The reason I wimped out, er, failed to post last week was that I was in Albuquerque attending the Tony Hillerman Writers’ Conference Focus on Mystery in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I’ve been a fan of Hillerman ever since I read the first of his Navajo stories. He died a month before the conference, which is a crying shame, but he leaves a wonderful body of work for fans to enjoy for a long time. I can say that he was remarkably accurate in his portrayal of both the place and people of the four corners area. I’ve visited the Navajo in their homes, and found them to be funny, generous, and reserved, not necessarily in that order. All of which is by way of background to me going to that particular conference.
At the conference I won a book by Louis Bayard titled Mr. Timothy. Now that is one fine book, and Mr. Bayard signed it for me while I waited. That was a highlight. If you like a good thriller and have an interest in Victorian London, you owe it to yourself to read this book. Mr. Timothy is Tiny Tim, all grown up and still having issues with his dead father. And it’s a good thriller, too.
The conference was good, but I’m not sure it was worth all the fuss and expense of going all the way to Albuquerque for. Not that Albuquerque is not a nice place, because it is, but it is a long way from Las Vegas Nevada. (It’s not far at all from Las Vegas, New Mexico.) It was interesting to ride on Interstate 25 again, as for many years that was the North-South main road through my town. And New Mexico is a beautiful place, to the point of feeling sort of weird. The workshops at the conference were good, but not as nuts-and-bolts as I’d expected, or would have liked. I did learn some things, especially about publishing mysteries, and also about making villains sympathetic, which is an important thing to do, of course. I mean, who doesn’t love Doctor No? Exactly, nobody. He’s a popular, if consummately evil, guy, and a fitting foil for Bond, James Bond.
Still, for the money, I’d have liked more hands-on instruction, but if I’d gone down from Denver I’d have probably loved it. Denver is closer to New Mexico in several important ways than is Las Vegas.
Albuquerque is a small town of 850,000 people, many of them surprising. For instance, the driver of the shuttle taking us to the airport after the conference, when I said “Eh voila!” just like in Fractured Fairy Tales on Bullwinkle, made the proper response, which is “Nous Avaunt Arrive’”. Of course in the original that’s all one sentence uttered by a magical French talking duck. Then he told me, in beautiful French, that he’d studied French and lived there for a time, and learned the language well. Indeed he had.
Well, I did have a good time, although the hotel featured Starbucks coffee, which I’ve never liked, but other than that, I did learn some things and enjoyed the company of like-minded literary fools. It’s a small conference, but nicely done. I probably won’t attend next year, but I am planning to enter their contest. Why not? A man from Vegas won this year, so I’ll go for two in a row.
As for Albuquerque, they love books. Just look at this picture I took with my phone on Central Avenue if you don’t believe me.