Ali's Excellent Adventure at Thrillerfest 2006 - Phoenix

As its getting close to Thrillerfest 2007 in NY - details www.thrillerwriters.org

So I thought I'd paste over the report that I wrote over the fun I had last year.

ITW Co-President Gayle Lynds wrote a nice preface

I took a stack of photos which I have arranged into a slide show to accompany the report :-

http://crimespace.ning.com/video/video/show?id=537324:Video:18884

Best Regards

Ali

Your inside scoop about ThrillerFest

Reviewer, interviewer, and raconteur Ali Karim has generously donated to ITW his full and lively report of ThrillerFest. Ali has been a long-time lover and supporter of the field, was one of the earliest associates of ITW, and is greatly respected by authors and publishers alike

In the real world we write about, hes an exalted Company Director in England. In our international industry, hes the assistant editor of the e-zine Shots magazine, contributing editor to January Magazine, writes for Deadly Pleasures and Crimespree magazines, and is an associate member [and literary judge] for both ITW and the British Crime Writers Association. He also is a judge for the Barry Awards. An Englishman, Ali is currently writing his own novel Black Operations which he describes as a violent SF-tinged thriller.

Thanks, Ali.

Gayle Lynds

ITW co-president

Mad Dogs and Englishmen : A Personal View of ThrillerFest 2006

by Ali Karim

When I announced to my family that I was going to attend the inaugural ThrillerFest conference in Phoenix, Arizona [and that it was to be held at the end of June], my wife was aghast Phoenix in June! she cried out in her broad Dublin accent, and repeated a famous saying only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the mid-day sun!

She always thinks me a little mad with my love of thrillers. I was not deterred as I had decided to attend ThrillerFest after the ITW presence at Left Coast Crime Conference in Bristol earlier in the year. I have been impressed by ITWs achievements, which have been amazing for a fledgling organisation.

I had also worked very hard with my fellow judges on the ITW awards and looked forward to kicking-back at the gala dinner. Another factor was to meet many US authors whom I had read but never met, such as ITW Awards Chair Jim Rollins, Jeffrey Sleeper Cell Anderson, and Joe Finder three hi-tech writers who appeal to my scientific sensibilities.

Wednesday

The travel however was not so appealing. After a nightmare journey flying from London and an unscheduled change of plane at Detroit, I arrived at the Arizona Biltmore at 2100 hrs Wednesday 28th June a mere 20 hours from leaving my house. Due to the delay at Motor City, I was exhausted. But then, as I checked in, I spotted the smiling faces of Elaine Flinn and Larry Gandle, who lifted my spirits.

The porters took my luggage to my room, and I joined Elaine and Larry for beers in the bar. I hadnt seen Larry for a few years, so it was great to meet up again. Elaine and I had been caught up in the judging controversy the week before, so it was also great to meet up with her and strengthen our resolve over a beer. The bar was lively with pre-conference buzz, as none of us knew what lay ahead [as this was the very first ThrillerFest event].

Then Jeffery Deaver arrived with Barbara Peters [of Poisoned Pen]. Im a big fan of Deavers work, having interviewed him several times, and had just finished his latest Lincoln Rhyme thriller The Cold Moon. However we spent the time discussing his love letter to the golden age thriller Garden of Beasts I told Jeff Deaver that I felt this work would be the one he would be remembered for, and he agreed.

Unfortunately, due to Jeffs frantic schedule he was unable to attend the rest of ThrillerFest and had to leave just before midnight, which was also a cue for me to get some sleep as I would need as much as possible prior to kick-off.

Thursday

The morning came too quickly as my body clock attempted to adjust to Arizona time. I was up early and explored the fifty acres of the Biltmore while dawn broke and the air was cool.

Breakfast was in the grill with a lot of strong coffee and then I re-grouped with Elaine Flinn and David J Montgomery who is another old friend of mine as well as a reviewer extraordinaire of the thriller genre. I was excited to hear that David had been writing hard and had just completed his first novel Counterstrike. He was being somewhat cagey about details but did tell me that its a thriller about a former hit man who is coerced out of retirement to track down and eliminate the world's most lethal assassin. Sounded good to me, and I wished him luck with this exciting venture. Then it was off to register.

