Yes, it was thrilling

Never mind the 105 degree heat outside. Or the fact that the hotel’s cocktail lounge was under renovation (bad, bad timing when you’ve got thirsty writers as guests.)  Thrillerfest was the best conference I’ve ever been to, and all congratulations goes to ITW and the amazing David Morrell, Gayle Lynds, MJ Rose, CJ Lyons, and Diane Vogt.  With around 400 attendees, the conference was intimate enough for everyone to mingle and actually have meaningful conversations.  I got home to Maine late last night (well, 2:00 AM to be exact) and I’m still high from the amazing after-buzz.

The best part was reconnecting with old friends, including the net’s best writer-blogger, J.A. Konrath. 

    Joe and Tess


Joe managed to get me tipsy by sending me a never-ending supply of gin-and-tonics.  Thanks a lot, Joe.  I think.

 I also met, for the first time, Robert Gregory Browne —

 robert gregory browne




 who did an amazing job producing the crime-scene video for our autopsy workshop.  One of the stars of that workshop was D.P. Lyle, a real-life physician who showed up in his fashionable black scrubsuit to narrate a rather gruesome Power Point slide show.  And he managed to make us laugh!

doug lyle


I loved meeting up with other new (and old) friends, including Michael Palmer, Christopher Mooney, David Montgomery, and Gregg Hurwitz —


 palmer, mooney, etc.


as well as Katherine Ramsland

 katherine ramsland

and author F. Paul Wilson and reviewer Ali Karim, who made the


journey all the way to Phoenix from the U.K: 




Speaking of reviewers, this was a chance to meet the very people who, I must admit, sometimes terrify me.  So it was nice to shake hands with Larry Gandle, George Easter, and Joe Hartlaub, who are all perfectly lovely men.  I loved seeing old friends Gary Braver and Joe Finder, and I finally got to meet Lee Goldberg, whose blog has been a must-stop site for me every morning.  (You must check out Lee’s blog about the naked bookseller who greets his customers wearing not a single stitch of clothing.  I didn’t believe Lee’s story about the guy until he posted the photo of that bookseller wearing … well, what looks like a hastily applied fig leaf.  I can’t wait to visit the store myself.)

Now that I’m trying to recount everyone I met, I suddenly realize how many, many writers I actually know.  It just goes to show how long I’ve been in this business.  This is an industry of warm and wonderful people, and Thrillerfest was our chance to have a great time together.  I saw John Gilstrap and John Ramsey Miller, both of whom I’ve been corresponding with for years.  I finally met Natalie Collins and Allison Brennan, two lovely ladies, and reconnected with Twist Phelan and Raelynn Hillhouse.  And then there’s Jim Born who is rumored to have a sadistic streak after he led some fellow writers on a death march up a mountain in  the 100 degree heat.  (Or maybe he was just trying to kill off the competition.)

Some surprises:  John Lescroart on the guitar, smoothly channeling Jimmy Buffet  at the banquet, accompanied by “Thrillerettes” Heather Graham, Harley Jane Kozak, and Alexandra Sokoloff:

lescroart and the thrillerettes


And Michael Palmer as rock star!  (You should have heard his son Daniel on electric harmonica.  Hey Stephen King, you gotta book this guy for the Rock Bottom Remainders!)

 michael palmer


The real surprise of the banquet evening was Thriller Awards chairman Jim Rollins, who happens to be a real-life veterinarian.   Addressing an audience of dangerous folks who know how to break necks, throw knives, and shoot AK-47’s, Jim just shrugged.  “Yeah, yeah, big deal.   I can neuter a cat in five minutes.”  Who knew Jim was so damn funny? 

I got the chance to rub shoulders with the industry greats, including Clive Cussler and Sandra Brown.  Doug Preston told us the harrowing tale of his brush with the law in Italy.  (I recommend you all buy the current issue of Atlantic Monthly for the details.  It’s scary as hell.)  To top off the evening, the charming R.L. Stine came up to shake my hand. 

Maybe NOW my sons will think their Mom is cool.

18 replies
  1. Barbie Roberts
    Barbie Roberts says:

    Thanks so much for the pictures and info …. according to the blogs I’ve read on the event, it sounds like a great time was had by all.

  2. joe bernstein
    joe bernstein says:

    tess-sounds like it was fun and interesting-nice photos-and it looks ike there were a lot of people who were happy to meet you!

