Kate Flora here. It’s not my day to blog, but today’s scheduled blogger is lost in a sea of confusion. Not surprising. This weekend, many of your friendly neighborhood Maine Crime Writers were gathered at the Glickman Library in Portland for the inaugural Maine Crime Wave, the Maine crime writing community’s own day to get together and make each other’s head’s explode.
Okay. I don’t mean that literally. Despite a closing panel that discussed crime scenes and buried bodies and ended with some details about who has jurisdiction in different parts of the state to fish a body out of the water, attendees departed with their own body parts intact. It’s just that the inside of their heads were bursting with information and ideas.
The Maine Crime Wave began when an idea that had been bouncing around for years solidified into a
committee at another mystery conference, The New England Crime Bake. It got its name from MCW alum Paul Doiron. On what was very short notice, the committee–me, Paul, Brenda Buchanan, and Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance director Josh Bodwell–targeted April 19th, created a schedule, and organized panels and workshops and recruited presenters. Then the word went out, and we waited for Maine’s crime writers to sign up.
Ever give a dinner party where no one showed up on time? Well, it was like that. There was a flurry of excitement and then, well, uh–not much. Then MPBN, the Press Herald, the Bangor Daily News, and other newspapers began to pick up our theme: Why is it, if Maine is the safest state in the country, that it is so attractive to crime writers. As a setting? As a place to live? Why is there a perception of Maine as a dark, mysterious place?
Soon the committee was sending around this quote from Conan Doyle:
“Good heavens!” I cried. “Who would associate crime with these dear old homesteads?”
“They always fill me with a certain horror. It is my belief, Watson, founded upon my experience, that the lowest and vilest alleys in London do not present a more dreadful record of sin than does the smiling and beautiful countryside.”
“You horrify me!”
“But the reason is very obvious. The pressure of public opinion can do in the town what the law cannot accomplish. There is no lane so vile that the scream of a tortured child, or the thud of a drunkard’s blow, does not beget sympathy and indignation among the neighbours, and then the whole machinery of justice is ever so close that a word of complaint can set it going, and there is but a step between the crime and the dock. But look at these lonely houses, each in its own fields, filled for the most part with poor ignorant folk who know little of the law. Think of the deeds of hellish cruelty, the hidden wickedness which may go on, year in, year out, in such places, and none the wiser.”
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1892)
Sherlock Holmes in “The Copper Beeches” (Doubleday p. 323)
Saturday’s lineup included: Gerry Boyle, Julia Spencer-Fleming, Chris Holm, Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett, and Paul Doiron. There were workshops on plot, character, setting, and the challenge of creating suspense in fiction. The keynote was by the always charming Tess Gerritsen. Editors including Tiffany Schofield from Five Star/Cengage, Genevieve Morgan from Islandport Press, and Jane Karker from Maine Authors Publishing joined Julie Hennrikus, President of Sisters in Crime New England, to discuss the Business of Writing.
The day closed with a retired Portland Detective Sergeant, Bruce Coffin, and Roger Guay, a retired Game Warden who is now a private investigator, giving an inside look at how crimes are investigated and crime scenes are handled in Maine.
Maine Crime Writers regulars Lea Wait, Susan Vaughan, and John Clark were there.
You know you’ve done a good job when no one wants to leave.
Mystery writers are a fun and generous lot, and it’s a great community. It was good that we had a chance to get together. Friday night at the bar and Saturday at the conference.
But where were you?
So if you’re feeling left out, mark your calendars for next April, and look for the announcement.