I have to say that one of the pleasures of ThrillerFest was the professionalism of all the volunteers and organizers. We were soon registered thanks to C J Lyons and M. Diane Vogts team manning the desk. The conference brochure was excellent, too, and I liked the idea that there was a group of spotlight authors and no green-room where authors escaped to before and after panels. At ThrillerFest, the green room was the bar, where authors, reviewers, editors, and readers mingled at ease in a collegiate atmosphere.

I had a huge rush of déja vu when I attended my first panel, Writing the big Thriller, presented by ITW co-president Gayle Lynds, as I had attended one of her previous writing seminars at Bouchercon 2003 and found it exhilarating. Gayle was in good form especially as reviewers had been proclaiming her latest The Last Spymaster with enthusiastic vigour.

Gayles seminar had standing room only, and I smiled seeing Tess Gerritsen standing at the back her latest Vanish is a masterclass in thriller writing. I hadnt seen Tess for a couple of years, so it was brilliant to bump into her again.

I then met Lee Child, someone who is as erudite as he is self-deprecating. Weve kept in touch for many years. Lee and I had a beer and a chat, and he passed me a proof copy of a debut he really enjoyed The Blade Itself by Marcus Sakey, one of the KillerYear2007 group. Lee told me that Marcus was coming to ThrillerFest, and he was a writer worth watching out for.

Then it was off to listen to David Morrell talk about dialogue a most interesting presentation by one of my favourite writers. The most interesting aspect is how he managed the dialogue in his last book Creepers because it reads in real-time which meant that the dialogue had to be bang-on.

Then it was off to the bar, where we had a mini Deadly Pleasures reunion, as my dear friend George Easter, Publisher/Editor, and his team of reviewers and writers Larry Gandle, Ted Hertel, Gary Niebuhr, Maggie Mary Mason, and I were all in attendance.

Others joined us, and I explained that one aspect of ThrillerFest, like similar conventions/conferences, is that I felt completely at home with my colleagues at these events [as I didnt feel the need to justify my obsession with books and thrillers as I had to do with my friends, contacts, and acquaintances who were casual readers, and who could never understand my obsessive enthusiasm for the thriller genre].

Then my dear friends the rock journalist and novelist Stav Sherez and Damien Thompson, an editor with The Daily Telegraph [as well as editor-in-chief of The Catholic Herald] arrived. They had flown out from London earlier in the week and been exploring the American Southwest prior to ThrillerFest.

Stav had been commissioned to write a piece on the event for www.shotsmag.co.uk while Damien was writing a two-page feature for the Telegraph [which will give ITW access to 2M readers]. Stav pondered on the significance of the Biltmore hosting ThrillerFest with a religious evangelical gathering and a female sorority group at the same time. I think Stav was more interested in the latter group of young women. I reminded him that we were sharing a room and that he should behave! Stav was also somewhat preoccupied with the World Cup, and looking forward to the England game on Saturday.

Then the three Englishman abroad walked to the Gold Room to listen to Jim Fusilli interview Doug Preston, a favourite writer of mine who I have followed avidly since The Relic, which he co-wrote with Lincoln Child. Naturally a good part of the talk featured Prestons recent nightmare situation with the Florence police when he helped an Italian journalist who was working on the Monster of Florence investigation.

This has been heavily featured in the ITW Bulletins, and Preston indicated that he really appreciated ITW authors writing to the Italian authorities because it helped to get him released and back on US soil.

Then the action started, as the whole universe descended on the Gold Room for the Thriller signing. The authors sat around the edge of the room, waitresses ferried drinks, and we all went table to table to get our copies of Thriller signed. This was a real ground-breaking achievement by ITW the first collection of thriller short stories, and all the authors had donated the stories gratis, allowing the book to help fund ITW activities A brilliant achievement with great support from MIRA books.

