ST. PETERSBURG — This was, by and large, not an e-book crowd. A Kindle, after all, is seldom autograph-friendly.
"I'm a book-aholic, and I don't need a 12-step program," said Lore Raymond, a retired teacher from St. Petersburg who wants nothing of electronic readers. "I love a paperback or hardcover in the flesh."
Hundreds of book lovers attended the 20th annual Times Festival of Reading Saturday at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. Forty authors discussed or signed their books, including bestselling authors Michael Connelly, Dennis Lehane and Lisa Unger.
Barnes & Noble held a seminar on e-books and e-readers called "Crossing the Digital Divide." But for the most part, those were hardcovers, not electronic gizmos, folks tucked under arms or pressed close to the chest.
Lehane read from his novel, Live by Night, a gangster, Prohibition-era story set mostly in Florida, including Ybor City.
Lehane's Florida bona fides include a degree in creative writing from Eckerd College in St. Petersburg.
Lehane talked a bit about the period research. He recalled once researching a book for a year. "It was the biggest waste of a year in my life," he told a standing-room only crowd at the USF Student Center ballroom.
Now, Lehane said, he does research "on an as-needed basis," noting the imagination can fill gaps while remaining faithful to a novel's emotional truth.
"I grew up in a family with a total disdain for facts," he joked.
Charles Burr, a retired attorney from Tampa, carried My Father's War by Carolyn Ross Johnston, the true story of a black infantry division and their white commanders that fought in Italy in World War II. Johnston's father was one of those commanders.
Burr said his father was killed in Italy during the war and he hoped to write a similar book.
"For 30 years I have researched that subject and tried to understand where, why and how my father died," Burr said.
Connelly, author of a series of bestselling novels about Los Angeles police Detective Harry Bosch, joined a panel of Florida natives who contributed to Homegrown in Florida, a collection of essays on their experiences growing up in Florida.
Connelly's family moved from Philadelphia to Fort Lauderdale when he was 12, reducing him to the status of honorary Florida native. His contribution to the book was a story about witnessing, at 16, a man throwing a gun into a hedge. Police later questioned Connelly.
If he hadn't seen that, "I might not be a writer today," he said.
Earlier, Larry and Char Palin wandered around a variety of festival book kiosks. Connelly had just walked by them.
"Don't tell anybody," Char Palin said. "I tried to read one of his books and couldn't get through it. But I think I'm going to give him another chance."
The Palins said they are old school and avoid e-readers. But her husband sometimes cheats.
He has read books on his iPhone.
William R. Levesque can be reached at [email protected]