James R. Tuck (moderator), Liesa Malik, Julia McDermott, Cara Brookins
- Malik: Described cozy mysteries as, "Nothing better than a little murder among friends."
- Tuck: Writes a lot of emotionally damaged/stunted characters. When love is introduced, it has the potential to help or hurt. Also, being damaged makes one vulnerable, a target.
- The story in love (even if it's not the main storyline) is how it can swing from asset to liability.
- The question came up about the necessity of a love interest for a strong, independent female protagonist. Historically, women needed men to survive. These days, that isn't the viewpoint. Malik said she hoped her female protagonist grows up to be Jessica Fletcher. Brookins pointed out that you need to know your audience - millennials have a different reason for romance (not for survival).
Managing Red Herrings in the Mystery Narrative
G.M. Malliet (moderator), Carlene O'Neil, Diane Vallere, Bryn Bonner, Linda Lovely
- "Red herring": A planted clue meant to mislead the reader.
- Vallere had a character blurt out a confession early on in one of her books, so you know that character is innocent. Someone throwing themselves under the bus to protect a loved one they think has committed a crime.
- Malliet: Agatha Christie was a master of the red herring (among other things) and would plant a clue in early chapters, knowing the reader would have forgotten it by the end of the book.
- Who they admire for red herrings: Bonner: Jeffrey Deaver (master of the twist at the end), O'Neil: Carolyn Hart (The Locked Room), Lovely: The BBC series Death in Paradise and Foyle's War, Vallere: The BBC series Prime Suspect.
Forensics & Technology and the Changing Face of Criminal Investigation
Neal Griffin (moderator), Kathy Reichs, Anne Hillerman, Ryan Quinn, Dr. Alex Lettau
- Hillerman is the daughter of author Tony Hillerman and has continued his Native American series. She has fun with the flip side of dependence on technology because her stories take place in remote areas where cell phones don't work.
- Some advances in technology: Establishment of databases, the ability to track people via their cellphones, 3-D printers being used to create skulls for students to use for study.
- Advice for using technology in stories: Don't get bogged down in science as a narrative - you're not writing a textbook. Keep in mind that medicine is not an exact science.
- The next big things: Datamining is growing exponentially, and it's not just the government. Google, Facebook and companies dedicated to gathering information. Also on the horizon: We are moving into an area where DNA can be used to not only ID people, but to reveal their physical characteristics. We're not quite there yet and it will need to be tested in court.
Beyond The Wire, Bosch and True Detective: TV Crime Evolves
Lee Goldberg (moderator), Megan Abbott, Alison Gaylin, Christa Faust, Tim O'Mara
Bouchercon, like many conferences, doesn't give descriptions of their panels, just titles. This usually isn't an issue, but I was expecting this session to be a discussion about specific shows, but it had to do more with content the panelists would like to see.
- Faust's colorful background includes working in the sex trade and she has brought that experience into her books. She seemed kind of obsessed with the desire to see more alternative sexuality and fewer attractive people on TV.
- The appeal of shows like Law & Order is in how they wrap up crime in every episode - it gives them a built-in comfort factor for viewers. O'Mara has been a schoolteacher in New York City for twenty-nine years and has a brother who is a cop - he didn't like the idea of softening the reality of the situation to make it more appealing to audiences.
- One of the novels Abbott is most famous for is Dare Me, set in the world of high school cheerleaders. O'Mara commented that Abbott writes kids so accurately it may change the way teens are portrayed.
- Gaylin pointed out that serialized shows keep viewers coming back to see what happens next. O'Mara referred to it as "the novelization of television" and also feels it contributes to binge-viewing.
- Goldberg on launching new shows: Netflix did a study showing the most viewers will give a show three episodes to hook them. If you can't do it by then, you've lost them.
- Several of the panelists had crazy stories about dealing with execs and producers, but as usual Goldberg had the best. One of his novels, The Walk, is about a TV producer trying to get from downtown L.A. to his home in the San Fernando Valley after a mega-quake has struck. In discussions he was asked if it was really necessary to make the protagonist a TV producer and Goldberg allowed that the guy could be anyone. He was then asked if the protagonist could be six midwestern cheerleaders. I don't think The Walk will be gracing our screens anytime soon.