Then it was off to the bar, where I shared a table and beers with the delightful M.J. Rose, David Montgomery, Annie Chernow, Elaine Flinn, and the dry wit of Larry Gandle. Journalists Stav and Damien had tracked down David Morrell and Gayle Lynds and were interviewing them both.

Dinner was at the Grill where Gayle and I treated the Deadly Pleasures reviewers as well as Damien and Stav to a steak dinner. It was good cutting meat and drinking beer with Gayle Lynds, as we have kept in touch for several years now. We laughed about our escapades at LCC Bristol, even though she had not been well during that weekend, but was really in her element now and on home turf.

She told me that she always felt at home in London as her late husband Dennis was a CWA member. One aspect I find remarkable was how she had managed to follow-up The Coil considering the difficult two years she had, with the loss of her husband [the legendary Dennis Lynds], and all the work setting up ITW. I raised my glass to her, as did our guests.

Then it was off to bed with my roommate Stav Sherez. We had an initial problem as the Biltmore had provided us with only a double bed, but a quick phone call got a second bed sent over pronto. I must say that the rooms Stav and I had were magnificent albeit a bit of hike from reception, but we both felt like kings of the kingdom.

Friday

My body clock was still somewhere over the Atlantic as I rose before dawn and had a walk around the Biltmore grounds. Golfers were out in the cool of the morning while Stav snored away back in the room. Breakfast was a spicy Mexican omelette and plenty of coffee as I had a long day ahead of me and needed a big caffeine hit.

First up was supporting Zoe Sharp a superb British thriller novelist at her panel discovering the thrills in real life. Zoe writes the Charlie Fox thrillers, and her latest Roadkill was remarkable. The moderator was the charming and enthusiastic Julie Hyzy and also featured Jeffrey Anderson, Michael Black, and Rick Mofina.

After the session I had a long chat with Jeffrey Anderson [as I love technothrillers and there was a great buzz about his ITW Award nominated Sleeper Cell]. Then it was a dash to listen to the very droll Chris Grabenstein moderate Thrillers Live Talk Show with Lee Child, Alex Kava and Michael Palmer. This was a very funny panel, and I lay my hat down to Grabenstein for making my ribs hurt. The funniest comment was when Lee Child told us that he names most of his secondary characters from stationary items he really is never precious about his art.

Then it was another mad dash to listen to the big guns give a state of the union panel. This featured David Morrell, Gayle Lynds, M J Rose, David Montgomery, and was moderated with charm and ease by Doug Preston. This was an interesting insight into the Thriller form from a business perspective.

The R L Stine brunch was excellent, with ITW Newsletter editor Kathleen Sharp interviewing Stine. ITWs ThrillerFest is great that it embraces thrillers in all shapes and sizes, with Stine being a legend in the Childrens Thriller. We owe him, because his Goosebumps series helps develop new readers for our genre and makes reading a habit. The brunch was first rate, and R L Stine erudite and very witty. It was a full house.

I then found Damien Thompson and introduced him to Jim Born, as he is DEA and I enjoyed Shockwave a remarkable police thriller. Damien was very interested in Jims work as he injects a real slice of realism into his prose.

After that, I had ten minutes spare, so just as Damien and I sat down in the bar, my eye caught that of Joe Finder. Joe Finder is an exceptional writer who I have followed for many years. Without wishing to do his earlier work a disservice, I consider his last three thrillers Paranoia, Company Man [UK re-title No Hiding Place], and his latest Killer Instinct to be exceptional. We have corresponded for a few years, and I recorded an interview with him when Paranoia was unleashed.

But wed never met face-to-face. And when we did, it was just brilliant. Finder writes about corporate espionage and has carved himself a niche. If youve never read his work, I strongly suggests you to seek his books out urgently. They are remarkable.

Joe and I then walked back to the main conference centre for the Lee Child Trial where I was one of the members of the jury. This was a highlight for me, but the panel next door Sex in Thrillers with Booze featuring M J Rose, Steve Berry, John Lescroart and Barry Eisler was equally well attended and boisterous [we heard them through the walls!].

