I’ve been AWOL for the past week or so because I was in St. Louis for Bouchercon, the annual world mystery convention during which crime fiction authors and fans mingle, celebrate the genre, drink heavily, and, ah, gain fodder for their novels. A big reason for my desire to go was because Robert Crais would be one of the American guests of honor and a contingent of Craisies (diehard fans of his writing, if you’re new to the term) was gathering to celebrate him. I’ll be sharing other wonderful Bouchercon memories later this week, but today I’m talking Craisies.
In 2001, a group of fans who had become friendly via Crais’s website converged upon the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books to meet each other and spend some time with him. Helen baked cookies, Eddy brought Mardi Gras beads, Sheila gave us Craisie caps, and many wore Hawaiian shirts to represent Elvis Cole’s favorite wardrobe choice.
I remember feeling overwhelmed by the kindness of people I was face to face with for the first time but who were definitely not strangers. I wasn’t surprised, though, because Crais and his writing attract the most generous people. Several became true-blue friends of mine and we have remained in each other’s lives, sharing joy and sadness and all the things between.
Ten years after that first CraisieCon, a new gang descended upon St. Louis wearing love on its sleeves. Jen at Jen’s Book Thoughts was inspired by Novel-T to come up with the idea of baseball jerseys with names of characters from Crais’s novels. Naomi from Drowning Machine then designed and found a place to make them after we decided on what names we wanted. The breakdown: Jen–Starkey, Michael (le0pard13)–Stone, Naomi–Watrous, Christine–the Cat, Carolyn–Holman, and Paulette–Chenier (her number was double zero). I asked for Dolan but Jen pointed out that she’s dead. I said, “It’s okay. I’m used to being a flash in the pan.”
In the end, the decision was taken out of my hands when Naomi sent me a jersey that said “Cole.” My first reaction was, Wha? I’m not worthy. Then I realized I want to be worthy; the Craisies make me want to be better. Crais has often said he has the best readers in the world. I’m not there yet but about the others, he is spot on.