Times Festival of Reading welcomes Connelly, Maynard, Meltzer, Deford and more

The Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading brings dozens of talented authors to the University of South Florida St. Petersburg on Nov. 12.
Published September 29 2016
Updated October 3 2016

If you're looking for the headliners of the 24th annual Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading, you'll find them on the bestseller lists.

The festival returns on Nov. 12 to the University of South Florida St. Petersburg with a roster of more than 45 authors of fiction, nonfiction, poetry and books for young readers.

Tampa resident and internationally bestselling author Michael Connelly will be on hand to talk about his 21st Harry Bosch novel, The Wrong Side of Goodbye. Bosch, long a Los Angeles Police Department detective, is retired and working as a private investigator, searching for the possible heir of a reclusive billionaire and hunting a serial rapist. The Bosch books have sold more than 58 million copies, and Connelly is also the executive producer of Bosch, the Amazon TV series based on the books.

Joyce Maynard's career as a writer began when her essay "An Eighteen Year Old Looks Back on Life" was published in Time magazine in 1972. Since then she has published 16 books of fiction and nonfiction. Perhaps her most controversial bestseller was her 1998 memoir At Home in the World, about her relationship with reclusive author J.D. Salinger (Catcher in the Rye). At the festival, she'll present her latest novel, Under the Influence, about a woman who has lost her family and career to alcoholism and becomes involved with wealthy, glamorous new friends who may not be what they seem.

Brad Meltzer's books have appeared on bestseller lists for fiction, nonfiction, advice, children's books and comic books. The Florida resident is perhaps best known for his history-based political thrillers, including the Culper Ring novels and his most recent book, The House of Secrets. It's the story of a woman whose memory is damaged by a car crash that also killed her father, as she struggles to remember what really happened and who she really is — and to stay alive. Meltzer hosts Brad Meltzer's Lost History on History's H2 channel, where on Sept. 11 he revealed the recovery of the ground zero flag.

The title tells it: I'd Know That Voice Anywhere: My Favorite NPR Commentaries is Frank Deford's latest book. The Sports Illustrated writer, novelist (Everybody's All-American) and TV and radio commentator has been voted U.S. Sportswriter of the Year six times. His wide-ranging new book celebrates his 35 years as a commentator on All Things Considered.

Novelist and Florida State University professor Robert Olen Butler won a Pulitzer Prize for his first fiction collection, A Good Scent From a Strange Mountain, which dealt with the Vietnam War. He returns to that subject in his new novel, Perfume River, about a family still riven by that war decades later. Another FSU professor, National Book Award winner Bob Shacochis, will be on hand with his latest collection of globe-trotting nonfiction, Kingdoms in the Air: Dispatches From Far Away.

Bestselling novelist Carolyn Leavitt will present her new novel, Cruel Beautiful World, about a teenage runaway in the 1960s. Amor Towles will talk about A Gentleman in Moscow, his charming novel about a man who spends decades under house arrest in a Russian hotel.

Young readers will have plenty of authors to look forward to at the festival. Among them will be Tampa writer G. Neri, whose most recent book, Tru & Nelle, is a novel based on the real-life childhood friendship of authors Truman Capote (Breakfast at Tiffany's) and Harper Lee (To Kill a Mockingbird).

Florida poet laureate Peter Meinke throws a curveball: He'll present his new short story collection, The Expert Witness. David Kirby, FSU professor and winner of the Florida Humanities Council's 2016 Lifetime Achievement in Literature Award, brings us his new poetry collection, Get Up, Please. Jonathan Moody will present Olympic Butter Gold, winner of the 2014 Cave Canem/Northwestern University Press Poetry Prize.

As always, the festival will feature books by current and former Times staffers. Two former Times writers, Pulitzer Prize winner Tom French and his wife, Pulitzer finalist Kelley Benham French, return to talk about the nonfiction book they co-wrote. Juniper: The Girl Who Was Born Too Soon is the remarkable story of their daughter, born a micro-preemie at 23 weeks gestation, weighing only 1 pound, 4 ounces.

Two groups of current Times staffers who won Pulitzer Prizes for their stories this year will be on hand for panel discussions of their work. Michael LaForgia, Cara Fitzpatrick and Lisa Gartner will talk about their series "Failure Factories," which won the prize for local reporting. Leonora LaPeter Anton and Anthony Cormier will discuss their series, the winner for investigative reporting, about Florida's mental hospitals, "Insane. Invisible. In danger."

Two Times staff writers have new nonfiction books. Ben Montgomery will present his second book, The Leper Spy: The Story of an Unlikely Hero of World War II, the account of the extraordinary life of Josefina Guerrero, a Filipina who saved countless American lives. Craig Pittman will talk about his fourth book, the too-strange-for-fiction Oh, Florida! How America's Weirdest State Influences the Rest of the Country.

Former Times staffer Laura Coffey will discuss the real-life happy endings in her book, My Old Dog: Rescued Pets With Remarkable Second Acts. Another former staffer, Jim Webster, will be presenting Mario Batali's Big American Cookbook: 250 Favorite Recipes From Across the USA, his second collaboration with the celebrity chef.

Food will be a theme in one of the nonfiction books sure to be a standout at the festival: Alex Prud'homme's The French Chef in America: Julia Child's Second Act. Prud'homme, Child's great-nephew, collaborated with her on My Life in France, one source for the movie Julie & Julia.

Another nonfiction standout is We Are Charleston: Tragedy and Triumph at Mother Emanuel by journalist Herb Frazier, historian Bernard Edward Powers Jr. and South Carolina poet laureate Marjory Wentworth. The book looks at the church's history and place in the community both before and after nine members were shot to death; white supremacist Dylan Roof is accused of the crime.

Beth Macy's nonfiction book, Truevine: Two Brothers, a Kidnapping, and a Mother's Quest: A True Story of the Jim Crow South, is the astounding tale of a pair of boys taken away by a circus who traveled the world and became celebrities, their fame rooted in racism.

Florida books abound at the festival. Nonfiction books about the state include Ted Geltner's Blood, Bone, and Marrow: A Biography of Harry Crews, about the legendary novelist, University of Florida professor and wild man.

In Alligator Candy, David Kushner writes compellingly about the 1973 kidnapping in Tampa of his 11-year-old brother, Jonathan. Eliot Kleinberg's Black Cloud: The Great Hurricane of 1928 recounts the disaster that claimed more than 2,500 lives in Florida. Jason Vuic documents the early days of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in The Yucks! Two Years in Tampa with the Losingest Team in NFL History.

Florida, of course, is fertile ground for crime fiction writers. Tim Dorsey of Tampa will be here with Coconut Cowboy, his latest about Florida history buff and serial killer Serge Storms. Michael Koryta will present Rise the Dark, his new thriller with a plot that starts in Cassadaga and accelerates. Randy Wayne White, Sanibel icon and author of the bestselling Doc Ford novels, will talk about his new Hannah Smith book, Seduced.

Crime fiction set elsewhere will be represented as well. Ace Atkins will talk about the latest books in his two series, Robert B. Parker's Slow Burn and The Innocents, on a panel with Clearwater author Lisa Unger, whose latest psychological thriller is Ink and Bone.

For a complete list of authors, see the festival website at festivalofreading.com.

Contact Colette Bancroft at [email protected] or (727) 893-8435. Follow @colettemb.