The 19th annual St. Petersburg Times Festival of Reading comes to the campus of the University of South Florida St. Petersburg on Oct. 22 with a roster of more than 40 exciting authors.
Fiction and nonfiction set in the South are a theme at this year's festival. Crime writer Ace Atkins will present his latest thriller (and first in a new series), The Ranger, set in the Mississippi hill country. Pulitzer Prize winner and Florida State University professor Robert Olen Butler's new novel, A Small Hotel, unfolds in a New Orleans hotel room and on a Louisiana plantation. And bestselling novelist Connie May Fowler will talk about How Clarissa Burden Learned to Fly, set in Florida's Panhandle.
In Fighting in the Shade, Eckerd College creative writing director Sterling Watson takes an unsparing look at the realities of high school football in a small Florida town. Tony D'Souza's Mule: A Novel of Moving Weight is a ripped-from-the-headlines story about drug smugglers that ranges cross-country but moves inexorably to the South. Angela Hunt's The Fine Art of Insincerity joins three Southern sisters with 10 marriages among them as they visit their late grandmother's beach house. St. Petersburg poet laureate Peter Meinke considers a local landmark in his book Lassing Park.
There will also be nonfiction books about the South, notably USF professor Raymond Arsenault's Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice, which was a source for a recent documentary film featured on the Oprah Show; in this 50th anniversary year, Arsenault will be joined by several Freedom Riders.
Journalist William McKeen tells tales of the literary and artistic scalawags of a Florida landmark in Mile Marker Zero: The Moveable Feast of Key West.
Two authors will present books about Florida's always colorful political scene: former Times editorial board member Martin Dyckman with Reubin O'D. Askew and the Golden Age of Florida Politics, and James C. Clark with Red Pepper and Gorgeous George: Claude Pepper's Epic Defeat in the 1950 Democratic Primary. USF professor Julie Buckner Armstrong looks at one of the most tragic sides of Southern history in Mary Turner and the Memory of Lynching.
Journalist Don Van Natta will present his biography of a Southerner who became an internationally known sports star (and Tampa resident), Wonder Girl: The Magnificent Sporting Life of Babe Didrikson Zaharias. Two authors and a filmmaker will discuss the life and literary heritage of a notable author with Florida roots, Zora Neale Hurston: Kristy Andersen, writer of the documentary Zora Neale Hurston: Jump at the Sun; Anna Lillios, author of Crossing the Creek: The Literary Friendship of Zora Neale Hurston and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings; and Virginia Lynn Moylan, author of Zora Neale Hurston's Final Decade.
One of the great names in Southern cooking, Nathalie Dupree, will present her latest cookbook, Southern Biscuits. Food journalist Barry Estabrook focuses on Florida in his nonfiction book Tomatoland: How Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit.
Food is the subject of two other books as well. Toni Lydecker will present her cookbook Piatto Unico: When One Course Makes a Real Italian Meal. N.M. Kelby's new novel, White Truffles in Winter, is a fictional look at the life of legendary French chef Auguste Escoffier.
Speaking of famous folks, screenwriter (Splash), playwright and author Bruce Jay Friedman will talk about Lucky Bruce, his memoir of rubbing elbows with show business greats. Photographer Herb Snitzer will present his book about shooting portraits of musical icons, Glorious Days and Nights: A Jazz Memoir. USF professor emeritus Lawrence Broer will discuss his book about two major 20th century authors, Vonnegut and Hemingway: Writers at War.
Thrillers, always a popular genre, are represented by some major names. Former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham will present his first work of fiction, Keys to the Kingdom, which draws on his unique experience as an insider in the intelligence community. Two bestselling Florida-based crime writers will appear: James W. Hall with Silencer and Lisa Unger with Darkness, My Old Friend.
Animal lovers will want to catch two nonfiction authors. Pulitzer Prize winner and former Times reporter Thomas French will present Zoo Story: Life in the Garden of Captives, his account of a dramatic year at the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa. Diana Reiss, director of the dolphin research program at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, will discuss her book The Dolphin in the Mirror: Exploring Dolphin Minds and Saving Dolphin Lives.
Authors will be on hand to help with a range of problems. Roy Peter Clark, always a festival favorite, presents Help! For Writers: 210 Solutions to the Problems Every Writer Faces. Bob Delaney and Dave Scheiber will discuss a serious and growing problem tackled in their book, Surviving the Shadows: A Journey of Hope Into Post-Traumatic Stress. Two USF professors offer help for parents and communicators, respectively: Mark Durand with Optimistic Parenting: Hope and Help for You and Your Challenging Child, and Anthony Silvia with Power Performance: Multimedia Storytelling for Journalism and Public Relations.
Times outdoors/fitness editor Terry Tomalin will present his new book, Everyday Adventures; and copy editor Ian Vasquez will talk about his third crime novel, Mr. Hooligan. Also appearing this year will be Times arts and entertainment critics: book editor Colette Bancroft, visual arts critic Lennie Bennett, pop music critic Sean Daly, TV/media critic Eric Deggans, performing arts critic John Fleming and film critic Steve Persall.
Other local novelists appearing include Karen Brown, winner of the Prairie Schooner Book Prize, with Pins and Needles: Stories; Lori Roy with her thriller Bent Road; and Tammar Stein with her YA fantasy Kindred.
Colette Bancroft can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8435.