So here’s the latest from the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books ...
I arrived at the University of California, Los Angeles campus bright and early on Saturday, the opening day of this festival, and snagged myself a ringside seat at the very first panel, “Mystery: A Dark & Stormy Night,” moderated by deadpan, quick-quipping Lee Goldberg. Lee got a big laugh in a session full of big laughs when he told his story about a signing session at a Waldenbooks many years ago. After a slow period during which almost no one was coming by his table, an older woman finally approached, picked up his latest book, and flipped through the interior. “Any cats in it?” she asked. Lee responded that he hated the idea of featuring animals in novels, especially as crime-solving protagonists. “No wonder it’s not selling,” snapped the woman and threw the book down.
Legal thriller writer Robert Dugoni told about how he’d had interest in his books from representatives of actor Leonardo DiCaprio. In the end, Leonardo did not option the work because, Dugoni was told, Mr. DiCaprio wasn’t “ready to play a lawyer.” Apparently, after portraying an ex-mercenary who trades arms for gems mined in African war zones in the 2006 film Blood Diamond, DiCaprio didn’t want to make the step down.
Craig Johnson, ex-New York cop and part-time Wyoming rancher, who pens the excellent Sheriff Walt Longmire series (The Dark Horse, Kindness Goes Unpunished) was particularly entertaining, telling a series of sparkling, self-deprecating stories about his experience in the business. My favorite was when he talked about the long hours he puts in writing and revising, characterizing himself as a member of the “ditch-digging” school of story composition. He prefers that designation, he said, because when a ditch digger picks up a shovel in the morning to excavate the earth, he never defers work for the day because he can’t “feel” the ditch.
Following that panel discussion, I wandered over to my own book signing (to ink copies primarily of Runoff) at the booth for the Los Angeles chapter of Sisters in Crime. I found myself sitting next to Cara Black, author of the Paris-based Aimée Leduc series. We talked about how we both got our start 10 years ago, in 1999, but I noted that Cara has outpaced me in production--nine books to five (even counting my forthcoming novel, The Big Wake-up). We also shared our admiration for Philip Kerr’s The Quiet Flame, which I remarked on in my blog earlier this month.
While we were sitting at the booth, Larry Wilmore, The Daily Show’s “Senior Black Correspondent,” strolled by and I jumped up to snap his picture and sputter something about how much I have enjoyed his work. It seems Wilmore was at the festival to promote his book, I’d Rather We Got the Casinos, which I believe stems from a (tongue-in-cheek) piece he did on the Comedy Central show about Native Americans getting a better deal than African Americans.
Daily Show correspondent and author Larry Wilmore
My next stop was at a panel event called “Mysteries in Black & White,” moderated by reviewer, blogger, mystery writer, awards judge, and sometime guest chief at Publishers Lunch, Sarah Weinman. She lead a thoughtful discussion on morality and race in mysteries with several of the nominees for the L.A. Times Book Prize in the Mystery/Thriller category, including Simon Lewis and the prize winner, Michael Koryta. I tried to get pictures of the panelists, but the lighting in that room proved too challenging for my (flashless) photography skills. However, I did manage to capture a good image of Koryta later during his signing at the Mystery Bookstore booth.
L.A. Times Book Prize winner Michael Koryta
For the remainder of the day, I trolled booths looking for favorite authors to photograph. Signing after his panel with Robert Crais, I captured a picture of the elusive Don Winslow, whom I’d never seen in person before and whose 2008 novel, The Dawn Patrol, I very much enjoyed. I also snapped nice shots of two of this year’s Edgar Award nominees: Spellman family creator Lisa Lutz and the tantalizing and dangerously attractive Christa Faust (Money Shot).
“Surfer noir” master Don Winslow
Novelist and screenwriter Lisa Lutz
The tattooed and hard-boiled Christa Faust
After leaving the UCLA campus, I joined podcaster-novelist Seth Hardwood (Jack Wakes Up) and some friends for a post-festival drink (or two) at a nearby hotel. I bailed out early, but I noticed that Seth posted a Facebook status update reading, “Seth Harwood is no, really? Really?” at 3 o’clock in the morning, so I guess things continued well enough without me.
Stay tuned for my Day Two adventures ...
READ MORE: “LATFOB: Briefly Noted,” by Sarah Weinman (Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind); “L.A. Times Festival of Books 2009, Day One,” by Jeri Westerson (Getting Medieval); “L.A. Times Festival of Books--the Rest of the Story,” by Jen Forbus (Jen’s Book Thoughts).