Monday, November 10, 2003

Dirty Girls, Bad Guys, and more 

Finally, The Independent puts up Jim Driver's amusing article about being a UK publisher in distinctly American waters as he attends Bouchercon. Since the convention was held in Vegas, the local niceties may have been lost on poor, jet-lagged Mr. Driver

"Where is Bouchercon being held?" I asked the uniformed guy at the Information Desk. "No idea, sir," he replied, turning to the next enquirer. This antithesis to the usual semi-fawning American service took a while to get used to. Author Peter Lovesey told me he rang down to hotel reception to enquire if they could recommend a dentist. "There's a Yellow Pages in your drawer, sir. Please use it." Click.

Soon everybody had similar stories to tell. Paul Charles, a Londoner by way of Northern Ireland, put it down precisely to their being open 24-7. Los Angelino Gary Phillips, easily recognisable thanks to his giant frame and garish gambling shirts, disagreed: "Hell, man, no one does anything around here unless you tip them." In a country bereft of betting shops, casinos and slot machines, Vegas is the USA's Blackpool, Soho and William Hill rolled into one. Mark Billingham and John Connolly, both up for the Best British Novel award despite Connolly being a Dubliner and as Irish as shamrock, stumbled across a barn of a bar offering "Mud Wrestling: Dirty Girls, Cold Beer", with "Bikini Bull Riding" at weekends. The upmarket Venetian recreates the Grand Canal indoors under a mock projected sky. "Gondoliers" dressed in stripy vests sing cod-opera and waiters ask if you want to dine alfresco. If you laugh, you're the one considered barmy.

I'd pretty much have to agree, but I'd also like to add two things: one, that the "gondolier" in question was horrifically off-key and did about the worst rendition of O SOLE MIO I have ever heard, even taking into account how utterly dreadful that song is.

And two, the mud wrestling wasn't all that. Or so I was told.

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