introducing readers to writers since 1995

March 10, 2004

Whirlwind Literary Evening

by Ron Hogan

Despite the biting mixture of snow and rain last night, I trekked up to the Upper West Side Barnes & Noble--and then Ian Rankin didn't even bother reading from his latest Inspector Rebus novel, A Question of Blood. What the hell? Actually, he went one step better, regaling the densely packed audience with tales of how he moved from one home, just down the street from the real-life police station where Rebus works, to another two doors down from fellow crime novelist Alexander McCall Smith, whose wife went gaga over Rankin's hot tub at the housewarming party. And then a fellow goes and gets himself murdered just around the corner, the first slaying the neighborhood's seen in decades...and the victim turns out to be the organizer of a walking tour that points out various locations from the Rebus novels...

Rankin was joined by another Little, Brown author, George Pelecanos, who did read from Hard Revolution, which delves into the past of recurring Pelecanos protagonist Derek Strange, who confronts the riots that broke out in D.C. after the 1968 slaying of Martin Luther King, Jr. In the Q&A session afterwards, Pelecanos talked about how living through those riots and their aftermath--taking the bus through shattered neighborhoods to get to his family's diner--set him on a lifelong path of writing, churning through the issues of race and class that were revealed to him that summer. For other curious fans, he explained how he was recruited to help create a "novel for television" with the HBO series The Wire, and told us the cable network had essentially shelved another project they'd asked him to write, a film about the American Basketball Association. Rankin, meanwhile, said the BBC would be doing more Rebus adaptations, but not with John Hannah, who he deemed too good-looking for the part (and not even from Edinburgh), and mildly debunked rumors of a teamup between Rebus and Peter Robinson's Inspector Banks. It might happen someday, he said, but for now it's just a fun-sounding idea they cooked up in a pub one night.

Before any of this happened, though, I was at Coliseum Books to see Sara Nelson read selections from So Many Books, So Little Time, which starts out as an effort to read 52 books in 52 weeks but becomes a meditation on how reading and relationships often intermingle. In one passage, she writes about a friend who works up the courage to suggest that Sara might like a favorite book of hers. That friend knows the risks entailed; she essentially let a potential friend drift away after the woman recommended The Bridges of Madison County to her (and this was far back enough that she had no idea what to expect, and actually started reading the damn thing). Sara was joined by Caroline Leavitt, who read from her new novel, Girls in Trouble. Based on the two sections she read, featuring a pregnant honors student dissatisfied with the couples seeking to adopt her forthcoming child and a middle-aged woman desperate for motherhood, I think that if Oprah were still picking contemporary fiction, she'd definitely be giving this close consideration. It came across as a solidly written novel, with realistically drawn characters facing a very contemporary, instantly understandable dilemma, with full attention to their emotional shifts.


Heh, I should have warned you that Ian doesn't read from his books, or at least, never has in the signings I've attended. I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing, to be honest--I've usually read the book by the time I see an author, and I'd rather listen to him or her talk. But YMMV, after all.

Posted by: Sarah at March 10, 2004 03:19 PM

THANK YOU for coming to hear me (and Sara) read! I was obsessively googling my name and saw this posting and was delighted!


Posted by: Caroline Leavitt at March 16, 2004 11:36 AM
If you enjoy this blog,
your PayPal donation
can contribute towards its ongoing publication.