For the past five years it has been a happy July ritual to fly to the Big Apple and spend a week at the annual International Thriller Writers convention.
Will I keep the streak going this year? Impossible to know with the coronavirus lockdown. But it would be nice to believe we’ll be over the crisis by then.
The highlight of each of these junkets has been the day-long Master Class where ten or so writers such as myself engage in a critique of the first few pages of our novel-in-progress led by an accomplished A-list author.
Those novelists leading the classes I’ve attended have included Meg Gardiner, who Stephen King calls “the next suspense superstar;” Gayle Lynds, whose novel Masquerade is rated among the top-ten spy novels of all time; and F. Paul Wilson, author of the fabulously popular Repairman Jack series.
So, yes, it is very cool to rub elbows for a day with your favorite writers. Even cooler is when, a year later, they actually remember your name.
That happened to me the year after attending Meg’s class. I was sitting in a crowded hotel ball room, near the back, when I noticed someone had paused in the aisle by my seat. I looked up and it was Meg Gardiner. She said, “Hi, Jeff, I thought it was you.”
Meg Gardiner remembered my name. Wow.
And that’s the thing about ThrillerFest, the umbrella name for the series of programs hosted during the annual ITW convention. With rare exceptions, people are nice. And friendly. And helpful.
And the authors who show up actually want to help rookies make it. Why? Because they all know how hard it is to break in. How nobody does it without a little help from their friends. They’re giving back.
All of this is preamble for a little anecdote.
I was on Twitter yesterday and Meg had called out to her followers and asked how everyone was doing. A meaningful question during lockdown.
I replied and told her that in addition to writing I was in the midst of reading her novel, The Dark Corners of the Night, the latest installment of her UNSUB series that, as fellow Naples resident Janet Evanovich says, “is a fantastic series of books.”
I also noted that I was delighted with an homage Meg planted in one of the novel’s early scenes. Here’s the setup:
Our heroine, Caitlin Hendrix, is prowling the site of a vicious murder. The body of one of the victims, James Chu, is lying face down in his bed. Meg writes:
“Chu had been young and fit. On his nightstand a James. S. A. Corey novel sat open. Nemesis Games. Caitlin had read it. Read the whole Expanse series. Chu never would.”
That is terrific on so many levels. First, her offering a tip-of-the-hat to a book series was a nice bit of generosity. But it also spoke to her own reading tastes. And for anyone who is an Expanse fan – either the TV series or novels or, in my case, both—she underscored a common connection.
“You probably won’t be surprised that I’m a huge fan,” she tweeted.
And if you are a Meg Gardiner fan you won’t be surprised that Dark Corners is a riveting page turner.