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2009 What A Summer!

Wow. Now we know what the airlines feel like when they get overbooked. Well, there were seats for everybody, so we weren't exactly overbooked. Still, many of this year's attendees waited until the last minute to register — maybe, like us, they couldn't believe it was already August — which meant we'd already given our caterers the final numbers! As it was, we set up tables outside at both lunch and supper. I've said this before and I'll say it again: Register early. Register often.

Maybe it was the presence of world-renowned acting teacher David Rotenberg, but we couldn't resist using that old theatre program stand-by "the part of Rosemary Aubert will be played today by Sue Pike". Sue stood in for Rosemary, opening up the Author Readings with an excerpt from The Ferryman Will Be There ... but played herself when telling us about her own anthology Locked Up. It turned out every one of our authors has a dual life, David Rotenberg the acting coach, Rick Blechta the musician, and Barbara Fradkin the clinical psychologist.

Vicki Delany played to these dualities when she moderated the panel discussion. Taking a cue from her morning workshop "Creating Realistic Characters", she introduced us to the science of garbology, and asked our authors, including Grant Allen Award recipient Peter Robinson, to tell us what we might find in their main characters' garbage. David Rotenberg was asked whether he uses classic acting techniques to create his characters, and Barbara Fradkin whether her background in psychology gives her an easier insight into what makes people tick.

How do you keep your series characters fresh? Keep throwing new stuff at them, Robinson says. Rick Blechta is the only one of this year's authors whose books don't feature series characters. Why does he write stand-alones? "My characters are musicians," Rick said. "If someone gets murdered wherever my concert violinist shows up, people will stop hiring her. " As popular as series detectives are, all our authors agreed that for mystery writers the most important character is the victim.

Our speaker this year was investigative crime writer Rob Tripp. Rob must have been joking when he told the audience that we should feel free to interrupt him with questions and comments as he spoke — we were all on the edge of our seats as he unfolded the real-life story of a Kingston woman whose skeletal remains were found near Jones Falls. We hope Rob will come back another year &mdah; we could have gone on listening to him for hours.

It's so rare that an audience gets to hear an entire short story at once. This year we experienced that treat as Peter Robinson read "The Magic of Your Touch" from his recent collection The Price of Love. The reading was followed by Therese Greenwood's interview. Peter gave us some insight into the difference between real time and novel time. It might take a full year to write an Inspector Banks novel, but the events in the novel might take only a few weeks. So, three or more novels might take place in the same calendar year. The upshot of all this? Authors age faster than characters.

Did I mention the heat? Our booksellers, Brian and Sherry Fenlon of As the Plot Thickens Mystery Bookstore in Kingston, were on hand all day, set up at the United Church in the morning, and the Anglican Church in the afternoon. Sales were brisk, even if the weather wasn't.

See you next year. Register now. Register often.




Image: Photo of Peter Robinson

Peter Robinson read "The Magic of Your Touch" from his recent collection The Price of Love.

Image: Photo of Peter Robinson

Peter Robinson receives the Grant Allen Award.

Image: Photo of Peter Robinson

Therese Greenwood interviewing Peter Robinson.