Thursday, May 3, 2018

Marvellous Mascara-melting Malice (or Party on Cloud Nine)

Since it's free speech week, I'ma completely indulge myself with a Malice round-up. It was the 30th birthday of Malice Domestic - the convention that celebrates traditional mysteries - this last weekend in Bethesda, MD. And what a weekend it was! I was honoured to be the toastmaster and thrilled at who I was asked to toast.

But. There was another element to the Malice weekend this year. Malice always honours someone who has left us and it's usually a writer who's been gone long enough that the very raw grief is past. This year, Robin Hathaway was celebrated and her family was there.

Robin started writing at fifty, almost gave up at sixty, but then entered her unpublished manuscript in the the St Martin's Press / Malice Domestic prize and won! The finished book went on to win an Agatha award for best first novel. Robin has left eight fine novels across two series for us to enjoy.

But the title of ghost of honour had some stiff competition. The redoubtable, initially terrifying (but underneath it all quite lovely) Joan Hess has gone on ahead recently. She knew before she died that a special Amelia award was coming her way.
Joan Hess
I wonder if she knew that a crowd of writers, readers, librarians and pals would be sitting around in the green room after the banquet, rocking with laughter, while tales of Joan were told. The Sheep Wars was my favourite. (Ask Margaret Maron). And many of the stories ended with Joan's daughter Becca, or Barbara Mertz's (aka Elizabeth Peters) daughter Beth saying "and we've still got that hip flask!" or "I found one of those stuffed gophers in the garage after Mom's funeral" or "Is that what that sign was from? We did wonder." 

The Poirot award went to Brenda Blethyn, who was chummy and hilarious and so glamorous (when you've been watching her play Vera) so Ann Cleeves came along too and we all got the chance to give some rib-cracking hugs and say how sorry we all were about the loss of her Tim, the man who took her to Shetland and sparked the Jimmy Perez octet. He was a hoot and a scholar, a huge loss to the international birding community and a true gent (wrapped in a curmudgeon, I have to say).

Fan girl with Brenda Blethyn and Ann Cleeves
And speaking of writers-in-law, those loved ones of authors who become part of the mystery family, the guest of honour this year was Louise Penny, who is rejoining the round of conventions and events after the death of her sweet Michael. I can't remember anything I've ever done that was a bigger honour than to stand up in front of a crowded ballroom, tell Louise how the community feels about her and welcome her back to the tribe.

Louise and Michael
Finally, in this sobering round-up, the 2000-year-old librarian, Doris Ann Norris, St Dan, died too recently to be part of the official Malice programme this year, but get this. There has long been a fund - called Malice Angels - to which anonymous donors can contribute and thereby help Malice devotees attend in spite of financial hardship.  The board announced, as the last item of news at Sunday's Agatha tea, that henceforth this will be known as the Doris Ann Norris Angels programme, in memory of one hell of a woman.

If you'd like to contribute in Doris Ann's memory, the treasurer is the magnificently-named Angel Trapp. Cheques can be sent to her at:

Malice Domestic 
(DAN Angels)
PO Box 8007
Gaithersburg MD 20898

And do spare a thought for St Peter, trying to keep order at the pearly gates as the new crowd joins the party.


Paul D. Marks said...

Now that I'm thoroughly depressed, Catriona. I'm sorry to hear about all those passings, but I think it's nice for the them to be remembered as you do. As you say, St. Peter has a job on his hands now :-) .

Lori Rader-Day said...

The announcement about Doris got me.

Cathy Ace said...

Lovely piece, and I am especially pleased to hear about the recognition of Doris Ann's contribution to our community. I missed her a great deal last weekend, and she was the topic of conversation amongst many of the little gaggles I joined. Also - I have to say you did a FABULOUS job as Toastmaster...Chris Grabenstein has big shoes to fill next year!

Triss said...

Well done, Catriona. I knew Robin. Though she lived in Philadelphia she was in NY a lot and came to SINC meetings here. A very nice person, much liked and much missed. Loved it that she was honored at Malice.

And of course the unforgettable Doris Ann.