You can learn about a person by what that person does and what that person says. But you can also learn a lot about a journalist by the company he keeps.
One of the great rewards in writing arts journalism, it seems, is to praise those who you admire with complimentary analysis. When the journalist has some kind of direct relationship with the subject, then it is obligatory to use the term, “full disclosure.”
While much of this column is generally reviewing, the time has come to simply honor good and talented friends and professional associates, so many of whom I ran into last weekend at the Book Expo America at the Los Angeles Convention Center.
Let’s begin with T. Jefferson Parker, the always provocative and inventive crime novelist. I was fortunate enough to be on a lecture and signing panel with him some time ago, along with the late Dennis Weaver, actor-turned-author-eco-activist. Jeff was on his way to sign audio books and his latest work, L.A. Outlaws (Dutton), is the marvelous tale of an unknown female robber who goes by the name Allison Murrieta, claims she is a descendent of bandit Joaquin Murrieta, robs from the greedy and shares her largesse with charities, until she witnesses a mob slaying and is pressured to testify.
The greatest flash from the past came as I saw Will and Debi Durst, arguably the Lunt and Fontanne of the Bay Area comedy scene. Debi runs the comedy institution the Holy City Zoo and is in charge of Comedy Day in San Francisco. We were both in the Theatre Arts department at San Francisco State and shared some laughs with her husband, Will who as one of the finest satirists we have, knows how to make you laugh and then smack you upside the head and think differently. His latest book is The All-American Sport of Bipartisan Bashing: Common Sense Rantings from a Raging Moderate (Ulysses Press). As for one of my favorite lines of his, found at www.willdurst.com, there is this: “Every time I hear the oil companies talk about solar energy, I worry they’ve developed a plan to block out the sun.”
Then there is Brad Olsen, publisher, author and the foremost expert on sacred sites around the world, who I in fact met years ago walking down a crowded BEA aisle. His second edition of Sacred Places North America: 108 Destinations is out and features not only his insights on little known places of pilgrimage and vision quests but his own photography and maps. Brad introduced me to another explorer of things both arcane and mystical, David Hatcher Childress whose World Explorers Club details his global journeys. Childress’ books can be found at Adventures Unlimited Press, along with books on everything from ancient science and conspiracy and history to UFOs and Tesla technology.
Claudia Sloan at Tallfellow and Smallfellow Press is following in the publishing footsteps of her father, Larry Sloan of Price, Stern, Sloan and Mad Libs fame. It was my pleasure to previously cover a reading from Tallfellow’s Doing It For the Money: The Agony and Ecstasy of Writing and Surviving in Hollywood, featuring true tales from some of Hollywood’s most accomplished—and most despicably treated–screenwriters. Now, screenwriter-turned-psychologist Dennis Palumbo (My Favorite Year) is their latest author. From Crime to Crime has short fiction ranging from a group of suburban husbands who stumble into crime-solving to a poor patent clerk, named Albert Einstein, who tracks a turn-of-the-century serial killer.
My dear friend Katerina Makris (who studied writing with my mother, Mona) was herself a hit with Sophia, her irresistible rescue dog, as we walked the aisles of the South Hall. Co-authored with Shelly Frost, the book Your Adopted Dog from Lyons Press resonated with so many book publishing folks we met during our all-too-brief time together. In fact, we bumped into another good pal—and animal rescue advocate—in Jane Velez-Mitchell. The former L.A. news anchor and frequent cable TV crime news analyst has her own tome, now out in paperback; Secrets Can Be Murder (Simon & Schuster) covers 21 cases, from Hollywood horrors to Bible Belt brutality, but all with a keen psychological perception that makes her a respectful and brilliant expert on such shocking cases.
After walking miles of carpeted concrete, I gladly partook of a party or two, during BEA. I dragged my happy, overstimulated and frazzled carcass to the William Turner Gallery at Bergamot Station in Santa Monica for a party co-sponsored by Los Angeles Magazine and Black Clock, the literary journal from the MFA program at CalArts. There I was pleased to see my old UCLA Extension instructor buddy Bruce Bauman, author of And the Word Was, (Other Press) and his wife, Suzan Woodruff whose mind-expanding paintings are repped by Turner. Bruce recently received a COLA grant for literature and I am hoping the film people who have optioned And the Word Was are actually going to do something with his awe-inspiring tale of two worlds, New York and New Delhi. There at the Turner, as well, I had a chance to congratulate Steve Erickson on the overwhelming critical success of his eighth and latest novel, Zeroville (Europa Editions). As the L.A. Times put it, Zeroville “manages to wipe clean the presumptions typically guiding the Hollywood Novel,” and how often does that happen?
Gore Vidal said, “Every time a friend of mine succeeds, a little something inside of me dies.” I appreciate Vidal’s honesty and his work, but every time a friend of mine succeeds, without fostering a conflict of interest, I want to tell the world.