Saturday, February 03, 2007


This is one of these days where I have no idea where to begin.

Okay, so let's start with the people. Who did I meet? A half-Japanese female fan who had introduced me at Bouchercon in Chicago to Qiao Xialong.

She joined me in the lobby of the conference hotel while I was waiting to meet English author David Hewson. And what did she do? She introduced me to another two authors. It may be her gift.

Now, this is where it gets weird. The first writer lived in Hong Kong for several years, working as a financial journalist, before writing a book based on the white slave trade between Russian and Asia (a true story he had stumbled on as a journalist). Of course, he's an Eric. Eric Stone. A former radical activist turned capitalist who lives now in LA. And that book? "The Living Room of the Dead". One to read, I think.

And even weirder. A guy called Charles Benoit, a writer of books set in exotic locations with titles like "The Money Box" and "Veterans Day Memo". But that's not what's weird. What's really spooky is that he lives in Rochester, New York - where my brother-in-law (Le Beau Frere) lives. To be more accurate, Le Beau Frere lives in Fairport, where his children went to school, where his wife worked, and for whom he annually builds the sets for the school play.

And guess what? Charles Benoit's wife is a teacher at the same Fairport school!

Okay, so I never did make that rendezvous with David Hewson. I had a panel at 1pm and made my way to the Green Room to meet my fellow panellists. En route, I paused in the hallway to phone a lady called Kat Richardson to book a place at that night's special tour of "underground" Seattle (more of that later). I got her messaging service and left a message.

In the green room, I was gazing from the window when my cellphone rang. I answered it and a woman's voice asked, "Peter May?"

"Yes," I told her.

There was an odd hiatus, and then she said, "I'm standing right behind you." I turned around and there she was. She hung up the phone. "I'm Kat Richardson," she said. "I had no idea you were in the same room."

Anyway, I got my place booked for the night tour of underground Seattle.

Then there was the panel, which was extremely well moderated by Canadian writer Anthony Bidulka, who writes about gay detective, Russell Quant, bringing a whole new meaning to the term "private dick". My fellow panellists were Jon Talton from Phoenix (who shares both my US publishers and editors), Jo Dereske, who has written a very large number of books featuring her heroine Miss Zukas, and Pamela Samuels Young, a lady lawyer at Toyota who has created a highly successful fictitious lady lawyer called Vernetta Henderson.

We had about sixty people in the room, and a lively discourse that flew by. They should all be like that!

Then there was the St. Martin's Press cocktail party in a nearby hotel. We were invited by "Keith, Ruth and Andy". I have no idea who Keith and Andy are, and I didn't catch a single glimpse of Ruth - who is my editor. There was no one at the door to say "hi, what would you like to drink?" In fact, there was nobody I knew at all. So I sat in a corner, ordered a whisky, and sipped quietly watching newcomers arrive and stand around awkwardly wondering what they were doing there. Which would have been me if I hadn't found a seat and a drink. Last time I was at a St. Martin's party I got rescued by writer Carl Brookins. Sadly Carl wasn't there to do the honours this time.

I drank up and beat a hasty retreat to the official Left Coast Crime reception where I finally hooked up with David Hewson. But he was heading off to dinner somewhere, and I had an appointment with underground Seattle.

So I had another drink and embarked on the knee-destroying walk down the hill to Pioneer Square, and a tour of underground sidewalks and long-abandoned streets that fester in the dark beneath the modern city. It seems that after the great fire of 1889 they re-built Seattle in the most bizarre and haphazard fashion, with streets walled in and raised in level by filling the space between the walls with rubble from the cliffs above. Unfortunately, the sidewalks and buildings were re-built at the original levels, so that you had to climb ladders from the sidewalk to cross the road, and then climb down ladders to the sidewalk on the other side. Each street was built in this way, one above the other, up and down the side of what was left of the cliffs. Virtual terraces.

After seventeen people died by falling from the roads on to the sidewalks, they put in steel beams and built brick arches between them, to raise the level of the sidewalks to the same height as the roads. As a result, they created a network of underground tunnels beneath that became infested by rats and incubated the bubonic plague. These were declared a health hazard a hundred years ago. So, of course, today, there are guided tours for stupid tourists - of whom, last night, I was one.

It wasn't quite in the same class as the catacombs of Paris, or the Underground City in Beijing, but an interesting end to the day, nonetheless.

Michelle of the Heirloom online bookstore arrived with a suitcase of books for me to sign...

Seattle as viewed from my hotel...

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