New Orleans – Bouchercon Day 5


Today’s the last day of Bouchercon. No gym this morning – rolling over in bed, for an other hour, won out. I was due to chair one of the last panels of the festival today. Having sat through some great sessions I scratched my head to think of something original for my panel to do. In the most amazing burst of creativity I came up with the stunning idea of getting the panel members to ‘read from their work’ – I know, crazy.

My panel consisted of Mary Coley, Maegan Beaumont, Jim Sanderson and Matt FitzSimmonds.

It’s not always easy being the moderator on panels. In some cases the authors can dry up and leave you stranded, short on questions to ask them and facing an audience that can smell blood. In this case it was a breeze. The four of them sailed through with an entertaining hour of reading, chat and laughs.

‘Me, Maegan, Jim, Mary and Matt. It’s not often I feel small but Matt is six feet six.’

With my formal duties over there was last event on the calendar where the guests of honour were on a final panel. Chaired by Heather Graham we had Harlan Coben, David Morrel, Craig Robertson, Alexander Sokoloff, Harley Jane Kozak, Ruth Jordan and Jon Jordan. Heather had fun with the questions and the audience ate it all up.

‘The All Star Line Up.’

It was then time for ‘goodbyes’, ‘farewells’, ‘see you laters’ and ‘see you soons’.

With the festival officially over I put on my shorts and went for a wander in the city – and a strange thing happened. Well, strange to me.

This is not my first time in New Orleans. I was here back in the late eighties, a couple of times, with my wife, Lesley. Back then we went for a walk in a shopping centre called the Riverwalk. It’s still standing, refurbed but still there. On the last visit, nearly thirty years back, we visited a shop that sold fudge. In full sight of the customers, and on top of white slabs, hot fudge was poured out, left to cool before it was moulded into shapes. It’s an enduring memory of that trip. I have vivid recollection of watching the ‘chefs’ chasing the hot fudge around the table, catching it just before it flowed over the edge and cutting it it up to sell it. So why do I mention this? Well, who knew it would still be there, white marble tables and all? Hot fudge was dully being poured and shaped. It was  a tiny time slip in my life as I stood, watching the ‘chefs’ at work.

‘This photo will mean nothing to anyone but me – but talk about nostalgia.’

Next up was a trek, deep into the French Quarter. According to the unreliable health app on my iPhone I walked ten miles. Mmmm. Whatever the truth, I do know is that the walk was further than I intended. At one point I was so off the beaten track I needed Google Maps to find my way back to the hordes.

‘New Orleans – the ‘back end of nowhere.’

Near the end of the trek I heard drumming coming from what turned out to be ‘Louis Armstrong’ park – a lovely backwater not far from the commercial district of New Orleans. I’m not quite sure what was going down, you can judge for yourselves if you click the link, but it looked like a therapy session to me – anyway up, the drum beat is still banging around in my head.

The evening was heading for a quiet one until I got a Facebook message from Craig Robertson telling me a ‘few’ people were off to the French Quarter for a drink and some music. The ‘few’ turned out to be Craig and the ‘Slice Girls’ who, with the exception of Susi Hollliday, eventually retired to be replaced by Stuart Neville and some of his publisher friends (they just happened to be visiting the same public house).

I forget where the conversation went after this but the taxi home was a late one.

A fitting end to Bouchercon.