The Jack Reacher Trial was very well attended, a full house as Lee Child appeared dressed as Reacher. M. Diane Vogt acted a judge, while David Dun was the usher. Prosecuting attorney was the quick-witted Michelle Martinez, aided by Jim Born while Reacher was defended by the slivery tongued Paul Levine.

The trial itself was good-natured fun, and based on the plot for Persuader with the best line going to Reacher. When asked if he used reasonable force, Reacher/Child retorted, Hey, the three guys had submachine guns, all I had was a chisel!. As the jurors, we deliberated and I was fortunate to meet up with Carol Fitzgerald and Joe Hartlaub of www.BookReporter.com who were my co-jurors [Bookreporter.com is an excellent resource that I subscribe to] and it was just so cool to meet them for real. Joe does excellent reviews and interviews and provides great insight into the genre.

I then bumped into the great James Rollins. Jim is a fellow scientist and a tremendous technothriller writer. I loved his last book Map of Bones, and quickly grabbed a copy of Black Order, and got Jim to sign it for me. Jim and I had been in correspondence for some time now, as he was Chair of the ITW Awards committee, so it was great to meet him at long last. A terrific writer who I would recommend with vigour as his Sigma Force novels are great fun and very thought provoking.

I then attended the ITW 3rd annual meeting after which weariness fell upon me like an iron blanket. I was planning to have a private dinner with the ITW judges, but had to make my apologies to Elaine Flinn and Louise Ure as I was zonked; my body-clock was totally out of sorts. I headed off to my room and slept three hours straight, which was most annoying as I had planned to get up for the David Morrell presentation about the transformation of his novel First Blood into a movie.

I woke at about nine-thirty and had a shower and wondered back to the bar, where I tracked the fellow Englishmen abroad, Stav and Damien, and we sat with Joe Finder and Barry Eisler to talk about the politics of the thriller novel. Joining us later were George Easter, Sarah Weinman, and Elaine Flinn. It was a great evening being with friends and colleagues and talking about our love of the written word.

To be fair George Easter and Larry Gandle could have been my brothers, while Elaine and Sarah could have been my sisters such was the warm feeling we had that evening. Damien found Barry Eisler and Joe Finders insight into the political ramifications of the thriller fascinating. Joe Konrath appeared during the discussion and told us a joke, which was sort of surreal, but broke the tension of the political debate.

Then it was off to bed. Stav reminded me that England were playing Saturday and to get him up at 0800 hrs [when kick-off was, in US time].

Saturday

I just ignored my body clock when it told me to get up at 4am, and tossed and turned finally rising at seven, showering and rousing Stav just in time for the England game kick-off. I left Stav to his football and headed South.

Breakfast was a delight, as I had arranged to interview Joe Finder about his work and to gain an insight into Killer Instinct, his latest and [in my opinion] best thriller. It was great fun, switching on my tape machine and the two us talking and laughing, chomping on eggs and toast.

Then it was listening and watching the Special Operations panels, of which my highlight was Jim Born, with his witty anecdotes and gun play. When he shouted Police, Dont Move! most of the audience froze in their seats with terror; Jim Born can really shout loud.

The knife guys, street fighters and military trainers showed to me just how dangerous the world can be at the extremities and why we need these people around.

Over coffee I met up with J D Rhodes [The Devils Right Hand and A Good Day in Hell], Pat Mullan [Blood Red Square], and Annie Chernow where we all agreed that ThrillerFest was the best conference wed attended.

Then I went to listen to Larry Gandle moderate a panel about medical thrillers which featured Nelson Erlick, Patricia Gussin, Valdimir Lange and W.H. Watford. This was a most interesting insight into one of the most fascinating sub-genres of the thriller novel.

Thats why I like thriller novels, as they have great diversity in terms of range encompassing espionage, legal, romance, police, adventure, medical, SF, Horror, techno. Larrys panel was excellent especially as hes such a dry wit. I noticed Jeffrey Anderson was around. He is a fellow scientist and we got talking about his remarkable debut Sleeper Cell. I wished him luck in the ITW awards that would be announced later.

