Monday, February 12, 2007

Miss me?

[Charles here - days early or days late, you decide.]

Forgive me if it’s been a few weeks since I wrote but the last two weekends were spent far from home.

Way back at the start of the month I was in Seattle, Washington for Left Coast Crime. The best part of many conferences is spending time with old friends and meeting new ones and the serendipitous connections that come from it all. For example, I was hanging out at the bar with Kirk Russell (witty raconteur and author of the John Marquez mystery series) he introduced me to a pair of authors he said I had to read. Given the man behind the recommendation, how could I resist?

Eric Stone’s The Living Room of the Dead is a fast paced story that takes place in Hong Kong (mostly) and I got to tell you, the guy pulls no punches. Where some authors (me) would shy away from having their protagonist engage is slightly unethical/immoral behavior, Eric takes us right in. It’s intense and damn good. Thanks go out to both Eric and to Kirk.

On Kirk’s recommendation I also bought Tim Maleeny’s book, Stealing the Dragon. No, that’s not true. I bought it because I couldn’t resist the cover. I know, I know, you can’t judge a book by its cover but in this case you can. The cover screams exotic, dangerous, steamy and irresistible and so far – I’m only 100 pages in – it’s all that and more. A container ship runs aground at Alcatraz Island. The crew is dead and in the hold the authorities find Chinese refugees being smuggled in to the States. Right there you got me – and it’s getting better by the page. It’s part San Fran, part Hong Kong and all great reading. Don’t miss this one, kids.

Okay, fast forward from Seattle to Birmingham, Alabama and the Murder in Magic City event, organized by a human firecracker called Margaret Fenton. I’m going to devote my entire blog to this fantastic event later this week, but I bring it up now because there’s a Seattle connection.

There were twenty wonderful authors there and every minute was memorable – again, details to follow – but one thing I will always remember (or try to anyway) was The Great Barbecue Quest, which is also a perfect segue into a Blatant Name Dropping story.

On Saturday night Laura Lippman (Tess Monaghan series and others) and her husband, David Simon (HBO’s The Wire and others) drove Mark Aresnault (his Gravewriter was one of my top picks for ’06), Tim Maleeny (from above) and me (nothing worth reading) all over Birmingham to determine which establishment had the best barbecue. We started at Dreamland, a place we were warned was in ‘a bad part of town’. Obviously the person who warned us doesn’t get out much. The food was good – nothing to compare to The Dinosaur Bar-B-Q here in Rochester though – and the service was fast and friendly. We then set out for the Half Moon but it was closed. Ten pm on a weekend and you close? Come on, Half Moon. We finished the night off with a second entire meal at Jim ‘N Nicks Bar-B-Q where the service was again great and the food tasty and the pies yummy. The winner? Jim ‘N Nicks had better pulled pork, Dreamland had better ribs and Martha’s Pies were delicious. I would have liked to cram in one of the Half Moon’s legendary chocolate covered cookies, but there you go.

So back to Tim Maleeny. A chance meeting in Seattle led to a rewarding book purchase and he also picked up my bar tab at Dreamland. For both I am grateful.

Later in the week I’ll give you two perfect reasons to go to Birmingham next February.

No comments: