I recently attended the Public Library Association conference held in beautiful downtown Indianapolis. In spite of the fact that I’ve been a gainfully employed professional librarian for 20 years now, this was my first attendance at a national library conference. I have to say that it was one of the best experiences of my career thus far. I was able to go to sessions about readers’ advisory and collection development, as well as programming, merchandising of books, and ways to increase circulation. If you visit the First Floor, in person or on Facebook, sometime in the next few months you will likely run into my ideas that have been put into practice in some way.
But by a wide margin, my favorite two sessions focused on mystery books. I am the librarian responsible for purchasing the mystery books for the Main Library and I also am the facilitator for the Red Herring Book Club. I am also a lifelong lover of mysteries, beginning with Encyclopedia Brown and moving on to Agatha Christie by the time I was in my early teens. So, you can see why the opportunity to talk about mystery books and authors, and to meet some of them in person appealed to me immensely.
My Friday morning session was entitled, “Mystery Authors Revealed.” On the panel were 6 mystery/thriller authors, some new and some that have been writing for a while. Each author had exactly 10 minutes to introduce themselves and their book(s). Of course they all talked in some way about their love of libraries and librarians. One even mentioned that a library conference would be a GREAT setting for a mystery, which received a resounding laugh of approval from the audience.
Now, I’d like to present to you the authors I met at that session. You may be familiar with some, but hopefully I can find you at least one new person whose books you’d like to check out. In alphabetical order…
Jeff Abbott – This guy is funny, with a capital F and UNNY! He’s an established author who’s written a few series, as well as some standalone books. He wanted to make sure all of us librarians in the room knew that his very first book, published in the mid-1990s and winner of both the Agatha and Macavity awards, was about a murder in a library. But he was with us to talk about the latest book in the Sam Capra series, Downfall (This series started with Adrenaline, in case you’re like me and prefer to begin at the beginning). The protagonist is an ex-CIA agent who is about to become a father, when everything goes terribly wrong. Sam needs to use all of his skills to track down the bad guys. He suggested that these books may appeal to reluctant readers, because they contain LOTS of action.
Sophie Hannah – Sophie is British and witty, that dry wit that the Brits tend to have. She likes to create suspense and writes scary thrillers without a lot of gore. She told us that her latest book, The Orphan Choir, was so creepy it scared her as she was writing it! One of the things that excited me most was when Sophie told us that Agatha Christie’s family commissioned her to write a new Hercule Poirot mystery. It will be coming out this September!!!
Frank Lentricchia – This author is also a literature and film studies professor at Duke University. During his few minutes with us, he read a passage from his latest book, The Dog Killer of Utica (to be published in April 2014). This man is a wonderful reader to listen to and a master wordsmith. This series starts with The Accidental Pallbearer. Eliot Conte is a PI in his mid-50s who has a short fuse, which leads to a checkered past, but his motives and intentions are usually good. These books are really a love story for the down-and-out Utica, NY.
M.L. Longworth – Mary Lou is a Toronto native who resides in France with her husband. She is absolutely charming and I enjoyed hearing her tales of the French countryside. She actually wrote about speaking with us in her blog . Mary Lou is a fellow foodie, so both her talk and her mysteries resonate with me. Her mystery series is set in France and the latest in the series is Death in the Vines.
Laura McHugh – She is the debut author of The Weight of Blood, which is set in Ozarks in southern Missouri. Like many rural places, blood ties are the law above all else. This can lead to some terrifying situations. Laura grew up for a time in that area and always felt like an outsider in her own town. She was very gracious and as a first-time author, very excited to be talking with us.
Peter Swanson – Peter is another debut novel author, but is already an extremely accomplished poet. His first book is The Girl with a Clock for a Heart. This is a dark, suspense-filled book about what happens when the one you never forgot is the one you should stay away from, but can’t. It’s based on a short story/novella written previously, that an editor/agent wouldn’t let him forget about. Peter came across as very sweet, even a little shy, but spoke very passionately about writing and his first novel.