Friday, May 23, 2008

Mayhem Diary

Mayhem in the Midlands – Friday Morning – May 23, 2008

I arrived in Omaha, Nebraska yesterday evening. Had an uneventful drive from Muskogee, Oklahoma – 450 miles give or take. Rented a car with good gas mileage for the trip (my old Ford Explorer is a heavy gas drinker and is better left in the driveway for now). I hope gas prices don't double before I leave on Sunday.

The Omaha Public Library puts on a great event. I attended last year and really enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere and well-coordinated conference. Mayhem in the Midlands is held in the Embassy Suites – Downtown. The hotel staff is friendly and very helpful with dealing with everything from internet connections on my laptop to helping me get all my luggage and important "stuff" from the car to the room. Couldn't ask for a nicer location.

The first panels start at 9:00 am. I'm hoping to get my act together and sit in on a few (several dealing with crime lab information and analysis) before my panel at 3:00 pm – Casting Call: Creating Real Characters.

More later. Right now I need some breakfast – or at least coffee. I also need to check out the silent auction baskets (Evelyn David donated one) and leave some bookmarks at the bookstore.

Mayhem in the Midlands – Friday Evening – May 23, 2008

Just got back to my hotel room. Ready to kick off my shoes and drink a Pepsi One (I brought some from home and loaded the hotel room refrigerator.)

This year Mayhem is doing something a little different by running a series of panels concerning "real life" crime labs. The first panel I attended was entitled, "Crime Lab/Crime Scene: Behind the Scene, the Real Crime Scene." Jan Burke (author of the wonderful Irene Kelly mystery series) and Chicago author Alex Kava interviewed David Kofoed, the head of the Douglas County Crime Lab. He talked about processing a scene and how what he and his team do that is different from the tv CSI show. It was very interesting to hear how his job has changed since he began in the early 1980s. DNA is a big factor now, but because of the expense and backlog for testing, much of the best crime scene analysis is done with photography, blood splatter analysis, and meticulous observation and documentation of every detail of a crime scene.

The second panel I attended was entitled, "Crime Lab/Crime Scene: Inside a Real Case File: The Jessica O'Grady Case." Leigh Ann Retelsdorf, Douglas County Attorney and Prosecutor, and Dave Kofoed gave a presentation of a real Omaha case where the victim's body was never found but they were still able to get a murder conviction. It was a fascinating look at a real crime scene and how it was processed. They used a power-point presentation with actual photographs of the crime scene. I learned a lot about blood splatter analysis and building a murder case.

At 3:00 pm I sat on the panel: "Creating Real Characters." I spoke about Murder Off the Books and the characters in Evelyn David's fictional world. My co-panelists were: Craig Johnson and Debra C. Thomas. Suzanne Arruda moderated. Craig Johnson writes the Sheriff Walt Longmire novels. His latest book Another Man's Moccasins will be released by Viking Press on May 29. Debra C. Thomas writes short stories that have been published in Great Mystery and Suspense Magazine. Suzanne Arruda (a former zookeeper and science teacher turned writer) is the author of the Jade del Cameron historical mystery series. Her books are set in Post World War I Africa.

The panel was informal and fun. The audience asked lots of great questions. After the panel, I autographed copies of Murder Off the Books and answered questions about when the sequel would be published. Right now, we're hoping for fall 2008.

Star Watching: While going to and from the panels I spotted Charlaine Harris, Jan Burke, Chris Grabenstein, and two of the nicest women you'll ever hope to meet – Honora Finkelstein and Susan Smily (co-authors of The Chef Who Died Sautéing). I also caught up with fellow Stiletto Gang blog sister, Marilyn Meredith. She and her husband always look like they are having a good time!

Tomorrow I'm on another panel – "Pet Peeves: Killing Animals vs. Killing People in Mysteries." Should be interesting!

Stay tuned.

Evelyn David

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