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It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity. Well, actually it’s both.

I just recently attended Bouchercon XXXXVIII (that’s 48, for you non-Romans). I hadn’t planned on attending this international mystery fan convention, but when I learned that my second book, Red Desert, had been shortlisted for a “Shamus” as best original paperback by the Private Eye Writers of America, I decided it was best to be in the room. I didn’t come home with the prize, but hearing my name called out as a nominee was a treat.

The nominations were announced in June, so by the time I registered for the convention, it was late in the process and I consequently was not placed on a panel. The biggest downside of that omission is that one is not given any opportunity to sign books for readers. There was some sort of smaller venue for authors not “panelized,” but I wasn’t given that opportunity either. So, except for the Shamus banquet, the trip was fruitless.

But you’re in New Orleans, you fool! Soak up the atmosphere! “Soak” is the operative word here. Wet, as in muggy, damp. I was born and raised in the upper Midwest and am therefore no stranger to humidity. But I’ve been on the West Coast for too long. Being suddenly thrust under the wet blanket required more fortitude than I could muster. Also, in deference to my age and my ongoing relationship with the Ritis boys, specifically Arthur and Bur (arthritis and bursitis), walking any great distance presented difficulties.

So I shuffled between the convention hotel and my domicile, which was located three blocks away. I did manage to have visits with Barbara Motley and Ione Elioff. Barbara ran “Le Chat Noir,” the charming little cabaret where I did “Bunk Bed Brothers” back in 1993, when I was still living in California. Ione is a lady I’ve gotten to know through her frequent trips to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival as part of the classes my sister-in-law has facilitated for the last 39 years.

It was also nice to see fellow author John Sheppird, himself a winner of the “Shamus” for Best Short Story a couple of years ago at the Albany, NY Bouchercon. Back in 1996, I was fortunate enough to be part of a six-character sitcom for NBC called “American Pie.” Six episodes were shot, but alas the network declined to air it, and it is therefore probably sitting on some dusty shelf somewhere in Burbank. Matt Goldman was a co-creator of the show and one of the writer-producers. Matt’s first crime fiction novel will be published next summer, and he was at the convention, where he hobnobbed with his soon-to-be peer group and moderated a panel. We re-established contact and hopefully can compare notes as he begins his journey into the publishing world.

I realize I am now verging on heresy when I say that I’m not as enamored of the Big Easy as many others. Yes, there is the music. Yes, there is the food (alligator sausage, anyone?). The hub of the convention was on Canal Street, on the edge of the French Quarter. Garbage, high temperatures and oppressive humidity don’t mix well. And since the garbage bins reside curbside until being picked up, aforementioned walks between hotels  were sometimes not for the faint of heart.

However, given all this, I take consolation in the fact that my first two Eddie Collins novels, Murder Unscripted and Red Desert have been nominated for an award from a peer group. Not too shabby.


What a national treasure is Meryl Streep! Almost eighty films, nineteen Oscar nominations over a career spanning four decades and she’s still going strong. Nothing could demonstrate that fact more fully than her performance in Florence Foster Jenkins. She plays the title character, a wealthy New York socialite in the 1940s who is determined to sing opera, even though she cannot carry a tune. Streep is a trained singer, who once pursued vocal training in opera. For someone to consciously hit as many wrong notes as she does in this film is indeed a wonder.

Dressed in what appears to be a matronly fat suit, sprouting wrinkles and a wig that always seem to be slightly askew, she presents a delightfully eccentric, frumpy woman careening dangerously close to parody.

Beneath the humorous and almost over-the-top presentation, however, lies a tender love story between Florence and her husband, St. Clair Bayfield, solidly played by Hugh Grant. St. Clair has his own apartment, complete with mistress, but as the story progresses, this secret life gives way to the devotion he and his wife share. Their relationship steals your heart.

Streep takes chances like few actresses do nowadays. I will be so bold to say that she’s the finest actress of hers, or any generation. Julia Child (Julie & Julia)Margaret Thatcher (The Iron Lady), Sophie (Sophie’s Choice), Helen Archer (Ironweed), Miranda Priestly (The Devil Wears Prada), and Ricki (Ricki and the Flash) are just some of the performances that show an actress with more range and depth than anyone working today, Perhaps ever.

This movie isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea. Some may feel it’s too broad and flirts with lampoon, but let Streep work her magic, and you’ll come away marveling at a portrait of a sympathetic and warm woman who only wanted to sing.

At the end of the film, Florence says something to the effect that people may say she couldn’t sing, but no one can say she didn’t sing. Sing out, Florence!