I Don’t Suppose You Are Much Interested In Publishers and Their Problems

Last Thursday I was dirty. I needed a shave. My hands were shaking. I smelled foul to myself. But I got myself cleaned up and went over to Grand Hyatt for the Edgars, which was lousy with mystery writers all out to score a prize.

I asked Harlan Coben why he thought people would want to get into the game. He said we’re living in “a golden age of crime fiction.”

A towering bald man in glasses, Coben spread out his hands over the assembled mystery writers and checked off the collective talent in the room. Sara Paretsky. Lawrence Block. Michael Connelly. Charles Todd, who writes mysteries with his mother under the pen name Charles Todd.

“Internationally you have guys like Stieg Larsson; unfortunately he’s not writing anymore,” he said, adding a heavy pause. “And we have all these guys. I don’t think it’s ever been better.”

I told him I was trying to go incognito. How would a guy like me infiltrate a group of mystery writers?

“Let me know if you figure it out, dude,” he said. “You’ll find that mystery writers are the most normal human beings.”

Maybe he was right. Aside from the odd fedora or black-widow-tattooed-shoulder, the room could have been mistaken for any other sort of convention held at the Grand Hyatt. When Mr. Schoenfelder arrived, dressed in an almost purple striped jacket with Ms. Parker in tow, the banquet was about to start. By this point, I wasn’t looking so bad myself, but again, he declined to comment.

“Let me give you my card in case you change your mind,” I said. “You’ll need my contact info.”

“I have it,” he said, his voice trailing as if he wished there could be something done about that.

I smiled. “You’re a tough nut to crack, John.”

“Another time,” he said.

I said my goodbyes, and left the event, but not before being obliged to make another quick interview, by a publicist who caught me leaving. No way has yet been invented to say goodbye to them.

dduray@observer.com