Monday, May 29, 2006

On the road again

by Patty

Just after midnight last night I returned home from my grand tour of the Midwest. It started last Wednesday when I flew to Kansas City with Denise Hamilton (award-winning author of the Eve Diamond series and former Los Angeles Times reporter). We rented a car and headed for a 7:00 p.m. book signing in Mission, Kansas at the new home of I Love a Mystery bookstore. BTW, next time you’re there ask Karen and Becci about the mysterious disappearance of the letter “M.”

We chatted with the wonderful group of fans until about nine o’clock and then began a 200-mile journey to Omaha, Nebraska for the Mayhem in the Midlands mystery conference. Denise was the designated driver; I was the navigator. Beware! I have an MBA with an emphasis in Strategic Planning so you must know that before I left Los Angeles I’d printed Yahoo-maps driving instructions for every leg of our journey. I’d even brought along a flashlight so I could follow the map at night in the car without having to turn on the overhead light (am I safety-conscious or what?). The only problem is Nebraska ain’t L.A. No urban sprawl. No freeway lights. No tacky neon billboards illuminating the way. It’s dark out there on the prairie. So dark that I couldn’t find that little flashlight in my carry-on bag. So dark that we couldn’t see beyond the shoulder of the road.

On the flight home last night I was regaling a fellow passenger (and Omaha resident) with highlights from our journey and he told me we could have seen more of the landscape if we’d stopped at the side of the road, maybe spent some time looking up at the stars. Let’s see…dark road…middle of nowhere…two novelists from L.A. who write about crime…alone…unarmed. Perhaps not.

Mayhem in the Midlands was a wonderful conference. It’s a manageable size (180 or so) and the panel and book rooms were close together. The intimacy of the venue gave me the opportunity to spend more time with authors I’d met at previous conferences, especially Lori Armstrong, Twist Phelan, and Pari Noskin Taichert. It also allowed me to hang out with people I hadn’t met before, including Donna Andrews, Sandra Balzo, Sean Doolittle, David Housewright, William Kent Krueger, J.D. Rhoades, Nancy Pickard, Denise Swanson, Anthony Neil Smith, Victor Gischler, Jeremiah Healy, and the guest of honor, the witty, intelligent, and charming, Laura Lippman.

Sunday morning toastmaster Denise Hamilton conducted a compelling interview with Laura, and then Mayhem was over…but not for us. Denise and I loaded our luggage and fellow author Susan McBride in the car for more touring. I’d read Susan’s book but I’d never met her before and I’m so glad I did. She is simply wonderful: charming and oh-so-funny (the good kind).

The three of us set off to talk and sign more books at the amazing Lee Booksellers in Lincoln, Nebraska. When we arrived, Linda presented us with a copy of the Sunday Lincoln JOURNAL STAR. When I opened it you could have bowled me over with a feather (as my mother used to say). The paper had devoted an entire page to the three of us: our pictures, the covers of our latest books, and three superb reviews. It was very, very cool. Reviewer George Wright said about COVER YOUR ASSETS: “[Tucker]…captures in picture-perfect detail various areas of L.A. it’s as thought she is at times channeling Lew Archer, the no-nonsense L.A. private eye of the Ross Macdonald mysteries.” BTW, George is now in my will.

Here we are in Lincoln: Denise, Susan, and me

Denise, Susan and I had a rollicking good time on the trip back to the Omaha airport so good in fact that we had to make a pact that “what’s said in the car stays in the car.”

The best part of the trip was getting to know Denise Hamilton. I already knew her as a wonderful writer, but on this trip I got to know her as a witty, kind, and generous human being.


  1. What a great trip, Patty! And the newspaper story and review take the cake.

  2. Thanks, Louise. I hope to see you at Mayhem in 2007. You're going to love it.

  3. This all sounds so fun! Susan McBride is VERY funny. I've only seen Denise from afar, but she seems wonderful.

    I'm glad you guys didn't stop by the side of the road, and sorry you didn't find your flashlight, but other than that it must have been amazing!!!

  4. Patty: It was wonderful meeting you at Mayhem. And yes, Susan and Denise rock. I'd have loved to have been a fly on the headliner of THAT car.

  5. Dusty, it was great meeting you, too. I have a feeling you may have some stories to contribute to the "car talk." Next time, eh?

  6. Patty, Mayhem sounds fabulous. Lori and Jeff Shelby have Alison Gaylin and I thinking seriously about it in 2007!

    And I wish I was along on your car trip! Susan and I sat next to each other at the Festival of Mystery in Oakmont Pa. last month and laughed for much of that time. Denise gave me a lovely blurb for my book.

    Congrats on the great review!!

  7. Karen, you simply must come to Mayhem next year. It was the most fun I've ever had at a conference. Those Midwesterners know how to party.

  8. Patty, it was a blast hanging with you and Denise...and, please, don't belittle your navigational skills. You didn't get us lost, did you? That's pure genius in my book (particularly when you're following Internet directions). As for what's said in the lips are permanently sealed.