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    Authors at festival hot off the press

    By MARGO HAMMOND

    © St. Petersburg Times, published August 27, 2000


    News junkies should have a field day at this year's Times Festival of Reading. Scheduled for Nov. 11 and 12 on the Eckerd College campus, just days after the presidential elections, the fair will be featuring a number of authors whose topics seem ripped from today's headlines.

    Consider:

    Senior adviser to four presidents, David Gergen discussing presidential leadership and his memoir/commentary (Eyewitness to Power: The Essence of Leadership Nixon to Clinton;

    Investigative reporter Peter Maas, author of Underboss and Serpico, talking about a submarine rescue (this one, chronicled in The Terrible Hours, occurred in 1939 and had a happier ending than the Kursk disaster);

    Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporter Laura Sessions Stepp speaking about the world of teens she encountered in researching Our Last Best Shot: Guiding Our Children Through Early Adolescence;

    Cuban-American novelist Ivonne Lamazares reading from The Sugar Island, her novel about a Cuban mother who makes an ill-fated trip in a makeshift raft headed for Miami;

    S.V. Date, Tallahassee bureau chief of the Palm Beach Post, talking about Smokeout, his novel about the skulduggery and heroism of Florida's political fight against Big Tobacco.

    The two-day fair, which is in its eighth year, is free to the public. The lineup includes some 50 authors and an assortment of activities for adults and children. And the festival organizers are releasing the names now so people can plan ahead.

    The authors who will speak include true crime queen Ann Rule (A Rage to Kill), PBS commentator Roger Rosenblatt (Rules for Aging, due out in October) and Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter Rick Bragg (Somebody Told Me: The Newspaper Stories) as well as former newspaper columnist Joyce Maynard (At Home in the World), feminist novelist and commentator bell hooks (All About Love) and comic writer Bruce Jay Friedman (Even The Rhinos Were Nymphos, due out in October).

    And then there is Edmund Morris who made his own headlines when he mixed elements of fiction in his biography of Ronald Reagan, Dutch: A Memoir.

    The festival also has booked Pulitzer Prize winning writer Robert Owen Butler (Mr. Spaceman), Oprah-anointed novelists Robert Morgan (Gap Creek) and Connie May Fowler (Remembering Blue), Sena Jeter Naslund, who offers a feminist answer to Herman Melville's Moby Dick in Ahab's Wife, and bestselling thriller writer James Patterson.

    Patterson's Kiss the Girls was made into a movie starring Morgan Freeman as Alex Cross. Now Paramount is shooting another Patterson tale, Along Came A Spider, again starring Freeman in the Cross role.

    The first day of the festival this year falls on Veteran's Day, and the lineup includes presentations of two books that pay tribute to those who fought in World War II. To better understand his father's generation, Chicago Tribune columnist Bob Greene in Duty: A Father, His Son, and the Man Who Won the War interviews the pilot who flew the atomic bomb to Hiroshima. In All This Hell, Evelyn M. Monahan and Rosemary Neidel-Greenlee tell the harrowing stories of the 100 army and navy nurses who were held prisoner by the Japanese.

    Those seeking inspiration can check out the talk by Richard Galli, the author of Rescuing Jeffrey, a remarkable story told by a father about his son who was left paralyzed from the neck down after a swimming pool accident. Or catch Donna Albrecht who has compiled I Love to Tell the Story, an anthology of famous Americans who share their favorite Bible story, its impact on their lives, and its role in their success.

    Susannah Goodman, author of Girls Just Want to Have Funds, will be on hand to give financial advice while Inger Martens, author of Paws For A Minute -- People Training for Dogs, will speak on how to be a dog's best friend.

    Those who have a taste for the hipper side of the New York scene can head for talks by the irreverent Jonathan Ames, author of What's Not To Love: The Adventures of a Mildly Perverted Young Writer and Ann Powers (Weird Like Us), pop culture writer for the New York Times.

