British prescriptions will often be labeled by the pharmacist, â€œThe mixture, as beforeâ€ and that is how travel has become. Whatever new variation on the mixture they come up with, it doesnâ€™t effect the final result: Travel is a pain. The latest ridiculous variation is that they have two uniformed security people with gloves and boxes of one quart sized Ziploc bags in which you can place anything that was totally banned the night beforeâ€”small bottles of mouthwash, hand cream, what have you. One-quart Ziplocsâ€”latest weapon in our war against terrorism. Along with taking off your shoes and removing the laptop from its bag and putting your jacket in the bin. Honestly, do any of these things make one bit of difference?
But I am a good and obedient flyer who really doesnâ€™t want to be pulled out of line for a complete search-and-scan, so I keep my remarks to mysel and only hope any potential airborne terrorist doesnâ€™t have half the imagination of any of the assembled mystery writers here in Madison. Who Iâ€™m sure could bring down a plane with nothing but the items on board.
But the nice thing about mystery writers is, theyâ€™re nice. I suppose we work all our fury out on the page, or else weâ€™re so beaten down by the end of the book itâ€™s hard to summon the egotistic energy for violence.
Instead, we assemble together, fifteen hundred to two thousand strong, in places such as Toronto and Madisonâ€”and next year Anchorage, sign up now!â€”and talk about the things that go into the writerâ€™s mixture. Series versus stand-alone; how much violence is enough?; the writing process; the publishing process; the selling process. You get the idea. And of course, thereâ€™s a lot of business going on outside the panel rooms as well, with new writers looking for agents, agents looking for editors, established writers looking for their friends, and everyone looking either for a decent cup of coffee or, if itâ€™s after eleven in the morning, for a drink.
Interestingly, the writer Clea Simon told me this morning in the cafÃ© that thereâ€™s been a conference of police officers at this same hotel, just finishing. Too bad they couldnâ€™t have stayed on a day, theyâ€™d have found a whole lot of writers eager and willing to take them out for a meal in exchange for a little shop talk.
Last night Les Klinger and I spoke to a great group of readers at Centuries and Sleuths in the Forest Park area of Chicago, about Sherlock Holmes, Mary Russell, research, writing, and a score of other topics. And I told them what Iâ€™ll announce here now, that Laurie Kingâ€™s unwitting feud with international Sherlockianism (is that a word?) is officially over and made up. Yes, I have been asked to speak at the annual dinner of the Baker Street Irregulars in New York this January (please, please no snow) on a topic of my choosing, and I have been promised that no one is allowed to carry ripe tomatoes into the event for the purpose of hurling at the speaker.
This is a great honor, and I am looking forward to it enormously.
But Lord, now I have to write a formal half-hour paper. On what?
More immediately, I need to venture out and find a supply of milk, so I can make myself tea in the morning, and bottled water, since everything chlorinated tastes like poison to me. Then lunch with new friends from Mutterings and RUSS-L, onwhich I shall report next time.