LA Times Festival of Books – Mysteries: Dangerous Histories

Fine Arts Building Statue

by Mk

in Book Festivals,Events

The Mysteries: Dangerous Histories author panel session at LA Times Festival of Books was excellent, like all of the panel sessions I attended. We were all sitting on the edge of our seats from the very beginning.

It was moderated by Denise Hamilton, an award-winning author who writes the Eve Diamond crime series.

She edited Los Angeles Noir (Akashic Noir) and Los Angeles Noir 2: The Classics (Akashic Noir). For The Last Embrace, Denise used oral histories and Old Hollywood memoirs as research material while writing. That novel was set in a time when LA was small enough that everyone knew someone who worked in some way in the Entertainment Industry. She also interviewed people she could find from the period who were connected to the research she had done, and got them to dish the dirt that hadn’t been published. He new novel, Damage Control, is coming out in September, 2011.

Publishers Weekly says, “Like Raymond Chandler, Hamilton describes California in gritty, lyrical prose;
like Sue Grafton, she shows a tough-skinned, tenderhearted heroine
breaking a few rules, if not a few bones.”

Tom Franklin won an 2010 LA Times Festival Book Prize for his latest novel, Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter: A Novel. He grew up in Alabama and moved “all the way” to Mississippi, where he lives now. Past novels include Poachers: Stories and Hell at the Breech: A Novel, which is based on a real 1890’s sharecropper feud.

Publishers Weekly says of Franklin’s Poachers, “although he  may occasionally wax sentimental about life in the impoverished South, Franklin’s style is often as laconic and simply spoken as his characters’ dialogue, sometimes close to Hemingway, but more often akin to Denis Johnson or Raymond Carver in its resonant ordinariness.”

Tom had the whole audience cracking up within the first couple of minutes. He didn’t intend to write mysteries or historical fiction. He thinks of himself as a Southern writer. He considers himself to be a lazy researcher but he does know that authors have to get the details right. The feeling I got was that he has to drag himself kicking and screaming into doing research. He uses period Sears & Roebuck catalogs for any period he’s writing about because they’re so comprehensive. I think this would be an invaluable research tool since the areas he writes about relied on those catalogs for everything.

Kelli Stanley was a 2010 LA Times Festival Book Prize finalist for her novel City of Dragons, the first in her 1940’s San Francisco PI series. Kelli is perhaps better known for her more classical novels and writings. Her Roman noir series includes The Curse-Maker and Nox Dormienda: A Long Night for Sleeping (An Arcturus Mystery). City of Dragons is her first novel set in a more modern time period. Her second more modern novel, City of Secrets, comes out in September, 2011, and she said she plans to write about these people as long as she’s alive. Kelli developed a complete backstory for the main character, which was fascinating and made me wish I took shorthand so I could capture it all for you. She sees her goal as translating history for the reader. Her main character in the City of Dragons series, Miranda Corbie, is motivated by finding justice for victims.

Publishers Weekly says of Stanley’s City of Dragons “aptly describes San Francisco as a city redolent and glistening with sin and lamplight, forever a girl you didn’t take home to Mother.”

I downloaded City of Dragons Saturday and will review it as soon as I finish reading it. I’m enjoying the hell out of it so far. If you can’t wait that long, click on the underlined title link to buy the book.

Kelli did her research for City of Dragons by purchasing items from the 1940’s on eBay, by using the Yellow Pages, Life magazine and the Sears & Roebuck catalog, and by finding San Francisco World’s Fair souvenirs. She used actual phone numbers in the novel. She also researched the period’s newspapers and read letters to the editor to get a pulse on area sentiments and points of view about events happening then.

With all three of these authors, I got so engrossed in their stories that I forgot to take notes part of the time. If you want to get any of their books, just click on the underlined title link.

Wish you could have been there!

If you’re interested in reading more articles on the LA Times Festival of Books author panel sessions, just click on the title below:

LA Times Festival of Books – Los Angeles Stories
LA Times Festival of Books – Stories from the South
LA Times Festival of Books – A Conversation with Carolyn See
LA Times Festival of Books – Mysteries: A Question of Character
UCLA vs. USC – Which is Best for the LA Times Festival of Books?

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