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St. Petersburg Times Festival of Reading features a Florida slant

Florida will be the focus of the 18th annual St. Petersburg Times Festival of Reading.

Authors who live in the Sunshine State, write about it or both will be featured at the free community event, which takes place all day Saturday, Oct. 23, on the bayside campus of the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.

Headliners include bestselling crime novelist Michael Connelly, whose new book, The Reversal, features both of his series characters, Harry Bosch and Mickey Haller. (The movie version of The Lincoln Lawyer, starring Matthew McConaughey as Haller, is in production.) Connelly's books are set mainly in Los Angeles, but he lives in the Tampa Bay area.

Novelist John Brandon, who grew up in New Port Richey, will present his critically acclaimed novel Citrus County, the stark and eerie tale of a pair of middle school students and a teacher drifting dangerously through life on the frayed edge of the Sunbelt.

Former Florida Lt. Gov. Buddy MacKay will talk about his memoir of his political career, How Florida Happened — and should also have some interesting insights to offer 10 days before the November election. Politics will also be the focus for New Yorker political writer George Packer, presenting Interesting Times: Writings From a Turbulent Decade, and for St. Petersburg author Burton Hersh, whose new book is Edward Kennedy: An Intimate Biography.

Florida native and former journalist Deborah Sharp will be on hand with Mama Gets Hitched, the latest in her series of deep-fried comic mysteries set in a small town very like Okeechobee. This one is about a Bridezilla whose caterer is murdered just before her Gone With the Wind wedding; tacky wedding wear is encouraged for audience members.

Journalist Paul Reyes, a Tampa resident whose work has appeared in Harper's and other publications, will present Exiles in Eden: Life Among the Ruins of Florida's Great Recession, a riveting look at the reality of housing foreclosures as seen by a crew who "trash out" abandoned homes, and an insightful history of the state's many boom-and-bust cycles. (See review, Page 8L.)

Longtime festival favorite Roy Peter Clark, vice president of the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, brings his exuberant wit to a subject too often deemed dull in his new book, The Glamour of Grammar: A Guide to the Magic and Mystery of Practical English.

Susan Hubbard, a professor at the University of Central Florida, will be on hand with the third in her series of Ethical Vampire novels, The Season of Risks. Half-human, half-vampire Ariella Montero struggles with her own nature and her relationship with a powerful political candidate with a terrible secret.

University of Tampa professor Daniel Reimold's new book, Sex and the University: Celebrity, Controversy, and a Student Journalism Revolution, is an inside look at the recent phenomenon of student-produced college newspaper sex columns and campus sex magazines; the book's glossary, or "sexicon," is a bawdy bonus.

Patricia Engel's debut collection of short stories, Vida, is already garnering glowing reviews for its vivid, interconnected tales of immigrants and their children, set in New Jersey and Miami.

Several Times staffers will be part of the festival. Environmental reporter Craig Pittman will present Manatee Insanity: Inside the War Over Florida's Most Famous Endangered Species, and food and travel editor Janet K. Keeler will introduce her new book, Cookielicious: 150 Fabulous Recipes to Bake & Share. Political junkies will want to catch appearances by Times columnists Sue Carlton, Ernest Hooper, Bill Maxwell, Dan Ruth and Howard Troxler.

Other Florida-based writers on the roster include Don Bruns (Don't Sweat the Small Stuff), Kendall Coffey (Spinning the Law), Pat Duggins (Trailblazing Mars: NASA's Next Giant Leap), Thomas Hallock (William Bartram: The Search for Nature's Design), Michael Koryta (So Cold the River), Peter Meinke (Lines From Neuchatel), Ira Sukrungrang (Talk Thai), Irene Sullivan (Raised by the Courts) and Rick Wilber (Rum Point).

Wall Street Journal columnist Jeffrey Zaslow is not a Florida writer, but he has been responsible for three major recent bestsellers. His book The Girls From Ames: A Story of Women and a Forty-Year Friendship is the nonfiction story of the enduring relationships among 11 women. Zaslow co-wrote the publishing phenomenon The Last Lecture with Randy Pausch and was also the co-writer of Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters by pilot Chesley B. Sullenberger.

Returning to the festival is beloved children's author R.L. Stine, whose Goosebumps series has sold more than 300 million copies. He will present the latest edition of You Can't Scare Me! Also returning is bestselling novelist Sena Jeter Naslund with Adam and Eve. Panel discussions will focus on e-books and self publishing, and look out for the undead — Zombie Nation: St. Pete will debut at the festival.

Colette Bancroft can be reached at or (727) 893-8435.

Oct. 23, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. On the campus of the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. Free. For more information, go to

St. Petersburg Times Festival of Reading features a Florida slant 09/10/10 [Last modified: Friday, September 10, 2010 6:25pm]
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