On the way back to the bar, I bumped into a very excited George Easter who told me that he and Mystery Mike had organized lunch with Clive Cussler and his wife, and asked if I could discretely take a photograph of them. Their table was booked for noon, so I sneaked into the restaurant at our pre-agreed time of 1215.

When I came to their table, I announced, George Easter, what a surprise to see you! and then I immediately turned around and swooned Oh, Clive Cussler! What a delight, and may I take your photograph. Mr. Cussler was most gracious, so I snapped a couple of photographs with George Easter giving me his broadest smile [and wink].

Back at the bar, Larry Gandle and I sat with David Montgomery and had a most delightful afternoon, as author after author popped by to chat with us three reviewers. Highlights were talking with Robert Ferrigno about his opus Prayers for the Assassin which Damien Thompson was most excited about, so he took time out to interview Robert. Lee Child joined us and was pumping me about the Reacher trail to find out who from the jury found Reacher guilty.

Then Larry and I watched Mystery Mike and George Easter walking purposefully with Clive Cussler to get their respective mammoth collections signed. Later that night Larry and I ribbed George about his purposeful walk. It was all good-natured fun, as George told Larry and I that his highlight of the weekend was meeting Clive Cussler as well as meeting Larry and I; so we felt in privileged company.

I must point out that if you like thrillers, Deadly Pleasures Magazine is an excellent resource and a real labour of love by George Easter and his team of reviewers. It was thanks to Larry Gandle that DP had now started a Thriller Barry Award, as Larry is very knowledgeable about thrillers.

Then a sad Stav Sherez appeared, due to England being knocked out of the World Cup. To cheer him up, Damien organised for him together with Jim Born, Lee Child and Zoe Sharp to go to a gun range with The Daily Telegraphs photographer [who had arrived from Los Angeles] for a photoshoot for Damiens article.

From there I toured the book room and bought a slug of new books for my return to the UK. The dealers were very helpful and had a good selection available for purchase.

Larry, George and I headed off back to the convention centre and watched the charity auction managed admirably by the very funny Brad Meltzer. I think this was a great idea, with the writers donating generously to two charities, and I feel proud to have been there.

Then I headed off to my room and had a short nap before showering and dressing for the Gala Dinner. I had decided to wear a tuxedo [UK translation Black Tie] but the heat was going to pose a problem It was over 100F degrees outside, but as so many attendees knew that I was an Ian Fleming nut, I just had to put on the black suit and tie in homage to Englands favourite secret agent.

Greeting me on the door was 4MAs mommykim who was very pleased I had my tuxedo on [not sure that I was because the sweat was coming off in rivers]. My wifes words Only mad-dogs and Englishmen go out in the mid-day sun echoed in my head. However the tuxedo did get me talking to the Bond-writer Raymond Benson, who is a mountain of knowledge when it comes to 007, and I agreed to explore his non-Bond work.

I was confused as to the seating arrangements, so I sat with fellow judges Alex Kava and Gregg Hurrwitz before realising that I should have been on a different table, so I said my goodbyes and joined Larry Gandle, F Paul Wilson, Elaine Flinn and David Montgomery at my allocated table which was right by the stage and main podium.

The food was excellent and the beer helped cool me down as the aircon was no match for my tuxedo. One of the big thrills for me was talking to F Paul Wilson, who is a favourite writer of mine. I told him how in 1981 I was blown-away by his novel The Keep, and how I had followed his Repairman Jack novels after reading The Tomb. I said that back in 1981 I was 19 years old, and that The Keep remains one of my all-time favourite novels, and twenty years later, Im sharing dinner with him.

He smiled and asked me if I thought he was an asshole? Which was a bizarre question, and then he explained that sometimes meeting a writer who you really loved could be a disappointment, but I told him meeting him was not, and that he was no asshole! We laughed and talked about his work in some detail. This was one of the remarkable features of ThrillerFest writers, readers intermingled in a comfortable environment and on an equal footing. It was just great.

