Sunday, April 29, 2007

LA Times Festival of Books: Part V, Men of Mystery

In my final post on the Festival, we'll cover some of the male writers who signed on Saturday.

First up, a rare appearance by James Ellroy in the Borders booth:

And signing right next to him--Michael Connelly:

And the hits just keep on coming with T. Jefferson Parker in the Mysterious Galaxy Booth:

Along with Stuart Woods:

And switching over to The Mystery Bookstore booth we have Ken Kuhlken:

As well as "Mr. Monk" Lee Goldberg:

We'll throw in a ringer with Henry Winkler aka "the Fonz" signing his children's book:

And include a non-mystery writer, Gary Shteyngart, whose NY Times top ten book, Absurdistan, I enjoyed a lot:

And to finish off, we'll turn the tables on mystery and photo-blogger Mystery Dawg to snag a picture of him and his son:

LA Times Festival of Books: Part IV, Women of Mystery

Now for some mysterious women from the Festival on Saturday.

First up, Twist Phelan at the Sisters in Crime booth:

Also at the booth, Cara Black and Hailey Lind:

Then Jan Burke at the Mysterious Galaxy booth:

Followed by the Clarks--Mary Higgins and Carole Higgins--at The Mystery Bookstore booth:

And Cornelia Reed, who signed in the same time slot as me:

And Laura Lippman, who was there before us:

And to bookend things nicely, we'll finish with Twist again and mysterious male Jason Starr who managed to sneak into the frame just before I pressed the shutter:

A pretty photogenic pair. I think this shot takes the prize for the best I snapped at the festival.

LA Times Festival of Books: Part III, Ginger

Okay, we're picking up our coverage of the Festival with an author who is well known from an another entertainment sphere: Tina Louise, the "movie star" from Gilligan's Island.

Tina has written a children's book and she appeared on the "Story Telling" stage on Saturday to read it to a bunch of kids and more than a few adult men of a certain age (a certain age when one might have watched Gilligan's Island as a kid and, ahem, fantasied about her).

Tina volunteers in the New York public school system reading to children and that is how she got the idea to write a book for kids. Her book encourages children to think about what they want to be when they grow up by comparing particular animals and their unique abilities to future career choices. ("If an elephant can shake hands with his trunk, then you can grow up to be a politician.")

Here is Tina answering questions from the audience (Q: "Did you ever get off the island?" A: "I got off, but I now live on Manhattan, which is another island."):

Her she is asking how many kids want to be a scuba diver when they grow up:

Finally, a pic as she exits the stage to do her signing:

Turns out Tina has a daughter who is an author as well--Caprice Crane:

In fact, Tina told the audience that Caprice's book, Stupid and Contagious, had just won the Romantic Times Book Award for Best Mainstream and Chick Lit Book of 2006. Like mother like daughter ...

Friday, April 27, 2007

LA Times Festival of Books: Part II

More from The Mystery Bookstore pre-festival party ... did I mention cowboys? Here's Craig Johnson:

And an obvious dude ranch habitue who borrowed Craig's hat:

Along with Reed Farrel Coleman, who needs no hat:

And fellow New Yorker, Jason Starr:

And bridging the east-west divide, we have Jim Fusilli (yet another New Yorker) with Southern Californian Bill Bryan:

But, wait, there are more Californians. Gary Phillips:

And Ugly Town alum, Jim Pascoe:

And what about the women I promised in the last post? Always finish strong, that's my motto. (Too bad I don't follow it in my writing!) Here is Theresa Schwegel:

And Megan Abbott:

That's it for tonight. Look for some posts from the Festival proper tomorrow.

LA Times Festival of Books: Part I

Let's get the party going with a pre-Festival party at The Mystery Bookstore:

And who's out loitering on the sidewalk? Looks like Bleak House Books publisher Ben LeRoy with house author Eric Stone:

Almost immediately after walking inside, we bag some big game--Robert Crais:

Bobby McCue, bookstore manager, greets as we get further into the store:

It's a packed house:

And the famous jail house roll of authors is full--look closely and you can see their crimes:

Northern California is well represented with Keith Raffel:

And Simon Wood:

And there are even some four-legged scribblers:

Where are the pretty women and the heroic cowboys? See them and more in the next post.

Thursday, April 26, 2007


My publisher, Bleak House Books, is already preparing their fall catalog, and it includes my forthcoming novel, Runoff. The publication date is November, which is appropriate since the book deals with a fictional mayoral election in San Francisco, and there just so happens to be a real mayoral election in the City that same month.

