Yesterday afternoon, I returned from Los Angeles, where I attended the Left Coast Crime conference. It was held at the Omni Hotel downtown, and despite the sky-high room rates and costs of everything else inside the hotel, the conference itself was, in my opinion, a smash.
First of all, despite many trips to LA in the past, I’d never really been downtown. I quickly learned that it’s divided into two distinct areas: the clump of gleaming skyscrapers where all the big business is done, and “old” downtown, which is down the hill from the shiny stuff. Fortunately, the Omni is on the border between the two, at the crest of the hill, so that when Jim Bell conducted his walking tour, we all just slipped down the hill and into the old section.
The “old” downtown is surprisingly viable, looking for all the world like LA of the 1950s with newer cars. I half expected to see a Megan Abbott character skulking around, or maybe even Jack Webb pull up at any moment. We toured the Bradbury Building, a gorgeous relic if ever there was one, and down its hallways I kept looking for the pebbled glass door that read “Spade & Archer.” We also zipped through the Central Market, an open-air bazaar where Philip Marlowe had his regular bowl of chop suey. Jim’s informative commentary held everyone’s attention without a dull moment.Â There were other stops, but you get the idea.Â It was wonderful.
In addition, I was stunned at how little traffic there was downtown. I never, and I mean never, saw more than four or five cars at any one stoplight, and the streets were generally near-empty most of the time. This compares very favorably with other downtown areas I’m familiar with, such as New Orleans, Houston, Nashville, and Miami. Even my adopted hometown of Key West, hardly a paradigm of metropolitan traffic jams, usually musters up more traffic than I saw in four days in downtown Los Angeles.
Okay, enough of the wide-eyed tourist stuff.
The conference, as I said, was terrific. Every attendee got a goodie bag which included no fewer than six books, each by one of the authors at the conference! Lee Child, Michael Connelly, Jan Burke, and many others were in attendance, and unlike the big authors who were at Bouchercon, they didn’t just fly in, do their bit, and then disappear. They were around and available for buttonholing. Very classy.
The panels were rewarding, too. I learned something from every one I attended. The one I served on featured Boyd Morrison, Lee Goldberg, Dana Kaye, and Ashley Ream as the moderator. Boyd has a compelling story to tell and he told it in great detail at this panel. If you don’t know it, look him up. It’s worth reading. Lee also gave some good advice on the coming electronic age to unpublished writers, and Dana is a publicist whose depth of knowledge regarding internet publicity is astonishing.
Overall, the atmosphere was one of warmth and camaraderie. I made several new friends whom I hope to see again down the road somewhere.
Saturday night brought a cocktail party followed by the banquet. The wine was good, the food was tasty, and the subsequent awards ceremony and auction were lively.
As writers conferences go, you really can’t ask for more. Congrats to Jean Utley, Sherry Lilley, and all others who were involved in putting it together.