I took a cigarette break with Lee Child and then got chatting with Tess Gerritsen who had just been speaking to her British Editor Selina Walker at Transworld who in turn had passed her regards to me. I had done interviews with Tess a few years ago when she hit it big in the UK with The Surgeon. I then bumped into Pat Mullan yet again, as we spent some time together at LCC Bristol and he sat on a panel I moderated on espionage thrillers.

At last it was back to the main event and what an event it was!

The MC was the droll Robert Levinson and featured the deadly Killerettes Heather Graham, Harley Jane Kozak, and Alexandra Sokoloff on vocals; John Lescroart on acoustic guitar and vocals; David Morrell on keyboard; F. Paul Wilson on bongos, Blake Crouch on drums; Michael Palmer on vocals, harmonica, and congas; Daniel Palmer on vocals and harmonicas; David Simms and Nathan Walpow on guitar, and Gayle Lynds on triangle.

This was spectacle like Ive never seen before. The highlight for me was when they performed the Creedence Clearwater Revival hit Bad Moon Rising just so damned cool. I loved watching Jerry Healy get up and dance.

The award ceremony was managed with great wit by Jim Rollins. Firstly we got a laugh as earlier award trophies had all been engraved Steve Berry which David Morrell explained was a mishap. Then Jim Rollins surprised both Gayle Lynds and David Morrell by presenting a Thriller Award trophy engraved in their names to each in recognition of the work they put into founding ITW. There was a standing ovation, well deserved.

Best Screenplay chief judge Gregg Hurwitz presented the The Thriller to Cache (Hidden), screenplay by Michael Haneke

Best Paperback Original head judges the writing duo of Carolyn and Jim Hougan [who write as John Case] presented The Thriller to Pride Runs Deep by R. Cameron Cooke (Jove)

Best First Novel lead judge Elaine Flinn presented The Thriller to Improbable, by Adam Fawer (Morrow)

Best Novel head judge Alex Kava presented The Thriller to The Patriots Club by Christopher Reich (Delacorte Press)

Then ITW vice president David Dun asked Clive Cussler (Raise the Titanic, Sahara, Treasure of Khan) to take the stand to receive the ThrillerMaster Award ITWs first lifetime achievement prize. He deservedly had a standing ovation by everyone at the gala dinner and gave an extremely droll acceptance speech and we all knew he was very moved by the award. This was a delight to watch such a huge figure in the genre speak to everyone with such funny anecdotes about his luminous writing career.

Clive Cussler left the stage to a standing ovation [again], and then the KillerThriller band returned to play more rock and roll a tremendous and rousing end to an amazing evening.

Then it was back to the bar which was now buzzing wildly as everyone was astounded at what they had witnessed.

An excited Christopher Reich came up to me to thank me for The Thriller [as I had sat on the committee for best novel]. I told him that The Patriots Club was a damned fine novel, that I read in one sitting, that I couldnt put the thing down, and that now I was reading through his backlist. I also told him that the field had been tough - a lot of great books out there, which I guess made his win all the more sweet. It was nice of him to hunt me down, and yes The Patriots Club is an excellent read.

Gayle Lynds came over and I told her that what I had witnessed had been unbelievable! She beamed, and we chatted about the evening. Larry Gandle and George Easter joined us, and we mingled with the new writers who call them themselves www.killeryear.com Brett Battles, CJ Lyons, Marcus Sakey, J T Ellison, and Jason Pinter, who even gave me a Killeryear T-shirt. Look out for their books, all of which will debut in 2007.

Then it was time for bed, and time to get rid of the damned tuxedo.

Sunday

The sun came up too quick so it was a quick shower and change and off to breakfast after rousing my roommate Stav Sherez from his coma. We had a panel at 10 am, and had arranged to meet up with our fellow panellists for breakfast. Damien Thompson joined us and we had a terrific time.

