Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A Prayer of Thanksgiving for Readers of Crime Fiction

Brad Parks is back at Mystery Playground today and is graciously letting us print his super official Toastmaster toast from Left Coast Crime, a benediction of sorts. The photos here were taken by Darrell Hoemann Photography. 

Delivered at Left Coast Crime Opening Ceremonies
By Brad Parks

Fellow crime fiction readers, let us bow our heads with meekness and humility... 

Oh God of Chandler and Christie, Oh Deity of Dorothy L, Oh Maker of MacDonalds – Ross and John D… We come to you today to express our thanks for the many blessings you have bestowed upon our genre.

We thank you for knitting shop owners whose places of business act as magnets for unexplained corpses... for busybody old ladies whose mah-jong groups end up having more crime-solving wherewithal than the state police... and for small towns in the Adirondacks where the body count resembles the Battle of Gettysburg.

We thank you for law enforcement officials who go rogue more often than breakaway Russian Republics... for conspiracies whose tendrils reach all the way to the White House... and for highly trained ex-special forces demolitions experts who hang out their own shingle as ham-and-egg private detectives.

We thank you that while our characters sometimes have sex, our authors have enough decorum not to describe it in forensic detail.

We thank you for strong female characters… yet we also pray fervently for the day when we can stop having to use the words “strong female character.” 

And while I’m at it, oh Elohim of elocution, can you please also retire the phrase “transcend the genre.”... And go ahead and tell certain Chilean authors that if they’re not a fan of mysteries, we’re perfectly comfortable with them not writing one.

Yes, we know you by many names, oh heavenly reader spirit. To some you are the King of Kinsey. Or the Giver of Gamache. Or the Lord of Leduc. Or the Maharajah of McCone... or the ... dangit, Pronzini, how am I supposed to do something cute and alliterative when you don’t give the detective a name!

However it is we summon your spirit, we thank you for conferences such as this one, where we can have perfectly normal conversations in the elevator about our favorite ways to administer poison... and we admit, we sort of like it when that causes the other people in the elevator to start slowly backing away from us.

At this gathering in particular, oh most holy of Hemingways, we in the congregation who call ourselves authors would like to thank you for the bar. Let me try that again: will the authors please make a joyful noise for the bar. 

Guide us, oh creator of nouns and adjectives, to fabulous debut authors whose work is ripe for discovery... to rising stars of the genre who will someday be our bestsellers... and to established authors whose work may have been unfairly overlooked—not that we’re going to mention names.

We thank you in particular for the Guests of Honor. May you bless Sue Trowbridge, who venerates so many of the authors present both in person and in web design; bless Cara Black, and see that her characters never run out of Parisian underworlds to explore; bless Sue Grafton, so that Kinsey may continue to have horrible taste in men; bless Bill Pronzini, because anyone who has written that many books needs to be blessed; bless Marcia Muller, because I have this sneaking suspicion she could kick my ass; and bless Louise Penny for not being nominated for the Lefty Award... because I believe I speak for every writer here when I say: I’ve lost enough awards to Louise already.

Let us also extol our librarians, who spread the gospel of good books, one patron at a time. Let us raise up our booksellers, who are the high priests and priestesses of our world, even though they’re often paid like monks who have taken poverty vows. Let us ordain our publishers: may they make the size of our advances be fruitful and multiply.

And whether we enjoy traditional mysteries or cutting edge thrillers, whether we like our heroes hard-boiled or soft, whether we prefer series or standalones, we thank you – above all – that our extensive reading has given us at least five foolproof ways to make a body disappear forever... because you just never know when that’s going to come in handy.

Oh alpha and omega of red herrings, may you increase our herds and our flocks and our TBR piles. May our spouses remain blissfully ignorant of just how much we spent during our last trip to the bookstore. And may you see to it the Toastmaster doesn’t go to hell for this prayer. 

May the words of my mouth, the meditations in our hearts, and the volumes on our nightstand remain acceptable in your sight. Amen. 

Brad with his newly minted Lefty


  1. This speech is fabulous. Brad can always make me laugh. Bravo.

  2. Being a part of this amazing speech is definitely a highlight of my life! Thanks, Brad!

    1. Sue - congratulations! You were a great fan guest of honor at LCC.

  3. A big thank you to Brad for letting us post it.