Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Mystery Authors Revealed

The Association of American Publishers and LibraryReads sponsored a wonderful program at the
Talia Sherer
Public Library Association's recent conference. Called "Mystery Authors Revealed", it featured five mystery authors, and a wonderful moderator, my friend, Talia Sherer, who is the Director of Library Marketing for Macmillan.

Talia welcomed the audience of librarians, saying she was first going to introduce her crush, C.J. Box.  Box mentioned his new Joe Pickett mystery, Off the Grid, but then he proceeded to talk about books and libraries. He said he loved libraries and librarians. Librarians introduced him to mysteries. He read all the Encyclopedia Brown books, and if his library didn't have them, they borrowed them for him. Then, when he finished that series, they challenged him to read other books.

Some authors have a goal of seeing their book on the shelf at the library. He always wanted to see someone reading his book on a plane. It happened with his third book. He asked the man if he wanted him to sign it, and he said, "No!" Then, when he was in the Paris airport with his wife, he told a man that was his book, and he said, "No, I bought that in Denver."

Box tries to make his novels as accurate to the real contemporary West as he can, the West as he knows it, coming from Cheyenne, Wyoming. His first Joe Pickett mystery, Open Season, was published when he was forty. He's had twenty-two books since. His latest Joe Pickett, Off the Grid, came out in March.

C.J. Box told the audience he likes to do library events. He said most authors appreciate libraries, but he's heard some authors say they don't like people borrowing their books from the library. His response? How dumb are those authors who disparage their sales force - libraries? He said men and boys check out his books at the library, and continue to read them, sometimes buying them. He said a number of his readers tell him they first checked their books out at the library.

Talia introduced Stephanie Barron next. Barron, who also writes as Francine Matthews, is a former CIA analyst. As Barron, she writes mysteries featuring Jane Austen. The latest is Jane and the Waterloo Map. Barron also talked about her childhood library experiences, walking to the library to check out her favorite picture books such as Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel or Make Way for Ducklings. As the youngest of six girls, she enjoyed taking the cards out of the pockets of the library books to see her older sisters' names on the cards. Barron's oldest sister is now on the library board at that library.

Stephanie Barron
Barron has written thirteen novels about Jane Austen as a detective. However, at the time when Jane and the Waterloo Map is set, 1815, Austen didn't know it, but she had only eighteen more months to live. Barron doesn't know if she can bear to write about that time. This one might be the last in the series. She hasn't decided yet.

When Talia introduced former grade school teacher, Heather Gudenkauf, she said the author has three tips for writers. 1. Read. 2. Set up a writing routine. 3. Write what you know.  Gudenkauf, author of Missing Pieces, also wanted to talk about her childhood, and a toy box. But, she began by talking about "The Music Man". That musical was set in the fictional town of River City, Iowa, and it had a foot bridge and a library. It was based on Mason City, Iowa where Heather grew up. That town really had a foot bridge, and you crossed over it to go to the public library.

Heather Gudenkauf was born with a hearing loss in her left ear. School was very difficult for her. She could hear about every third word. But, once a month, when she was in third grade, the teacher would give the students their library cards, and walk them across that bridge to the library. There, a librarian would read them a story, and release them to pick out books. They could each have two or three books. She never understood why they were limited to just two or three books. Then, they would walk back across that bridge to school.

Heather Gudenkauf
She told us that school was a challenge, and she hated wearing her hearing aids, so she often left them on the bus. Then, her father would take her back to school to search the bus until they found the hearing aids. And, they always found them. But, even with the hearing aids, it was exhausting to try to listen. At home she had five brothers and sisters and a number of animals. She wanted to get away from it all. So, she would go to this large wooden homemade toy box, pull out the toys, and climb in with her flashlight and a blanket. Heather would close the lid and read mysteries such as Nancy Drew.

When Gudenkauf returned to that same school as a fourth grade teacher, she, too, would pass out the library cards, and walk her students across that same bridge to the library. Now, she understood why they were limited to two or three books because fourth grade boys, a bridge, water, and books don't necessarily mix.

Eventually, Gudenkauf married and moved to Dubuque, Iowa. Her parents painted the toy box cream colored, and filled it with linens, and gave it to her. Now, when she and her brothers and sisters get together and reminisce, and she doesn't remember some of the events, her brother reminds her she was in the toy box when they happened.

It was years later that Heather Gudenkauf decided she wanted to write, and she wanted to write mysteries.

Talia began her introduction to William Kent Krueger by reading the opening of Ordinary Grace, then saying it won the Edgar, the Anthony, and the Barry Award. It actually won others as well. And, although Krueger showed us the cover of his latest Cork O'Connor novel, Manitou Canyon, he quickly moved on to a different topic. And, I don't know how good my summary of his talk is because he made me cry.

