To mystery lovers, the crimes the thing

Convention draws authors, fans with a mind for murder

Old friends are spending the weekend together at a tony hotel. Suddenly, everyone's attention turns to murder.

Who's responsible? Laurie R. King, who invented a feminist companion for Sherlock Holmes and has been called the new P.D. James? Steven Saylor, whose Roma Sub Rosa mystery series stars Gordianus the Finder in the time of Caesar? Don Herron, who leads Dashiell Hammett tours through the streets of San Francisco?

It could be any of those gathered at the DoubleTree Hotel Columbia River for Left Coast Crime 12, a quirky but intense literary convention about mysteries.

The convention itself is shrouded in mystery. Why was last year's convention held in Anchorage Ñ in February? The answer: good hotel rates, says Portland convention co-chairwoman Debbie Cross. Why is the Portland convention being sponsored by Oregon Science Fiction Conventions when it has nothing to do with science fiction? Answer: It needed a sponsor.

This is the 12th time Left Coast Crime has been held somewhere on the West Coast and the first time it has been held in Portland, Cross says.

In addition to appearances by writers King, Saylor and Herron, the gathering will provide attendees with the chance to meet dozens of mystery authors and publishers. There also will be a silent auction of such mystery-lover treasures as a ride-along with Portland police to gather evidence and being included as a character in an upcoming mystery novel.

Want to know more? As Herron says in his Hammett tour promotions: 'Just show up. Use your detective skills to spot the guy in the snap-brim hat and trenchcoat.'

Good luck, and keep your eye on the butler.

Ñ Janine Robben