    Aficionados of Florida authors will have plenty of choice, too, from Gainesville's Padget Powell, whose latest novel, Mrs. Hollingsworth's Men, is due out in November, to South Miami's Lamazares.

    Tallahassee authors will be especially well represented at the fair. In addition to Robert Owen Butler, who has just joined the staff at Florida State University, S.V. Date, whose novel is due out just in time for the festival, and Connie May Fowler, other authors coming from the state capital include FSU professors R.M. Berry (Dictionary of Modern Anguish) and Elizabeth Stuckey French, who just published her first novel, The First Paper Girl in Red Oak, Iowa, with Doubleday.

    The Tampa Bay area is also sending an impressive contingent. In addition to bell hooks, who recently took up residence in Tampa, it includes:

    Prolific sportswriter Peter Golenbock of St. Petersburg, who will present his latest book, Spirit of St. Louis: A History of St. Louis Cardinals and Browns;

    Former major leaguer John Morris of Gulfport (he played for the Royals, Cardinals, Phillies and Angels), whose collection of stories Bullet Bob Comes To Louisville includes nine innings, er chapters, with baseball themes;

    John McCrossan, who has tracked down the books that have affected well-known figures from George Washington to Madonna (yes, that Madonna) in Books & Reading in the Lives of Notable Americans;

    Former Tampa Tribune editor Tim Dorsey (Hammerhead Ranch Motel), whose wacko novels are giving Carl Hiaasen a run for his money;

    University of South Florida professor Rita Ciresi whose latest novel, Sometimes I Dream in Italian, is due out in November;

    University of South Florida professor and science fiction columnist Rick Wilber with his latest science fiction work, To Leuchars;

    American Indian Gabriel Horn, who presents stories, poems, prayers and love songs describing how American Indian rituals can offer spiritual guidance to those from all backgrounds in The Book of Ceremonies: A Native Way of Honoring and Living the Sacred, due out in September.

    Diane Sawyer of St. Petersburg, who will talk about her mystery tale, The Montauk Mystery, set on her native Long Island.

    Two nationally prominent poets who reside in our area will also be featured: Peter Meinke with his latest collection, Zinc Fingers (see review on 6D), and Dionisio Martinez whose collection, Climbing Back, will be out in November.

    For more Florida history, Robert Saunders will talk about the "Florida NAACP legacy of Harry T. Moore," the subject of his biography of the assassinated civil rights activist, Bridging the Gap. Larry Eugene Rivers, author of Slavery in Florida, due out in October, will speak on the history of that "Peculiar Institution" in our state.

    Maurice O'Sullivan and Steve Glassman will present their anthology of Florida mysteries, Orange Pulp: Stories of Mayhem, Murder and Mystery, due out in October.

    Other Florida authors scheduled to speak at the fair include former Christian Science Monitor correspondent Robert M. Press and his photographer wife, Betty Press, who will talk about their book on Africa, The New Africa, and William Tester, a native of Charleston and North Florida, who will read from his new collection of stories, Head.

    The festival also will feature three open air stages of entertainment and children's activities, including a free books tent and a parade of children's book characters. The American Civil Liberties Union will again present the Banned Book Marathon. Christies' will also be back doing book appraisals, this time on both days of the festival. Also doing an encore will be the popular Famous Dead Authors, sponsored by the Venue Theatre.

    New this year at the fair is an E-Authors Panel, featuring Judith Harris Loft (Pearls For My Birthday) and Rally Silva (Art As Language: Developing Cognitive and Creative Skills Through Art), who have published their work at iuniverse.com. The Times X Team is heading up a children's authors panel, featuring Peggy Nolan (The Spy Who Came in from the Sea), Holly Bea (Good Night God) and Darlene Bailey Beard (The Pumpkin Man from Piney Creek).

    Throughout both days of the festival booksellers, authors and publishers will offer a full range of books and book-related products at the BookMarket. Also community exhibitors, local not-for-profit literary organizations, will be on hand to discuss their missions and pass out literature.

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