In my election, the possibility that someone has rigged the contest by hacking the city’s newly installed touch-screen voting machines is what drives the plot. In the real election, we don't have to worry about that because the city has not installed touch-screen voting systems--and hopefully never will.

You can read more, including an excerpt, on this page of my web site.

And if you'd like to see a sampling of (what I hope are) atmospheric photographs of real San Francisco locations that will appear in the front of each chapter, check out this Flickr page. My personal favorite is the one that goes with Chapter 1: a night-time shot of Wentworth Street in San Francisco's Chinatown.

But the fact of the matter is, I had a heck of a time deciding whether to use it for the first chapter or the night-time shot of Ross Alley you can see below:

If you have an opinion, and want to express it, please leave a comment on the posting and let me know your vote!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Simian's Slicker ...

was the working title of Robert Crais' debut novel, The Monkey's Raincoat.

No, just kidding, but I did enjoy the alliteration.

Where does the title come from? It was inspired by the the Basho haiku quoted at the beginning of the novel, "Winter downpour; Even the monkey needs a raincoat." Explains Crais:
Basho was a retired samurai who became a poet. I read this stuff because, well, I read this stuff. And think about it. A winter downpour is a storm. In Japanese haiku poetry, a ‘monkey’ represents a man, or the soul of a man (‘man’ being non-gender specific.) A raincoat is something with which you protect yourself. So here was my thinking: If Ellen Lang was the ‘monkey,’ and her ‘storm’ was the hell she was going to live through in this book, then her ‘raincoat’ would be Elvis Cole. Therefore, Elvis Cole was ‘the monkey’s raincoat.’
Apart from the title, Raincoat is unique in that it is one of the few novels released as a paperback original to be reissued in hardcover. The paperback came out in the summer of 1987 and cost $2.95. I acquired my first edition copy very shortly after publication, well before it won the Anthony and Macavity Awards. But I only got Mr. Crais to inscribe it to me a few years ago:

This "true first" can cost you a few bucks if you go looking for it now. A search on Abebooks, shows copies selling for as much as $140. And when Joe Gores sold his personal library to Green Apple Books in San Francisco, they had an inscribed "association" copy priced considerably higher.

Another interesting factoid--interesting to me, at least--is that the reissued hardcover goes for even more. It was published in 1993, after Stalking the Angel, Lullabye Town and Free Fall, and this search on Abebooks finds some copies selling at over $500.

I'm a big fan of Crais and Elvis Cole (and Joe Pike), and occasionally--very occasionally--my writing is compared to Crais', particularly his earlier novels, where Elvis is a little more flip (like my PI August Riordan can sometimes be). August first appeared in print just a year before Elvis, so I guess you could say they are from the same generation.

Here's a pic of Crais and me signing at The LA Times Festival of Books a few years ago:

Not only was the line of fans in front of Crais much longer than the "line" waiting for me, but, unlike Crais, no one was interested in having me sign her bra!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The White Shack or Frank's Place

In Dashiell Hammett's Continental Op story, "The Girl with the Silver Eyes," a large part of the action takes place in a speak-easy in Half Moon Bay called the White Shack. (Half Moon Bay is about 25 miles south of San Francisco off Highway 1.)

Here's a snippet of dialog where the Continental Op describes the place and its owner:
"Well, it's a tough hole. Run by 'Tin-Star' Joplin, an ex-yegg who invested his winnings in the place when Prohibition made the roadhouse game good. He makes more money now than he ever heard of in his piking safe-ripping days. Retailing liquor is a side-line with him; his real profit comes from acting as a relay station for the booze that comes through Halfmoon Bay for points beyond; and the dope is that half the booze put ashore by the Pacific run fleet is put ashore in Halfmoon Bay.
Later, when the Op and his client drive down the coast to the shack, we get a short physical description:
The White Shack is a large building, square-built of imitation stone.
Hammett aficionados who would like to visit the White Shack don't have to confine their sojourn the pages of the short story. It turns out that Hammett based the White Shack on a real speak-easy called Frank's Place, which is still doing business in Half Moon Bay as the Moss Beach Distillery.

Here's a photo of the place back in the day:

Here's a contemporary one from the restaurant web site:

And here's a shot I took of the plaque in front on a recent visit:

If you look carefully, you'll notice a mention of Hammett--and you'll also see a discussion of the famous "Blue Lady" ghost, who supposedly haunts the place. The last picture is one I took in the bar of the lady in question (actually a lighted sculpture of same):

I've got a personal connection to the place myself. I proposed to my wife there, and I also wrote a short story set in the 1920s featuring a similar speak-easy in Half Moon Bay. You can read it in this anthology.