by Michael Dymmoch
Mayhem in the Midlands is a sweet little mystery conference put on every May by the Omaha Public Library. It’s little by design—limited to a couple hundred attendees. Which means most of the thirty or so authors get to be on more than one panel. Which means, if the author you want to see is on opposite another of your favorites, you have a chance to encounter both at some time during the weekend.
This year, Mayhem was held at the Embassy Suites, located across the street from “Old Town,” the restaurant-shopping-tourist Mecca of Omaha. Great food. Great place to continue the conversations you strike up after the panels adjourn. And the panels I attended were well thought out and (for the most part) skillfully moderated.
I always drive to Mayhem—about seven hours from Chicago. This year I rode with friends, and we talked about books and writing on the way west, revisited the conference on the way home.
Somewhere on I 80 in Iowa, I wrote down the gist of a conversation that occurred:
“Hey, there’s an adult superstore!”
“Do we need to stop for anything?”
“No. It’s an adult book store. With mostly picture books.”
“With grimy fingerprints. And other things you don’t want to know about--DNA samples.”
The exchange sounded to me like the opening of a mystery, and inspired the story’s next lines: The reason I remembered that conversation is because my gut and my professional experience told me the kid we arrested for Delaney’s murder didn’t do it, notwithstanding DNA results. Teenage boys leave DNA samples on girlie magazines all the time, and in a mind-boggling variety of places.
So Now I’ve got another great beginning. And yet another reason to go to Mayhem next year.
Good friends. Great food. Inspiration.
There’s no downside.