I was very impressed by the screenwriter Josh Conviser as he is a big Robert Littell fan [like myself]. He is also Executive Consultant on HBOs series, Rome, and has a film in development at Fox. Echelon, a spy thriller revolving around the NSAs eavesdropping program, is his first novel and due out in July. Joining us was Terry Watkins, author of The Big Burn, Elk Season, and the forthcoming Imposter. Terry is married to the very popular romance novelist Mary Leo.

Soon my roommate Stav Sherez appeared. Stav is the author of The Devils Playground, short listed for the John Creasey CWA Dagger for best first novel. He is also a music critic and journalist. He has written for The Daily Telegraph, Comes with a Smile, and Zembla, amongst others. He is currently Literary Editor of The Catholic Herald (despite not being Catholic). He is 35 and lives in West London. His second novel, The Ruins, a tale of centipede cults in the scorch and sizzle of the Aegean sun, is out next year from Penguin.

Fueled and ready to go, we met up with Mike Wiecek and John Ramsey Miller who had missed our breakfast. Mike Wieceks stories have won two Derringers and been nominated for a Shamus; he was a finalist in
the PWAs 2004 Best First PI Novel competition while Mikes first novel, Exit Strategy (Berkley, 2005) was a nominee for the Thriller Award last night.

John Ramsey Miller was a born on the banks of the Mississippi not far from Thomas Harris. He has written five books including Inside Out, Upside Down, and Side by Side. Too Far Gone will be released in August 2007.

Our panel was entitled Why we love thrillers, and considering that many had already left the conference catching planes in the morning, we had very good attendance. It was a lively debate covering all aspects of thrillers in all their diversity. I noticed my dear friend David Morrell sitting himself at the back. After the event we had a good chat. Both of us had been very busy and hardly had a chance to talk, but like good friends this didnt matter, because his work as a writer has deeply affected me as a reader, and also we have remained in contact since we first met. I really must say that if you youve not read Morrell, you have a serious gap in your thriller knowledge. Morrell is the master.

I thanked him for all his efforts and of his colleagues at ITW because ThrillerFest was the best convention Ive ever attended. And we shook hands, looking forward to meeting up again in New York for ThrillerFest 2007.

Then it was off to the last event of the conference The John Lescroart brunch with Gayle Lynds providing the questions. This was a full house and a very funny event, with John having a self-deprecating sense of humour.

We had a big round of farewells, which is a bittersweet experience. But I took time to thank the volunteers and organizers such as the energetic Shirley Kennett, Christine Goff, and everyone who worked tirelessly throughout, but special thanks must be passed to M. Diane Vogt and CJ Lyons as well as M J Rose, David Morrell, Gayle Lynds, David Dun, James Rollins, Lee Child, and Tess Gerritsen for making ThrillerFest an event well all be talking about in years to come. This could be the conference that becomes the benchmark that others will be judged against.

Finally, the last of the attendees grouped together in the bar Gayle Lynds, George Easter, JT Ellison, Judy Bobalik, Annie Chernow, Zoe Sharp, Andy Butler, Heather Graham and her wonderful husband Dennis. I hadnt read the prolific Heather Graham, but bumped into Dennis a few times during the weekend. The strange thing was, as we sat opposite we realized that we were both big fans of Robert R McCammon as well as the early works of Michael Slade, and we got talking and exchanged cards and as Dennis gets to the UK several times a year, we agreed to meet up again Heather then passed me a copy of her latest book The Island and the penny dropped she had been one of the terrific Killerette singers at the awards dinner! What a talented lady, and shes written close to 200 novels! The beauty of ThrillerFest was that I made a whole load of new friends.

After saying my goodbyes, I went to my room and slept like a log.

The following morning, Damien, Stav and I checked out and caught our flight back to London. The only downside to ThrillerFest was having to pay excess baggage at Phoenix Airport due to the vast array of books Id either picked up or purchased during the weekend.

So maybe only mad dogs and Englishmen venture to Phoenix in July, but the real heat came from the enthusiasm of all who attended. Thank you all for making this such a great event.

May I recommend you plan to come to ThrillerFest 2007 in New York, because without doubt what ITW has created is an amazing organization and one that will become a firmament within the Thriller genre.

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