Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Rambling Interview with Robert S. Napier, Part 3

Here's the much-anticipated 3rd installment of our chinfest with the author of Love, Death and the Toyman and the brand new sequel The Toyman Rides Again. Part 1, you'll recall, covered Bob's days in comic fandom, and Part 2 dealt with Dapa-Em, where the mystery field's über-fans assemble. Now it's time to party.

Me: I know you've attended a LOT of mystery conventions. What was your first, and what do you remember about it?

Bob: I attended a lot of conventions in the eighties, fewer in the nineties, and a handful in this century. Getting married, buying a house, and having kids put a serious crimp in my wanderlust--or at least my ability to finance my wanderlust. My first mystery convention was in Washington, D.C. in 1980. I remember meeting a bunch of the Dapa-Em folk, dinner with lovely redhead Ann Byerly, hanging out with Bill De Andrea, rooming with Art Scott, and booking with Greg Macdonald. It was a small con by modern standards, but it served the original Bouchercon goal of allowing fans and pros to mingle. The con was held at the Washington Hotel and we could see the back of The White House from one side of it. I remember a large orange tarp covering an area in the rear of The White House. I said, "Looks like Jimmy Carter wants to be sure he'll get his cleaning deposit back." A month later he lost he election. I regret I didn't have enough time to see some of the sights while I was in the capital, but I did enjoy the convention a lot. And to tie this in with another of your recent blog posts, this might be where I saw the Nero Wolfe movie whose name escapes me at the moment.

Me: You've met and hob-nobbed with a LOT of well-known authors at conventions over the years. Who was the biggest thrill for you meet?

Bob: I've been lucky enough to meet many fine authors and most of those meetings were a thrill for me. To name drop a few: Robert B. Parker, Joe Gores, Warren B. Murphy, Sue Grafton, Sara Paretsky, William Campbell Gault, Max Allan Collins, Elizabeth Becka, Libby Hellmann, Bill De Andrea, Gregory Macdonald, Loren Estleman, Bill Crider, Caroline Hart, Bill Pronzini and Marcia Muller, Parnell Hall, Jerry Healy, Steve Hockensmith, Sandra Scoppettone, Richard Moore, Jonathan Gash, and dozens of others I'm forgetting. Apologies to all. Maybe my biggest thrill was in Milwaukee in 1981. Mickey Spillane was the GoH and he signed my one-sheet of I, THE JURY for me. Later, I saw him having lunch with Al Collins at a restaurant and had the waitress deliver him a Miller Lite on my tab. I heard it wasn't his favorite beer, but he was doing commercials for them at the time and it seemed appropriate. He stopped by my table on the way out, shook my hand, and thanked me. Lastly, I've been tuckerized by some of these people and have appeared in about a dozen books or short stories. That's a great thing to discover while reading a book.

Me: Sometimes you're not just an attendee, but part of the show. Tell us about some of the panels you've appeared on.

Bob: I did a two or three related to fanzines, one of which was on a Sunday morning at 8 or 9. Huge turnout. I moderated a debate--or what was supposed to be a debate--between George Kelley and Barry Gardner. The topic was "Was the Private Eye Dead?" This was at Eyecon. I set i up like a pirze fight, complete with a bell and yelling "Let's get ready to rumble." Unfortunately, Kelley took a dive early on and wouldn't fight. George is an intelligent, amiable guy with a great blog and a fine zine in Dapa-Em, but he said he felt badly outnumbered that day. I guess that's why he didn't argue his point very strongly. He ought to get some credit for coming to Eyecon to argue that the private eye is dead even if he was overwhelmed when it came time to put up. I did a small presentation at Left Coast Crime in Seattle about a 1933 gimmick called a Plot Genie, and I moderated a panel about Film Noir, which turned out pretty well.

Me: Do you have a wild mystery con story or two you'd care to relate? You may, of course, change names to protect the guilty.

Bob: Being a gentleman, I'm afraid I can't discuss any of the wild things, even with name changes. Well, there was the my first Chicago Bouchercon. A couple in a room across the airshaft was going at it hot and heavy while a group of us watched from our window. Alas, I was a mere voyeur to the proceedings.

Me: Then I suppose we'll have to settle for hearing about your experiences as Fan Guest of Honor at Bouchercon. What sorts of hoopla accompanied that honor?

Bob: Not a lot, actually. It was a great honor and it was nice to have my hotel, con membership, and travel comped, but the Banquet Nazi ruined that part of it and my return trip was a nightmare thanks to the jackasses at Alaska Airlines in San Jose, California. One neat moment happened when I was standing beside Sara Paretsky, greeting people entering the free booze reception. One woman said hello to Sara, then looked at me and asked her, "Is this your bodyguard?" That was my best moment of the entire weekend.

Me: Will you be in San Francisco this October, autographing copies of the new Five Star bestseller The Toyman Rides Again?

Bob: Yes. For the uninitiated, that's the World Mystery Convention/Bouchercon on Oct 14-18 at the Embarcadero Plaza Hyatt Regency. I hope they'll add me to the signing schedule. No word yet. If not, I'll be hawking them out in the plaza. You know, in my lost years I spent some time selling leather goods at the Embarcadero Plaza. You might have heard of Leather Bob.

Me: There you have it, folks. It'll be one-stop shopping at Bouchercon 2010: Autographed books and kinky leather goods from the legendary Leather Bob Napier.

Next: The Toyman


Cap'n Bob said...

Looks like a line was left off my last response. In the mid-seventies I sold leather goods on the streets of San Francisco, sometimes at the Embarcardero Plaza. That's when I was Leather Bob.

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

A great interesting interview. I enjoyed that.

Evan Lewis said...

Sorry about the missing lines, Cap'n. They have now been restored, I think. This post gave me fits with HTML errors and I was near blind when it finally went up.

Ron Scheer said...

Welcome back from HTML hell. My con experiences pale by comparison. I'm color blind, but I think I'm green with envy.

Unknown said...

Great interview and even greater photos. My first Bouchercon was also the one in 1980. Good times!

Richard R. said...

And of course, one of Bob's fawning admirers at Monterey when he was FGoH had a huge banner made up and hundreds of people attending the con signed it. He took it home and reportedly later used it to catch oil drips from his ancient pickup. Or maybe it was lining in the birdcage, I can't recall now...

Cap'n Bob said...

Yes, Rick Robinson made this huge banner and scores of people signed it. It's too big to display (read: Linda won't let me) but I still have it and it's in pristine condition. A hell of a pain to travel home with, however. Thanks again, Rick.