Malice Domestic is a convention that celebrates traditional crime. Based in Bethesda Maryland, it's small enough to bump into lots of people you already know and so friendly that it's impossible to feel isolated even if you're a newcomer. The organisation is terrific - it's run by a group of volunteers who swing into action as soon as the last Malice is over - and the hospitality is legendary. This year I was privileged to be the International Guest of Honour and the whole weekend passed in a flash.
There was a lot of conversation throughout the festival about the nature of crime fiction, and whether it's possible to split it into sub-genres. This seems to be a US preoccupation, but it did generate several interesting discussions. Malice is sometimes seen as solely for writers of the 'cosy', a term that also has more meaning in America than in the UK and is often used with a sneer. But while there were writers of books based around crafts, cooking and cats in Bethesda, the winner of the lifetime achievement award was Sara Paretsky, an author known for her hard-hitting exploration of contemporary Chicago. It's hard to imagine her hero V I Warshowski knitting or sewing quilts. Sara has long been one of my favourite authors and I'm delighted that she'll be attending Harrogate this year too. She explained that while once she might have been seen at the 'noir' end of crime fiction some material has become so graphic and exploitative that she's now very much in the middle ground.
A similar discussion took place during the Golden Age panel. My fellow murder squaddie Martin Edwards has just published a wonderful non-fiction book called The Golden Age of Murder and he believes that Agatha Christie, the most famous author of traditional crime, was anything but cosy. She killed school girls after all and was fascinated by the nature of evil.
Malice Domestic occurs in the spring every year and if you enjoy traditional crime fiction and take pleasure in meeting like-minded readers in very convivial circumstances, then you should give Malice a try.