Author Michael Connelly goes back to the news biz in his latest thriller, The Scarecrow(read Sun-Times review here), revisiting Los Angeles Times reporter Jack McEvoy, the hero of his 1996 novel The Poet.
Connelly, a former L.A. Timesman himself, did a little Q&A with the Associated Press, where he talked about the book and the current state of journalism.
Q:Did the idea for the new book just come to you or did you intentionally delve into it because of the state of journalism?
A: It was a little bit of both. I worked at three different papers in my career and I was hearing about cutbacks and buyouts and all that stuff at all the papers. Eventually word comes to your door. I heard from people who were pushed out or eventually took the buyouts, so on somewhat of a personal level it started to come close to me. And I'm also a big fan of the show "The Wire," and in their last season they had a B theme on the newspaper business. And watching that show I thought, well, I should check in on ... Jack McEvoy to see what he's been up to and kind of write a story about him that obviously would serve as a thriller first, then open up a window on what's happening in this business.
Q:Do you miss your days as a reporter?
A: I feel I'm functioning at some level as a journalist because even though I write fiction, I'm trying to get the world accurate. I act pretty much like a reporter. I'm trying to get the physical side of L.A., the places the story takes the reader, right. I go out there with my notebook and take pictures, take notes. So that function is still there. Deep in my heart it still feels like I'm a journalist even though I haven't worked for a paper and carried a press pass for 14 years.
Q:Does switching characters once in a while refresh things for you?
A: It does. I really think Harry Bosch is my main focus as a writer, but I can't write about him all the time. I think that's a quick way to end the series, to be 24-7 Harry Bosch. I need to take breaks, recharge the batteries on him. But I'm a writer. I don't like taking the year off from writing and recharging Harry. I'd rather just pursue something else, a different character. And there are things I want to write about that don't necessarily fit in the police detective type of story.
Q:Journalism is very different from when you were a reporter. What's your opinion on the state of the business?
A: When I wrote this book, my first draft was pretty much writing it from my experience, but I hadn't been a reporter for 14 years. So I ended up with this story and I showed it to some people who were in the business currently at the L.A. Times. They all said, 'You know, it's a good thriller but it's not like the business is now. It's changed since you've gone. You haven't even been in a newsroom in 10 years.' So I ended up being a reporter again. I interviewed them to find out how it's changed and tried to incorporate some of the new technology and all that into it. As far as my opinion goes, one of the reasons I wrote this story is it's a lament or a torch song for this shift in society where the newspapers are in this downward spiral. Hopefully it's not a death spiral. I don't know. I think there'd be huge losses if there weren't newspapers. I know everything's shifting to the Internet and some people would say, News is news, what you're talking about is a change of consumption, not the product that's out there.' But I think there is a change. A newspaper is the center of a community, it's one of the tent poles of the community, and that's not going to be replaced by Web sites and blogs.
Among the finalists for the 2009 Great Lakes Book Awards are several Chicago area authors. To be eligible for the Great Lakes Book Awards, books must have a Great Lakes theme or setting or be written by an author living in the region and have been published between June 2008 and the end of May 2009. The winners will be announced in late August and awards presented in October in Cleveland. Following is a list of all finalists. (Local authors' books marked with *)
FICTION *Dark Places by Gillian Flynn (Random House) *The Great Perhaps by Joe Meno (W.W. Norton) A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill) *Starvation Lake by Bryan Gruley (Simon & Schuster) The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski (Harper Collins)
GENERAL Coop: A Year of Poultry, Pigs, and Parenting by Michael Perry (Harper Collins) * The Foie Gras Wars by Mark Caro (Simon & Schuster) Horse Soldiers by Doug Stanton (Simon & Schuster) *Ripped by Greg Kot (Simon & Schuster) A Splintered History of Wood by Spike Carlsen (Harper Collins)
CHILDREN'S CHAPTER BOOKS After the Trains by Gloria Whelan (Harper Collins) *The Blind Faith Hotel by Pamela Todd (Simon & Schuster) *I Put a Spell on You by Adam Selzer (Random House) Knucklehead by Jon Scieszka (Penguin Group) *The Lincolns: A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary by Candace Fleming (Random House) My Brother Abe: Sally Lincoln's Story by Harry Mazer (Simon & Schuster)
CHILDREN'S PICTURE BOOKS Baby Dragon by Amy Ehrlich and Will Hillenbrand (Illus.) (Candlewick Press) Birds by Kevin Henkes and Laura Dronzek (Illus.), (Harper Collins) Old Bear by Kevin Henkes (Harper Collins) That Book Woman by Heather Henson and David Small (Illus.) (Simon & Schuster) The Underwear Salesman by J. Patrick Lewis and Serge Bloch (Illus.) (Simon & Schuster)
Here are a few books that have come through the Book Room in the last few weeks that might make good Father's Day gifts.
NONFICTION The Man's Book: The Essential Guide For the Modern Man(Little, Brown, 229 pages, $23.99) by Thomas Fink. From the guy who brought you 85 Ways to Tie a Tie comes this handy little guide to manhood. A man can learn the proper ways to dress, the ins and outs of smoking, how to choose a best man, eight ways to tie one's shoelaces and, perhaps most important, how to properly carve meat. It covers not only turkey, beef and ham, but also partridge, grouse and mutton. There is an entire chapter on James Bond -- and before you go thinking this is some kind of old fashioned how-to guide, the very next chapter is on text messaging.
