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Raining in Philadelpia--NoirCon 2014

NoirCon 2014, appropriately, opened officially on Hallowe'en. The next morning--The Day of the Dead--the rain came to Philadelphia. The Society Hill Playhouse was packed with dark fiction types: writers, speakers, publishers, booksellers, artists, historians, fans and other odds and ends including yours truly. And I kept thinking about what the right collective noun would be for a group of writers. We've all heard of a swarm of bees and a murder of crows but I don't believe we've a proper term for a roomful of authors. As I pondered this I bumped into Jonathan Woods who I'd met two days before and asked him if I could take his photo so he could pimp his book on Out of the Gutter. He said, "of course, I'm a walking ego." And I knew instantly that was it--an ego of writers!

This is one funny, unusual guy and it seems like Gutter people would dig his stuff. He's a filmmaker as well and you must check out his truly nutty short film The Curse of the Spongeman.

I was also excited to meet authors from Raw Dog Screaming Press. John Lawson, Jennifer Barnes, and Michael Gillis are among the many in the stable who produce a wide variety of edgy fiction.

Michael was part of a panel called "Stray Dogs: Writing from the Other America"which discussed the disenfranchised and marginalized in America, and featured, among others, Eric Miles Williamson and Patrick Michael Finn. Stray Dogs is also the name of a short story collection featuring these writers (and others) and edited by author William Hastings (who moderated the discussion). It is published by Down & Out Books. Mr. Hastings is a bookseller as well at Farley's Bookshop in New Hope which handled all the book sales at the conference.

I also had a chance to chat with Irish author Stuart Neville who delights everyone he meets with his clipped, rhythmic Ulster cadence. He participated in a panel called "The Politics of Noir" and spoke with moving passion about the lasting impact of violence on families and communities. His books are published by Soho Crime, here he is with his debut novel The Ghosts of Belfast:

And I certainly can't go any further without a tip of the cap to Gutter Books' own T. Fox Dunham who was a panelist for "Existential Noir" that closed out the day. Fox, as we Gutter folks know, is one deep and philosophical fellow, and he spoke with his characteristic wisdom and eloquence on love, god, pain, and death, subjects near and dear to the crime writer's heart.

A conference like this is a mad swirl of socializing--an ego of writers, indeed. I'll have something very soon on Steve Hodel and his book on the infamous Black Dahlia murder. His first presentation was perhaps the most chilling thing I have ever listened to and he promised even more startling revelations in his next one.

--Mark C. O'Connor in Philadelphia, PA