“The best I ever read. That’s tough. I have favorites, but it’s hard to pick the best.”
“I know, but this is how we begin. You gotta put your money down and place your bet. What’s the best mystery ever?”
“Remind me. The bet is: what is the best mystery book ever as voted by attendees at this week’s conference not my personal favorite?”
“Right, but you can name your favorite or what you guess the group is going to pick, but whatever you bet you’re going to be wrong because I alone know the answer.”
“You’re so full of it. You alone know the answer. You’ve seen the future and you know how the three hundred plus people here are going to vote.”
“You got it. Want to bet on it?”
I was hooked. How about you? You want to take the bet?
All I know is I was in the registration line at The Mystery Writers of America’s Annual Conference in in Las Vegas. It was 1984 and the guy in front of me was telling his buddy he knew which mystery book the group would name best ever.
We could all come up with some contenders. The Maltese Falcon, The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Big Sleep, Murder on the Orient Express and the list goes on. But, to know which one would get the nod is sort of like knowing who’s going to win the Oscar. You know the nominees, but you never know how the crowd will be swayed year to year.
I usually don’t like know-it-alls, although I can be a bit of one myself. They say in the therapy world you don’t like in others what you don’t like in yourself. But the guy in the line, with his Safari jacket and smug attitude was winning my annoyance all by himself.
I wasn’t buying the clairvoyant skills of the man, but I know in a town based on bets some people know how to work with the odds to get the results they want.
If you’ve been to any conferences before with me, you know it’s a good bet something untoward is going to happen and I’m going to get involved.