SPORTS The Golf Guru: Answers to Golf's Most Perplexing Questions(Quirk Books, 207 pages, $18.95) by John Barton. The author, who writes a column for Golf Digest, answers questions both general and specific about the popular pastime. For example: "Why do golf courses have 18 holes?" and "If Tiger Woods wears white socks with black shoes, why can't I?" Arnold Palmer wrote the foreword.
KIDS How to Talk to Dads(Collins, 47 pages, $9,99) by Alec Greven. The 10-year-old who last year caused a sensation with his How to Talk to Girls book now is cashing in on this little volume. In the introduction, young Alec tells us, "Don't worry. You will find out everything you need to know about Dad right in this book." Oh, if only it were that simple. (One must remember that the author is only 10.) I suppose this book would be better for kids Alec's age, but I could see youngsters giving this to their dads in hopes of pleasing him.
MILITARY MEMOIR Last Journey: A Father and Son in Wartime(Atlas & Co., 304 pages, $25) by Darrell Griffin Sr. and Darrell "Skip" Griffin Jr. The book is a tribute to the younger Griffin, an Army staff sergeant who was killed in action on March 21, 2007, during his third tour of duty in Iraq. He was 36 years old. After his son's death, Griffin Sr. persuaded the Army to embed him with Skip's unit in Iraq so he could experience the war firsthand with the men who fought beside his son. The finished book provides a glimpse into the conflict and includes Skip's e-mail correspondence, photographs and excerpts from his journals.
MEMOIR Go Ask Your Father: One Man's Obsession with Finding HIs Origins Through DNA Testing(Bantam, 227 pages, $25) by Lennard J. Davis. The author plays detective in the story of his own life. When Davis' father dies, his uncle tells him that he is his biological father, through artificial insemination in the late 1940s. The story unfolds into a personal journey for the author as he tries to unravel the truth, and also a history of sorts of artificial insemination in America.
FICTION The Nine Lessons: A Novel of Love, Fatherhood, and Second Chances(Center Street, 223 pages, $14.99) by Kevin Alan Milne. A man named August Witte is terrified when he finds out he's going to be a father. His mother died when he was a toddler and his father was seemingly happier on the golf course than at home. Nevertheless, August agrees to monthly golf lessons with his father, during the pregnancy, and ends up learning as much about life as about golf.
A memoir by George Obama, the president's half brother and a resident of Huruma, Kenya, will be published by Simon & Schuster in January 2010. George Obama, 27, shares the same father with his famous, older half sibling, although George and Barack Obama -- 20 years apart in age -- did not grow up together and did not meet as children.
George is the youngest of the senior Obama's seven children and was born six months before his father died.
Little is known about George Obama. The book, tentatively titled Homeland and to be written with author-journalist Damien Lewis, will tell of George Obama's fall into crime and poverty as a teenager and his eventual embrace of community organizing -- a passion shared by the president -- and of advocacy for the poor, an identification so strong that he chooses to live among them.
"Even had George Obama not been our President's half brother, his story is moving and inspirational," said David Rosenthal, Simon & Schuster publisher and executive vice president. "It is an object lesson in survival, selflessness and courage."
Financial terms were not disclosed, but an official with knowledge of the negotiations said the deal was worth six figures. The official, who was not authorized to discuss the contract, spoke on condition of anonymity.
Other Obama relatives are working on books, including a half sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng; and the brother of first lady Michelle Obama, Craig Robinson. Duke University Press is releasing the doctoral dissertation of the president's mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, who died in 1995.
Barack Obama has written a pair of million-selling books, The Audacity of Hope and Dreams from My Father, in which he describes George Obama as "a handsome, roundheaded boy with a wary gaze."
Rubina Ali (center) is flanked by her "Slumdog
Millionaire" co-stars Ayush Mahesh Khedekar
(left) and Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail.
(Mike Clarke/Getty Images)
OK, I know those "Slumdog" kids have been through a lot, but a book deal? Really?
Transworld Publishers is planning on publishing the life story of 9-year-old Rubina Ali -- one of the child stars of the Oscar-winning film "Slumdog Millionaire." The book will tell the story of her life in the shantytown where she grew up. (One might argue that she's not exactly "grown up" yet, but hey, who am I to know what's going to sell?)
Slumgirl Dreaming: My Journey to the Stars is scheduled to be released in Britain in mid-July. A Transworld rep says some of the royalties will go to the French medical aid organization Medecins du Monde.
I'm not opposed to telling a 9-year-old's story, but I hope the editors allow her own voice to come through so that kids her own age can read it and relate to it.
Bernardine Evaristo's novel Blonde Roots did not make the short list for this year's Orange Prize, but The Guardian reports today that a panel of teenagers has selected it as an alternative winner.
Six teens, age 16-19 chose their own short list from the 20 titles on the long list, and then selected their own winner. Other titles on the teens' short list included: Girl in a Blue Dress by Gaynor Arnold; The Lost Dog by Michelle de Kretser; Mercy by Toni Morrison; The Russian Dreambook of Colour and Flight by Gina Oscher, and The Flying Troutmans by Miriam Toews.
The Orange Prize is one of the UK's most presigious literary prizes, awarded to the best full-length novel by a female author of any nationality. The prize is 30,000 pounds (about $50,000). The prize will be awarded tonight.
Read the Sun-Times' review of Blonde Roots, which reimagines the slave trade when a white European girl is kidnapped and forced into slavery by her "Aphrikan" masters.