He said we're here because we all love books, so he wanted to talk about books and reading. He began by quoting Christopher Morley, author of The Haunted Bookshop and Parnassus on Wheels. He said he likes to quote smart people because it makes him look smart.

William Kent Krueger
Then, Krueger said his favorite book as a child, the first book that stands out in his memory, was a Little Golden Book. It was called A Happy Family, and, actually, very little happens in the book. The family goes to the beach to have a picnic. The only excitement occurs when ants tried to get at the food at the picnic. But, they all clamored for their father to read that book. That was because their father read the first lines, and then took off. Those ants? They might become giant ants. Or, because they were at the beach, a tidal wave might come and almost drown the family. It was never the same story twice. Krueger said, "A story once begun can go anywhere."

William Kent Krueger grew up in Ohio. When he was a boy scout, you could get a badge for books, so he volunteered at the local public library. And, his first task was to stamp the date due cards for the pockets of the books. After he had done that for quite a while, a librarian asked him the dreaded question. "What do you like to read?" At the time, he only liked to read comic books, so he thought about lying. But, he eventually told her the truth. And, she gave him The Count of Monte Cristo. And, then he read The Three Musketeers and The Man in the Iron Mask, and more. And, he kept reading.

William Kent Krueger called libraries the archives of our culture, and librarians are the archivists. Libraries point the direction as to where we are going. He wanted to thank librarians. He said our future is gone when librarians are gone. He quoted recent reports that people are losing the ability to read and comprehend. Krueger challenged everyone to put down their devices, turn off the TV, and read for an hour every night. "Books help us find what's best in all of us."

Alison Gaylin, author of What Remains of Me, had a tough act to follow. She said unlike the other authors, she was an only child who was often bored. So she was dropped off at the library. That's where she discovered Nancy Drew and Judy Blume. Nancy was a little too perfect for her. She preferred George and Bess. But, she did escape into crime books and Hollywood books.

Alison Gaylin
Gaylin grew up in California. She read Helter-Skelter at the age of ten, her introduction to true crime. She's had a lifelong interest in Hollywood crime. She became an entertainment reporter for The Star, which was not the glossy magazine you see now. She went to movie sets, was thrown out of David Hasselhoff's wedding, crashed Fred Savage's Bar Mitzvah. But, stories such as In Cold Blood and Norman Mailer's Executioner's Song fascinated her. The person who commits the crime becomes a character in a larger story. That's how an entertainment reporter tells the story. Gaylin knows the coverage of a case can affect the people involved, and used Marcia Clark as an example.

Alison Gaylin's What Remains of Me is set in Hollywood. A young girl goes to prison for killing a director. She's released twenty-five years later, and five years after that, a similar murder occurs, and she's suspected of that crime.

Mystery Authors Revealed. A perfect title for a panel that allowed the authors to discuss libraries, books, and the story of their love for both.

Alison Gaylin and William Kent Krueger


Jeffrey Meyerson said...

I love those stories! COUNT OF MONTE CHRISTO was one of my all-time favorite books too.

Just yesterday I was thinking of the libraries I went to as a kid. When we lived in Queens before moving to Brooklyn we had a bookmobile that came around once a week. I loved that thing! When we moved to Brooklyn (I was 9) there was a huge two-story library (the children's books were upstairs) closest to me and I loved to spend hours just wandering through the shelves, letting anything interesting catch my eye.

Grace Koshida said...

Wow, that's a great panel! And I'm glad to see authors supporting libraries!!

Lesa said...

Weren't they great stories, Jeff? I always love to hear authors' stories of their libraries. In fact, I loved reading about your memories, as well. Thank you.

Lesa said...

Wasn't that a terrific, panel, Grace? I'm with you. I always like to hear those authors and libraries stories.

Anonymous said...

Wow! What a treat for you and thanks for sharing with us!

Karen B said...

What a terrific panel - and you got to hear WKK!

Mark Baker said...

Sounds like a great panel. Thanks for sharing with us.

Clea Simon said...

Lovely event! I've heard Krueger speak - he's always engaging - but not the others. What a great lineup! (And yes, I'm so glad he was honest ... and got turned onto books)

Lesa said...

You're all right. It was a terrific line-up, and it was wonderful to hear them all talk about libraries and books. Just a good program with good speakers.

Tiny Stitch said...

I am happy that I am a William Kent Krueger fan, because it led me to this blog. Thank you for the great discussion.

Lesa said...

You're welcome, "Tiny Stitch". It was a wonderful program. And, I'm glad I was there to hear William Kent Krueger.