In the market for a fresh corpse? Has Jon Jordan got an event for you. In 2004, he and his wife, Ruth, launched Crimespree – a bimonthly magazine investigating the modern mystery literary genre. That same year the pair started a mystery lover’s conference, Murder and Mayhem, in Milwaukee. Both longtime veterans of the sleuth circuit, they wanted the title to pay homage to a now-defunct gathering, Mayhem in the Midlands.
Unlike the namesake, the Jordans’ conference has grown since it was first launched a dozen years ago, moving from the Muskego library to Milwaukee’s Irish Cultural and Heritage Center, and hosting a who’s who of modern whodunits.
“The feedback we get from authors is that it’s intimate,” Jordan says. “They got a lot more contact with fans, and they feel they’re being treated very special, which to me says we’re doing it right.”
The conference is organized around panel discussions and interviews with authors, and is open to readers of all kinds. This year’s topics are inspired by David Morrell, who wrote First Blood, which became the blockbuster film series Rambo, and will attend. New this year is a panel that pits writers against one another at the mercy of the audience. Jordan calls it the Thunderdome. “Our moderators are going to get a list of questions and ask authors two at a time, then the audience will vote on the answer they like best… At the end there will be one author left,” he says.
Sherlocks and Marlowes have a home at the event, Jordan says, but the range of topics is broader than PI paperbacks. “It borders on espionage and thriller stuff,” he says. “There’s some supernatural stuff with a mystery element to it. We’ve had a couple of comic book writers over the years.” One sub-genre you won’t see much of at the event: true crime. While past presenters have dabbled in the area, Jordan says almost all work is fictional. It’s a respite for armchair detectives who’ve heard enough about l’affaire Avery. ◆
Persons of Interest
Three scribes to watch out for, according to Jordan:
“[Dark Matter] has caught fire. Blake has two TV shows [Fox’s “Wayward Pines,” TNT’s “Good Behavior”] on the air and a movie coming out based on things he’s written.”
“He just won an Anthony Award for [Red Right Hand]. The main character is a hit man. In the last couple of years, Chris has become one of those guys that everybody’s watching.”
The local home inspector with a three-book thriller deal features Peter Ash, a vet battling PTSD – and many enemies. The next installment, Burning Bright, comes out in January.
The Fine Print
Murder and Mayhem happens Saturday, Nov. 5, from 9:30-5 p.m. General admission tickets can be purchased for $40 at murdermayhemmilwaukee.com. Also: check out Noir at the Bar on Thursday, Nov. 3, at MobCraft Brewery featuring author readings, plus a special cherry stout called Ch-Ch-Ch Cherry Bomb.