Why I Go to Bouchercon


Among the highlights of my year is Bouchercon, the World Mystery Convention, held every fall at locations that rotate around the country. Jon Jordan, chair of this year’s Bouchercon, asked participants for their most treasured Bouchercon memories. Here’s one of mine.

What I really wanted to be when I grew up was a cartoonist. When I visited my older sister in college she introduced me to one of the freshman counselors, Garry Trudeau, who was already famous for writing and drawing “Doonesbury.” It didn’t help when I took basic drawing my freshman year and flunked out — literally got an F. (How bad do you have to be to get an F in basic drawing, right?)

But a man can still dream . . .

At Bouchercon in Baltimore, I accosted a DC Comics editor named Will Dennis at one of the parties. I told him I had a subplot in a novel I was writing at the time, VANISHED, involving a kid who was doing a graphic novel that would contain an important clue, and I asked him if he could give me a quick “Comics For Dummies” lesson so I could pretend to know what I was talking about. Will said sure and introduced me to the guy he was sitting with — a comic book writer named Brian Azzarello. The name was vaguely familiar — was it possible this was the genius behind “Joker,” which became the movie Dark Knight? And the hardboiled crime classic 100 Bullets?

Yep. That was the guy.

Then I came up with the idea to actually do a comic book based on the fictional one in Vanished. And Brian Azzarello volunteered to write it.

Very cool.

Will Dennis helped me find an artist, Benito Gallego, who drew in a sort of retro Silver Age comic-book style, which I wanted. The result was The Cowl. Which — I can say it, since I didn’t write it or illustrate it — turned out to be pretty awesome.

All because I was boorish one day at Bouchercon.