After life's fitful fever he sleeps well;
Treason has done his worst: nor steel, nor poison,
Malice domestic, foreign levy, nothing,
Can touch him further.
--Macbeth, III, ii
JULIA: When a group of Capitol-area mystery fans first got together in 1989 to celebrate the traditional mystery, they pulled their name from this famous Shakespearian quote. Malice Domestic is an aptly named conference; one that celebrates the artfully loosened stair tread, the curiously dislodged stone off the manor roof, the cup of slightly bitter, almond-flavored tea.
The traditional mystery is hard to define; most enthusiasts could quote Justice Stewart and say, "I know it when I see it." It encompasses a wide range of writers and readers, which has made Malice the second largest mystery gathering in the United States (and, I suspect, one of the largest in the English-speaking world.)
Happily, the nature of the conference makes it almost impossible to get lost in the crowd. First-timers are sucked into conversations about books and find themselves dragged along to lunch with seven or eight new best friends. Everyone else is greeted like a long-lost (and well-loved) relative. (One Malice fan told me the conference was like a family reunion, "Only better; I like my fellow fans better than most of my relations!"
If you've been, you come home with books and stories and memories. Hallie?
HALLIE: I've been to Malice two memorable times -- My memories moosh together, but I think there was a hat parade (I'm not making this up, am I?) and I remember the excitement that someone I knew (Roberta Isleib) was up for an Agatha! I was too much of a rube to know that I should go to the banquet. I met the nicest people ever, big names including Marcia Talley, and I was in awe. I remember sitting next to Dana Cameron signing books, and she had a line out the door.
Every since, whenever Malice rolls around I wish I were going!
ROBERTA: I've missed Malice the last couple of years, and I miss it! Hallie, thanks for remembering me being up for an award. That was a very exciting year. Nothing more thrilling than being interviewed by Margaret Maron in front of a full house! Malice is very much like a big house party--it's not overwhelming the way Bouchercon can be. And Sisters in Crime usually has a big presence so that's always fun. I regret to admit that I've never made it to the tea party with the hats...very hard to pace yourself and still have energy on Sunday afternoon!
I'm looking forward to attending next year.
ROSEMARY: I've been to Malice for the past 5-6 years! I always have fun. My most memorable Malice Memory..(say that five times fast..) the year I was nominated for Best First I was so clueless, I didn't know that the nominees were being introduced at the reception on Friday night and I was somewhere doing lord knows what - probably just yakking in the lounge area so everyone else got introduced but me! :-(
Hope the new (old) hotel has a nice big central meeting place.
JAN: I only went to Malice once - and that was before I
had a book out. But if remember correctly, I actually wrote about the conference for the Providence Journal while I was there. I also think that's when I met Deb the first time. I think we had dinner!
DEB: I THINK my first Malice was the year before I was nominated for Best First--oh, my, how time flies. But I certainly know the best thing that happened at that Malice--I met Kate Charles and Marcia Talley, who are still, how-many-ever years later, two of my very best friends. That's one of the great things about Malice, which I've missed for many a year now, as I usually seem to be in England in April.
And my second best Malice memory? The year I didn't win Best Novel for Dreaming of the Bones. Tom and Enid Schantz from Rue Morgue in Bolder made me a Rue Morgue Best Novel Teapot, and that is one of my treasures. I keep it on my desk to remind me what good friends I've made in my writing career.
HANK: My first Malice? I was terrified. Terrified! Who would I talk to? I was so intimidated. But people were loving and welcoming...and like you,Deb,now some of my dearest friends are from there.
Malice memories? I brings tears to my eyes to think about them all. The phone call from dear Louise Leftwich, telling me PRIME TIME was nominated for Best First. I wrote it all down, I was so surprised, and I still have that piece of paper on my fridge. Standing at the podium, misty-eyed and thrilled, worried I would drop the teapot. And I was so happy afterwards, taking photos..but there's not one picture of me alone with the teapot. And I think-that means a lot.
SO many more memories! But I don't want to mooch too much space here. And this year..crossing fingers for DRIVE TIME. It's such an honor to be nominated! Who's going?
RHYS: I've been a loyal Malice attendee since 1998, and Deb, I can't believe Dreaming of the Bones didn't win! it's one of my favorite mysteries ever.
I have lots of memories over the years but those that stand out were winning the Agatha best novel for Murphy's Law. Usually they go through the awards with best novel as the last. That year it was first and suddenly I heard my name called out and my friends doing a happy dance and I'm totally in shock. I didn't even have a chance to prepare my face in a composed "I'm a gracious loser and it's an honor to be nominated" pose. I've had plenty of chance to do that since as I've had seven more nominations and no more wins.
My other really special memory was last year when I was toastmaster. I had to work hard, hosting all the ceremonies, but was also treated like a VIP, which was very nice. This year I'm ordinary folks again, except that I am joining Mary Jane Maffini in giving a tribute to our dear friend Lyn Hamilton and accepting an award on her behalf. That will be very hard to do as I still miss her horribly.
But that brings me to what others have said. I have met several women who have become close friends at Malice. Always I'm awed by how supportive and generous the other mystery writers are. We are really a super nice bunch. And keeping my fingers crossed for Hank this time!
JULIA: Meeting other writers and fans is really what it's all about, isn't it? I'm pretty sure I met most of the Jungle Red Writers at one Malice or another! A lot of my Malice memories revolve around meals: wearing a pinch-waisted outfit that looked fabulous, only to discover after I sat down at the awards banquet that it cut off my circulation below the belt. Or the time the banquet was in a hall next to a LOUD wedding reception, and we were all treated to a live cover of Hall and Oates during the presentations! Meals with friends: Jeff Cohen teasing me over my amazed appreciation of this wonderful new drink, the "Arnold Palmer" (what can I say? I don't get out much...) or walking to lunch with Louise Penny and her husband Michael Whitehead, watching them holding hands as they strolled along the Jeff Davis Highway.
My most treasured Malice memory is falling into an impromptu dinner party with Ruth Cavin and three of her other authors; Donna Andrews, Meredith Cole, and Liz Zelvin. We drank and swapped appetizers and laughed and listen to Ruth's wonderful stories. It wasn't the first time I had a wonderful meal with Ruth, but it would be my last. Malice always features a "Ghost of Honor," and I suspect hers will be there, reveling in all the friendship and fun just as she did in life.
Are you going to Malice this year? Have happy memories of years past? Thinking about it and want us to talk you into it? Let us know in the comments! (And keep those fingers crossed for Hank's DRIVE TIME!)