  3. Richard Cooper
    Richard Cooper says:

    Ms. Gerritsen,
    It was thrilling to accidentally meet you at ThrillerFest! I am going to link to your blog on mine at if that’s okay. I met many, many writers in various stages of publishing and can’t wait to interview them over the next several months at Satori Kick!
    David Morrell was my professor at Iowa, and it was great to see all those thriller authors in one place!

  4. Tom Young
    Tom Young says:

    I didn’t think children ever thought their parents were cool, until after they turned 21. So glad you had a wonderful time in the Heat.

    My computer and I need to get our more and read more of these blogs.

  5. J. Carson Black
    J. Carson Black says:

    It was the best conference I’ve ever been to, also. Hands down! There was so much energy there. The workshops were brilliant. The awards ceremony was, for the most part, hilarious. And the Biltmore was gorgeous.

    One of my few regrets — I didn’t make it through the throng to actually meet you in person.

  6. Allison Brennan
    Allison Brennan says:

    I agree, this was the most fun I’ve had in years. But I don’t get out much 🙂 . . . I particularly liked how everyone was gracious and there were no big egos, everyone was generous with their time and expertise. I had a blast.

  7. Brett Battles
    Brett Battles says:

    I agree with you completely, Tess. It was the best conference I have ever been to. My one regret was that I didn’t introduce myself to you. I had opportunity, but for some reason frozen up every time. Dumb, dumb, dumb. We probably didn’t even get you a Killer Year T-shirt, did we?


  8. David Montgomery
    David Montgomery says:

    I’ve been fortunate enough over the past few years to be able to meet and get to know a lot of great writers. I’d never met Tess before, though, so she was the one person I definitely wanted to talk to at ThrillerFest. (And I’m not just saying that because this is her blog — it’s true.)

    So it was a real pleasure to finally meet her in person. Tess is everything you’d expect from reading her blog: smart, charming, funny, friendly and simply gorgeous. (Okay, I don’t know how you’d know she’s gorgeous from her blog… Well, maybe if you looked at the pictures.) She also gave us a fascinating pitch for her next novel that made me eager to read it.

    I thought the conference overall was a great success and I was very pleased with how it all came out. I’m already looking forward to next year.

  9. Elaine Flinn
    Elaine Flinn says:

    Since Dave already said everything I’d planned to – I’ll just join the chorus and say how ‘thrilled’ I was to finally meet you, Tess. Oh, I might add: the epitome of grace.

  10. toni mcgee causey
    toni mcgee causey says:

    Thoroughly enjoyed meeting you, Tess, and you’re just as gracious in person as you are on this blog. I third everything David said. Very much looking forward to your next book.

  11. Tess
    Tess says:

    No, Brett, I DIDN’T get a Killer T-shirt, although I was envious of everyone I saw who was wearing one!

    I wish I could have had the time to talk to everyone — and next time, please, don’t anyone ever hesitate to come up and say hello. The truth is, I’m really kinda shy, so going to a conference takes a lot of courage for me. I think we’re all a little scared to be out in public. Writers in general are shy, which is why we choose this job that requires us to shut ourselves away in offices. Still, it was great to be let out of prison for a few days to meet so many like-minded souls.

    I hope to see you all again next year in NYC. That will be a be a meeting not to be missed!

  12. Eileen
    Eileen says:

    You know we think of you as an industry great don’t you? I’m hoping to see you at a conference one of these days. I loved the pictures.

  13. Pat Mullan
    Pat Mullan says:


    It was a great pleasure meeting you – and i agree with everyone: this was a super conference and managed with top shelf professionalism. I am truly impressed. Best of all – it was FUN!

    And I will not give Ken the greeting in the way you suggested!

    Slan, Pat.

  14. Kent Lester
    Kent Lester says:

    Yes Tess, it was “thrilling.” Pardon the pun. I’ve been to a lot of writer’s conferences, but Thrillerfest was unique because of the high author to attendee ratio. I found all the authors to be very approachable and talkative. (you especially)

    One other thing I noticed was the high number of spouses at the event. It was great to meet Jacob. I only wish my wife had been able to attend. We sometimes forget how critical spousal support is for us “crazy” thriller writers. There is no way I could have ever completed my novel, The Sixth Extinction, without the continued support of my wife. She has the patience of Job. I’m sure Jacob is the same.

    Wonderful time in Phoenix and I hope to see you again at Bouchercon.

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