Peter Rozovsky is the curator of the award-winning blog Detectives Beyond Borders, and is among the Bouchercon moderators whose panels are worth attending even if you don’t think you have an interest in the topic. This year he worked double duty: “The Siegfried Line: World War II and Its Offspring” covered crime during wartime and the aftermath of war; “Goodnight, My Angel: Hard-boiled, Noir, and the Reader’s Love Affair With Both” discussed topical and stylistic influences, and why they continue to resonate today. (Full disclosure: I was a member of the latter panel.)
Peter has been gracious enough to sit for some questions about what the life of a moderator is like.
One Bite at a Time: I think you first moderated a panel in Baltimore in 2008, which was my first Bouchercon; so, to me, you’ve been doing it forever. Can you give us a brief run-down of the panels you’ve moderated?
Peter Rozovsky: Nope, I gained my first experience in moderation at Indianapolis in 2009. That year I moderated a panel on translated crime fiction with Robert Pépin, Steven T. Murray, Tiina Nunnally and Yrsa Sigurðardóttir. Once I learned how to pronounceSigurðardóttir, I knew I would be all right.
I have generally moderated panels on crime fiction set outside the United States. In St. Louis in 2011, one of my three panels was on humor in crime fiction. Eoin Colfer and Colin Cotterill were on that one. Some of the attendees are still recovering from the experience.
OBAAT: Which panels stick out over the years as being your favorites? Or are they like children, and you can’t pick?
PR: My panel in Cleveland in 2012 consisted all or almost all of authors I’d had on panels before. I quite enjoyed the challenge of writing fresh questions for that one. And the collateral reading for my 2013 Albany panel on wartime crime was fascinating. I read analyses of American military leadership and a history of the German occupation of France in World War II.
OBAAT: Do moderators learn of their assignments at the same time as the panelists, or do you get advance notice?
PR: We’ll get asked in advance if we’re willing to moderate panels, but we find out about the assignments when the panelists do. That has been my experience, at least.
OBAAT: How much say, if any, do you get in your panel’s topic? How about its panelists?
PR: That varies, in my experience. My first few years, I was simply assigned topics and panelists. I assume these were based on the sorts of things I write about and discuss at Detectives Beyond Borders. More recently, organizers have asked for my suggestions.
OBAAT: Describe the preparation you do before a panel.
PR: Reading. Reading. And then some reading. Read enough to get a sense of the author’s work, and tailor your questions to that work. When necessary, as I thought was the case with my wartime crime fiction panel, do outside reading. But that’s what we love to do, anyway.
OBAAT: It’s the day of the panel. What are your goals? What do you hope to avoid?
PR: Avoid asking questions to which the authors can answer “yes” or “no.” Keep all the panelists talking – to me, to the audience, and to one another. Hope that no panelists fall off the stage.
My goal as a moderator is to be entertaining, illuminating, to the point, and, most important of all, brief.
OBAAT: Is there anything about the moderator’s job I’ve missed you’d like to tell us about?
PR: You did miss the possibility of surprises. A moderator needs to be familiar with the work of all panel members. That may mean reading an author who falls outside’s one normal range of interests. That was the case with Anne Zouroudi, whom I had on a panel in 2011. I might not have read her work otherwise, and she turned out to be an absolutely delightful discovery.
Many thanks to Peter for making time to answer questions I hope were of as much interest to him as they have been to me for several years.