“Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “A sheer pleasure.” – Tana French. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville. “The effortless cool of Elmore Leonard at his peak.” – Ray Banks. “A fine writer at the top of his game.” – Lee Child.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Yo, We Be Trippin'

Hi-ho for the uneagerly awaited account of John and Dec's Most Excellent Adventure, aka the road-trip John McFetridge and Declan Burke are taking all the way from Toronto to the crazy mayhem that is Bouchercon 2008. I'll skip all the maudlin and sentimental stuff about how lovely John's family were when I got to meet them all on Saturday evening, pausing only to note that the ever-radiant Mrs McFetridge outdid herself with her gifts for the Princess Lilyput. Mind you, I really don't know if I should be inflicting a Blue Jays romper suit on a little girl, even if it does come in a fetching pink with blue trim ...
Anyhoos, upward and onward to Sleuth of Baker Street on Sunday afternoon (John pictured right, ravening hordes just out of picture), where J.D. and Marian proved perfect hosts. And so they should, having had loads of practice - they've been running the place for 26 years. The highlight of the gig was the guy who'd travelled all the way from Ottowa to see John, a rather impressive dedication to the cause. A reading was arranged, mainly to a group of students who weren't particularly interested in the books or their authors, but who had a school paper to write on book readings. Oh, the glamour of it all ... Afterwards J.D. took us out for a bite to eat and a few beers, and some intense speculation as to the real identity of Inger Ash Wolfe. What's that you say? You don't give a rat's ass either? Okay, moving swiftly on ...
Next up on the itinerary was Brattleboro, Vermont, which necessitated a long, long drive and no little shenanigans at the border crossing, when it was discovered that the Grand Viz's passport lacked some little doohickey that the post-9/11 paranoia had deemed essential. Between you and me, they don't do irony at the U.S. / Canada border crossing. God only knows how much fun it is at the U.S. / Mexico crossing ...
Manfully we ploughed on, overnighting in the delightful Herkimer. Is there a more poignant sight than a rain-drenched motel parking lot at 4.30am, as seen through jet-lagged eyes? No? Didn't think so. Actually, we weren't too far from Cooperstown, which might have made for a diverting couple of hours, but even it's closed at 4.30am. In fact, the only thing open for business was my pesky brain, which had me reading HITLER'S IRISHMEN in the bathroom until about 6am. Like, I know travel is supposed to broaden the mind, but, y'know ...
Happily, Mystery on Main Street in Brattleboro was a real tonic for this particular trooper. First there was the drive down through God's Country, which was just starting to flicker into a variegated blaze of reds, oranges, yellows and browns. The Mohawk Valley was particularly nice, and especially as McFetridge told me that the Native Americans who got kicked off the land all those hundreds of years ago are buying back the Mohawk Valley piece by piece, with money they've snaffled from the morons who frequent their reservation-based casino. Nice. Anyhoos, Brattleboro itself was beautiful - "A college town without the college," as Mystery on Main Street's David Lampe-Wilson it. David put on a very impressive spread for lunch, and a total of three people turned up for our reading, none of whom was working on a term paper. One of them, Michael, claims Kerry roots, and has just won a prize in the Alfred Hitchcock short story magazine. Which was nice. David reckoned that THE BIG O had hit the Top 5 in the bookstore's best-sellers list the previous week, on account of the impressive cover. Erm, okay, but what about the bit that comes between the covers?
A couple of cool things about Brattleboro. One, there's an outstanding warrant for the arrest of George Bush and Dick Cheney. Two, I spotted an LP (LP!) of Robert Frost reading his own poetry for seven dollars in the window of a shop next door to Mystery on Main Street. Seven dollars? Yoink! Finally, David Lampe-Wilson is a wonderfully genial host, and Mystery on Main Street is a fabulous bookstore. If you live anywhere near Vermont, do yourself a favour and check it out ...
So now it's Monday afternoon and we're heading for New York, and everything is going swimmingly until we miss a turn and get lost somewhere on the Upper East Side. Or thereabouts. "Look, it's New York," I told John, "there'll be another turn coming along fairly soon. Oh, there's one. Try that." Funnily enough, NY being laid out on a grid, it's pretty much impossible to get lost. Highlight of the first night was sneaking into Barnes & Noble near Columbus Circle and discovering THE BIG O bold as brass in the 'New Mystery' section, and only two copies left on the shelf. Yep, you're right, they probably only ordered three copies. Still, it was a nice buzz ...
Tuesday we scammed a free lunch from the folks at Harcourt, and went looking for Otto Penzler's Mysterious Bookstore.
We didn't find it. That grid malarkey is fine if you're in a car but hell on the feet. So we went to an Irish bar and got twisted, then went to see the new Coen Brothers movie back on Columbus Circle. Not great, is it? What was great was Central Park, where yours truly cut loose and went all uber-tourist on my own ass, complete with what seemed like a jug of Starbucks latte. Hell, when in Rome, drink Starbucks ... Oh, and it's true what they say about post-9/11 NY. The folk are so friendly it's like the start of a 1950s sci-fi movie about pod people. It's scary, but very nice.
Wednesday we headed for Philly, where Peter Rozovsky had organised a 'Noir at the Bar' at Fergie's. But I'll let Peter tell you about that one, and I'll get back to you tomorrow with some stultifying info about all the lovely people I've met at the Bouchercon in Baltimore. Peace, people.

6 comments:

bookwitch said...

That's the jug??

Anonymous said...

A friend of mine,while on holiday in the U.S.,made the mistake of photographing the desert in a zone near the Mexican Border.
He was immediately apprehended by the Border Guards who took him away and questioned him for hours.
Brattleboro seems a very nice place though.
Liking the Big O very much...
Ciao,
Marco

adrian mckinty said...

Pic of you and a cup of coffee? Hmmm.

The evidence is pouring in of various other beverages/crimes.

Peter Rozovsky said...

That's not the Barnes & Noble where someone dropped dead when McKinty was working, is it?

I did not discuss this on my own blog, but no one dropped dead at Fergie's.
==============
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
http://www.detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

Uriah Robinson said...

I love the idea of the Native Americans buying back the Mohawk Valley. The three great weapons utilized by the red man in his battle against the white man were the horse, the repeating rifle and the casino. The greatest of these and by far the most effective is the casino.

Conduit said...

Sounds like a fantastic trip. I am very, very jealous.