What's the collective noun for a group of ancient mystery authors?

Fans of ancient mystery novels might be interested in this photo:

From left to right:  Steven Saylor, Lindsey Davis, me, Editor Extraordinaire Keith Kahla, and John Maddox Roberts.

Yes, I really am that much taller than the others, but in every other respect I was a dwarf amongst giants.

If you went up against this bunch in an ancient history trivia quiz, you would get slaughtered.

This was taken at the Bouchercon fan conference in 2010, the camera being wielded by Magistra Lindzey.  I have a copy but I was reminded of it last night when I was trawling the net, and came across it on Steven Saylor's web site.  (The image here is a direct link of his copy.)

Despite the three of them having written ancient mysteries at the top of their field for decades, this was the first time Roberts, Davis and Saylor had all three been in the same place at the same time, so, an historic event!

The Night Things Changed

So I am sitting next to my agent Janet Reid at the Macavity awards at Bouchercon. Another of Janet's authors, Dana Cameron, is up for a Macavity for her short story The Night Things Changed.

The speaker gets to the short story award and calls out the nominees. With every name I can feel Janet tensing like a spring being wound tight.

"And the winner is...Dana Cameron!"

Everyone else is clapping politely. The over-wound spring beside me has exploded. Janet has shot into the air, cheering loudly and clapping. My ears are ringing. Lots of people are looking our way.

That's the sort of agent you want to have.

Congratulations Dana!

Amazing people I met at Bouchercon

I've been putting off this post for days, because I'm about to do the near-impossible by telling you about the amazing people I met at Bouchercon, the mystery fan conference. I'm not going to describe the conference, I'm sure many people will do that better than me, and by the time I get this post finished they probably already will have. Instead I want to tell you about the people who amazed me personally. There are two problems with this. Firstly, words fail me in a few cases, and secondly, I am in total fear of leaving someone out. I wouldn't be susprised if there's a followup post to this one.

Jeremiah Healy. When I arrived at the hotel I wandered about the foyer like a lost sheep, looking for friends. There were people attending who I knew, I just didn't know what most of them looked like. This left me staring at people's stomachs, which would have been rather odd were that not where most of the name tags hung. When I ran out of stomachs and still hadn't seen a name I recognized, I hung about, forlorn. Jeremiah spotted me for a clueless newbie, introduced himself, took me by the arm, and forcibly introduced me to people. He's a kind man and a fine host. I couldn't have delved into Bouchercon as quickly as I did without him (and might still be staring at stomachs).

The first person Jeremiah introduced me to was Ruth Dudley Edwards. She writes satyrical mysteries. The measure of her kindness is that when Janet tapped me on the shoulder, Ruth told her to be nice to me.

Janet Reid. I'm sorry, but all the tales of snark and shark are utter rubbish. She's lovable. It's worth signing with her just to enjoy her generosity as a hostess to her authors. I'm quite sure Patrick and Dan would agree.

Patrick Lee. You're going to be reading The Breach. It's scary how good it is. Patrick and I talked a little about his next story. He's such a quiet, unassuming guy, but he comes up with plots I couldn't have thought of in a million years. The moment I heard it I was fascinated. You will be too.

Dan Krokos. I'd call him sweet except guys don't say things like that about other guys. I'm pretty sure Dan was the youngest person there. I have a permanent inferiority complex after meeting Dan. He completes a book every 6 months.

Juliet Blackwell wrote Secondhand Spirits, a fun story of a witch who runs an antique clothing store in Haight-Ashbury. I'd seen the cover and read the first chapter on her web site before I met her, and I have to say the cover is one of the best I've ever seen. After I met her, I knew I wanted to read the book, because Juliet is an amazingly fun person. I'm halfway through it as I write this. I suspect Juliet and I share an appreciation of faintly ridiculous situations.

As far as I can tell, Juliet and the amazing Sophie Littlefield are evil twins. Frankly, I'd go to the next Bouchercon purely to meet them again. Sophie wrote A Bad Day For Sorry, which you may have seen Janet raving about. Like me, she's a Minotaur author. If the book is anything like its author, then it's way cool.

Sophie and Juliet are my new image consultants. Stay tuned for a whole new Gary. This arrangement was made after a couple of glasses of wine but I don't regret it (yet).

Stuart Neville is one of the nicest guys you could hope to meet, in addition to having written the utterly awesome Ghosts of Belfast. In fact he's such good company we stayed up drinking until 3am. As far as I'm concerned it was well worth it for his company, though poor Stuart may have felt differently next morning when he had to get up in time to check out and take a flight. Sorry Stuart. Seriously, read Ghosts of Belfast.

When I saw the name John Maddox Roberts on the attendee list I made it a personal mission to track him down and tell him he was my hero. John Roberts was the first person ever to write an ancient historical mystery: the SPQR series, featuring Decius Metellus. He invented the ancient mystery, and the rest of us are following the basic structure he devised. Despite my search John found me first, because Jeremiah told John I was looking for him. John very kindly spent most of a morning talking with me about the art of the ancient mystery, and throughout the conversation my brain was looping on OH MY GOD I'M TALKING HISTORICAL MYSTERIES WITH JOHN MADDOX ROBERTS. I learned more about writing for my field in those few hours than the rest of the week combined.

Cara Black writes the Paris Mysteries starring Aimee Leduc. I'd read some of them long before Bouchercon and I'll be reading them all now, because Cara is a friend. (And I'll add she helped Stuart and I along with that 3am target...). Cara and Stuart put a lot of effort into thinking of a title for my first book! My first title is still up in the air, but perhaps not for much longer after their determined attempt produced some fine and frequently hilarious ideas. Acropolis Now deserves special mention.

Kelli Stanley is a fellow Minotaur author who came up with an astonishing idea: Roman noir. Kelli is a for-real scholar fluent in both Latin and Ancient Greek. The most amazing thing I heard at Bouchercon was Kelli saying, "I wasn't happy with the translations of Catallus so I did my own." Despite which she's written something which is pure noir entertainment, but in Roman Britain. Wow.

Tasha Alexander and Andrew Grant met for the first time at last year's Bouchercon. At this year's they're engaged! Plenty of people are urging them to get married at the next. The ceremony would certainly make an interesting addition to the program in between the panel discussions. I want it on record I was the first person to suggest Tasha and Andrew write a book together. Andrew's brother Lee Child said no the moment I suggested it, and so did Janet when she heard my brilliant idea. With support like that, what could possibly go wrong? Remember, you heard it here first. But sadly I don't think Tasha and Andrew will be co-writing any time soon.

I met Peter Rozovsky of the fascinating Detectives Without Borders. Peter moderated one of the most fun and interesting panels, Lost in Translation, on the joys of translating mysteries between languages.

Yrsa Sigurðardóttir is an icelandic writer who was on Peter's panel and I got to meet her later. She had interesting things to say about the challenge of writing crime in a country which has almost none.

Robert Pepin, who translates books into and out of French and publishes his own line of mysteries in France. Robert has forever tagged me in the minds of the attendees of the translation panel as, "That Australian guy."

Jonathon Quist looks much more like a writer than I do. It was a pleasure to meet and thank him in person for getting me a ticket for the Getty Villa before I arrived. It's great when tweet friends become real friends. Thanks Jonathon!

It's been two days since Bouchercon closed, and I'm missing them all already. I understand now why people go to conferences. I'll have to go next year for more.