Friday, November 17, 2017
Books

Times Festival of Reading celebrates 25 years with Michael Connelly, Kate DiCamillo and more

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The 25th annual Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading celebrates its quarter-century milestone with an outstanding roster of authors.

Bestselling crime fiction author Michael Connelly returns to the festival, this time with two new novels, The Late Show (with new character Renée Ballard) and Two Kinds of Truth, his 20th Harry Bosch book.

Beloved children's author Kate DiCamillo, whose books include Because of Winn-Dixie and Ramie Nightingale, will present her new picture book, La La La.

Jeff VanderMeer, an award-winning science fiction author whose works include the Annihilation trilogy, will talk about his latest novel, Borne.

Two notable authors will present nonfiction books about very timely issues. Historian Ibram X. Kendi won the 2016 National Book Award for his book, Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America. Former Fox News commentator Gretchen Carlson, whose sexual harassment lawsuit led to the resignation of Fox News chairman Roger Ailes, will talk about her book Be Fierce: Stop Harassment and Take Your Power Back.

This year's festival takes place on Veterans Day, and several of the featured books deal with military subjects. Mark Bowden will present his gripping nonfiction book Hue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam. Tracy Crow and Jerri Bell will talk about their anthology It's My Country Too: Women's Military Stories From the American Revolution to Afghanistan. Two authors will talk about their fiction about military experiences: David Abrams' Iraq War novel Brave Deeds and Jeffery Hess' collection of short stories about the Navy, Cold War Canoe Club.

This year's festival will have lots for kids to enjoy. In addition to DiCamillo, Ridley Pearson, author of the bestselling Peter and the Starcatchers and Kingdom Keepers series, will be here with Lock and Key: The Downward Spiral, the second book in his new series about young Sherlock Holmes and James Moriarty.

Greg Neri's new book is Tru & Nelle: A Christmas Tale, his second kids' novel about the childhood friendship between authors Harper Lee and Truman Capote. (Neri will be talking with his audience remotely — from Antarctica!) Sharon Robinson, daughter of baseball great Jackie Robinson, will be at the festival (in person) with her latest kids' book, The Hero Two Doors Down. Florida author Renée Garrison presents her debut book, The Anchor Clankers.

A panel discussion by local children's authors will include Shannon Hitchcock (Ruby Lee and Me), Fred Koehler (Flashlight Night), Rob Sanders (Ruby Rose: Big Bravos) and Augusta Scattergood (Making Friends With Billy Wong).

Fans of literary fiction and nonfiction will have a full schedule of authors to see. Pinellas County native Sarah Gerard will present her acclaimed memoir-in-essays, Sunshine State. Nathan Hill will be on hand with his terrific debut novel The Nix, set amid the 1960s culture wars. Eckerd College professor Lee Irby presents his clever dark comedy Unreliable. Florida's poet laureate, Peter Meinke, will talk about his new essay collection, To Start With, Feel Fortunate. St. Augustine writer Laura Lee Smith will talk about her second novel, The Ice House, and Marco Island resident Ann Kidd Taylor talks about her Florida-set The Shark Club.

The festival has always featured a range of crime fiction writers, and this year continues that tradition. On the roster for the first time is bestselling mystery writer J.A. Jance, with her latest J.P. Beaumont novel, Proof of Life. Jance will appear with her friend, musician and author Janis Ian (Society's Child: My Autobiography), in a conversation titled "The Long and Short of It."

Prolific mystery writer Ace Atkins returns with his 2017 books in two series: Little White Lies, an entry in the late Robert B. Parker's Spenser series, and a new Quinn Colson book, The Fallen. Tampa's own Tim Dorsey will talk about his 20th outrageous Serge Storms novel, Clownfish Blues.

St. Petersburg author William Heffernan will present his mystery The Scientology Murders, and Tampa's Steph Post discusses her Florida noir book Lightwood.

Festival favorite Lisa Unger returns with her latest psychological thriller, The Red Hunter.

Music fans will want to check out presentations by three authors. University of Tampa professor John Capouya's new book is Florida Soul: From Ray Charles to KC and the Sunshine Band. Orlando journalist Bob Kealing offers Elvis Ignited: The Rise of an Icon in Florida. Boston University journalism professor William McKeen will talk about Everybody Had an Ocean: Music and Mayhem in 1960s Los Angeles.

Several festival books address the history of race in America. In addition to Kendi's sweeping history, there is Patricia Bell-Scott's The Firebrand and the First Lady: Portrait of Friendship: Pauli Murray, Eleanor Roosevelt, and the Struggle for Social Justice. Retired University of South Florida St. Petersburg professor Herb Karl takes a fictional approach to the story of abolitionist John Brown in his novel, The Insurrectionist.

Florida, in fact and fiction, is a subject and setting for many festival authors. University of Florida historian Jack E. Davis' The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea is an expansive look at the body of water we live on.

Tampa writer Cathy Salustri took a trip into history for Backroads of Paradise: A Journey to Rediscover Old Florida. Former USF professor Doris Weatherford chronicles women of the state in They Dared to Dream: Florida Women Who Shaped History.

Legendary Florida chef Norman Van Aken will talk about his cookbook, Florida Kitchen.

University of Florida law professor Mark Fenster addresses a pressing current issue in The Transparency Fix: Secrets, Leaks, and Uncontrollable Government Information.

On the lighter side, Christian Blauvelt, a BBC Culture editor, talks about Star Wars Made Easy: A Beginner's Guide to a Galaxy Far, Far Away, and Andy Boyle presents Adulthood for Beginners: All the Life Secrets Nobody Bothered to Tell You.

Tamara Lush will talk about her serially published romance Constant Craving.

A number of Times staffers will appear at the festival. The Pulitzer Prize-winning PolitiFact staff, celebrating the fact-checking organization's 10th anniversary, will present a panel discussion. Two Times staffers will talk about their nonfiction books: Craig Pittman returns with Oh, Florida!: How America's Weirdest State Influences the Rest of the Country, and Ben Montgomery will talk about The Leper Spy: The Story of an Unlikely Hero of World War II. Times columnist Dan Ruth will also speak.

Festival favorite Roy Peter Clark, now retired from the Poynter Institute (which owns the Times), will offer a discussion of his bestselling Writing Tools: 55 Essential Strategies for Every Writer.

Watch these pages for more reviews and interviews of festival authors. Look for a complete guide to the Times Festival of Reading inside the Weekend section on Nov. 9.

Contact Colette Bancroft at cbancroft@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8435. Follow @colettemb.

   
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