Tuesday, October 29, 2013

New Setting for Magna

Riddle: How far into the woods can a big dog run?

Magna has moved into new and beautiful digs.  This place is amazing.  Two story lobby framed in dark, carved paneling and carved stone pillars with a broad, story-and-a-half front mullioned window.  Excellent restaurant with impeccable service.  Small but beautiful rooms with elaborate furniture.  A mezzanine that has a library.  Important people – presidents, even – have stayed here (every Republican president since Benjamin Harrison).  There is a dress code – gentlemen need a coat in order to dine in the Harrison Room (they keep a supply of loaners on hand), and ladies are not to parade around in shorts and flip-flops.  Very classy and right up the alley of mystery writers and fans.  What’s amazing is that they offered Kathryn a rate for the rooms that is less than the rate we had to pay for the Hotel Roberts (classy but not this classy) back in Muncie before it closed.  Here’s their web site: http://columbia-club.org/

Friday, things started happening right after lunch.  Kathy Akers-Johnson was one of a collection of authors who wrote a new book on the Titanic.  Kathy’s special area of expertise was the passengers, with a concentration on the third-class passengers.  She told some very touching stories; for example, there was a wealthy woman traveling alone in first class who had brought her little dog with her.  When she was told the dog was not allowed in the lifeboat, she backed away and wouldn’t get in.  Her body was seen later, floating in the water with the drowned dog held tightly in her arms.  And there was a young man who turned sixteen while aboard, so he was allowed his first pair of long pants (boys wore knee pants).  When it came time to board a lifeboat, he also refused, choosing to die like a man, rather than be rescued as a child.  Amazing stories.

The reception at seven was following by a showing of “King in a Car Park,” about the discovery of King Richard III’s bones under a parking lot in Leicester, England.  That was followed by a discussion of Josephine Tey’s book, Daughter of Time.  My co-facilitator, Attorney Ted Hertel, hadn’t liked the book and hoped for at least one person in the audience who didn’t like it, either.  But – though I know at least one other person attending also didn’t like it – there was no one at the discussion.  The discussion was nevertheless lively and I got to show off a little of my acquired knowledge of the War of the Roses – and my very own groat (fourpence coin) minted during Richard’s reign.  Ted raised some good questions; for example, what did they think of Inspector Grant’s techniques?  Did he miss anything?  Would this book be publishable today?  The audience loved the way Josephine Tey told the story, loved her use of language.  I said there were simply not enough period documents to know what the dickens really happened.  Why did Buckingham turn on Richard, whom he had heretofore ardently supported and who was richly rewarded for his support?  Why didn’t Eleanor Butler speak up about the pre-contract when Edward IV announced he had married Elizabeth Woodville?  (Or Bishop Stillington, for that matter?)  Why did so many of the actors in this drama so facilely turn their coats?  Is there anyone who can keep track of the nobility involved without a scorecard?

Saturday at ten I was on a panel about setting.  I spoke of Murder at the War, which is set at the SCA’s Great Pennsic War (“loser keeps Pittsburgh”).  Kent Kruger waxed eloquent about the Boundary Waters area, the setting of his Cork Cochoran series.  Ellen Hart spoke of her first mystery, set in a Sorority House, with its shadows and secrets.  Steve Hamilton spoke of the importance of the tiny town Paradise in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to his character – and of his latest entry in the series, in which his character returns to sadly ravaged Detroit, scene of the failures that triggered his retreat to Paradise.  Great stuff, very competently handled by Sandra Balzo.

Saturday evening was a banquet in that impressive lobby.  I wore my most impressive dress, stiff with beading on the top half.  I have a photo of me in it that makes me wish I'd go back on my diet - oh, well.  That's me in the light dress, P.J. Coldren in the gray dress, and Kathy Akers-Jordan in the dark dress - she's the one who gave the talk on the Titanic passengers.

Answer:  Halfway.  After that he’s running out.


Betty Hechtman said...

Lovely dress, Monica. The hotel sounds great and the perfect place for a mystery conference.

Unknown said...

Do not be so hard on yourself! You look great.

Linda O. Johnston said...

I'm sure it'll be no surprise to you that I was particularly touched by your description of the woman who wouldn't leave her dog on the Titanic. And as a former Pittsburgher, I think there are worse things than having to keep it!

Monica Ferris said...

I'm sure you're right, Linda. I've been to Pittsburgh; love the downtown and that strange rail car that climbs that incredibly steep hill. That weird joke about keeping Pittsburgh came about for two reasons: first a strange subgroup (chainmail bikinis!) used to come to the War from Pittsburgh, and the city was in the Kingdom of the East and in the early years the Midrealm kicked butt at the War.