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Times Festival of Reading to feature Hiaasen, Macomber, Mandvi, Stine

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Published Sep. 10, 2014

Whether it makes us laugh or cry, escape from our own life or feel smarter about the world we live in, a good book often makes us wish we could meet the person who wrote it.

At the 22nd annual Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading on Oct. 25, readers will have a chance to meet more than 40 authors who have written books for just about every taste. The writers will be discussing and signing their books at this free event on the bayside campus of the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.

Bestselling authors of several kinds will be on hand. Florida's own Carl Hiaasen, known for his outrageously weird crime novels as well as his journalism, will present his first YA book, Skink: No Surrender. Debbie Macomber, who has sold more than 170 million copies of her romance and women's fiction books, will talk about Mr. Miracle: A Christmas Novel. And the prolific — more than 400 million books sold — and ever-spooky kids' author R.L. Stine returns with his latest in the YA Fear Street series, Party Games.

Celebrity authors are always a hit at the festival, and Aasif Mandvi has built quite a show business career since graduating from Tampa's Chamberlain High and the University of South Florida. He's a correspondent on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, an actor on Broadway as well as screens large and small, a playwright, a writer and a cast member of upcoming HBO series The Brink — and now the author of a hilarious, engaging memoir, No Land's Man.

Readers who enjoy nonfiction ripped from the headlines can choose among several authors. Superstorm: Nine Days Inside Hurricane Sandy is Kathryn Miles' gripping account of that disaster. Outpost: Life on the Frontlines of American Diplomacy is a timely memoir by Christopher Hill, former U.S. ambassador to Iraq. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Hector Tobar will present Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free. Joan Biskupic's latest book about the U.S. Supreme Court is Breaking In: The Rise of Sonia Sotomayor and the Politics of Justice. True stories of military canines are the subject of Rebecca Frankel's War Dogs: Tales of Canine Heroism, History, and Love.

Carol Ruth Silver will be talking about a pivotal era in American history as captured in her book, Freedom Rider Diary: Smuggled Notes From Parchman Prison. And Tracy Crow, Jeff Hess, Brooke King, Lorrie Lykins and Don Morrill will have a panel discussion of Red, White and True: Stories From Veterans and Families, World War II to Present, to which they all contributed.

Rose Styron, widow of the acclaimed author William Styron (The Confessions of Nat Turner, Sophie's Choice), will be on hand to talk about him and about the book Selected Letters of William Styron, which she edited.

Several writers who hail from Florida's colleges and universities will be at the festival. Acclaimed writing teacher Janet Burroway, now retired from Florida State University, will present Losing Tim, her poignant memoir about her son's suicide. Pulitzer Prize-winning fiction writer Robert Olen Butler, also of FSU, will talk about his latest spy novel, The Empire of Night.

University of South Florida professor John Henry Fleming will discuss his short story collection, Songs for the Deaf. Jonathan Rottenberg, also on the USF faculty, will present his book The Depths: The Evolutionary Origins of the Depression Epidemic, and professor and science fiction author Rick Wilber will talk about Field of Fantasies: Baseball Stories of the Strange and Supernatural. USF St. Petersburg professor Tony Silvia will discuss his biography Robert Pierpoint: A Life at CBS News. Festival regular Roy Peter Clark, vice president and senior scholar at the Poynter Institute, which owns the Tampa Bay Times, returns with How to Write Short: Word Craft for Fast Times.

Eckerd College professor Nathan Andersen will talk about Shadow Philosophy: Plato's Cave and Cinema. Emeritus Eckerd professor and St. Petersburg poet laureate Peter Meinke has a new collection, Lucky Bones, and St. Petersburg College professor Gregory Byrd will talk about his collection, Salt and Iron. Seattle poet Lawrence Matsuda rounds out the festival's poetry contingent with A Cold Wind From Idaho.

Crime, cooking, kids

Crime fiction fans will have a full schedule of authors to catch. Ace Atkins will talk about The Forsaken, his third Quinn Colson novel; Atkins also now writes the Spenser series created by the late Robert B. Parker, the latest of which is Cheap Shot. Tim Dorsey will be on hand to recount Serge Storms' latest adventures in Tiger Shrimp Tango, Michael Koryta will discuss his scorching thriller Those Who Wish Me Dead, Lisa Unger will talk about the psychological twists of In the Blood, and P.L. Gaus will present The Names of Our Tears: An Amish-Country Mystery.

Several festival books focus on the flavors of Florida. Former Tampa Bay Times staffer Jim Webster has co-written a cookbook with celebrity chef Mario Batali, America Farm to Table: Simple, Delicious Recipes Celebrating Local Farmers. Webster will appear with Tampa chef Greg Baker of the Refinery and Rebecca Krassnoski of Nature Delivered Farm. Also, Pam Brandon will present Good Catch: Recipes and Stories Celebrating the Best of Florida's Waters, and Mark DeNote brings The Great Florida Craft Beer Guide.

Florida's distinctive art will be represented by Mary Ann Carroll: Queen of the Highwaymen, with author Gary Monroe and subject Mary Ann Carroll both on hand.

If women's fiction is your passion, two authors offer different takes. Suzanne Brockmann's latest military-themed romance is Do or Die. Novelist Cassandra King will talk about The Same Sweet Girl's Guide to Life: Advice From a Failed Southern Belle, which grew out of her bestselling novel The Same Sweet Girls.

For young readers, in addition to Hiaasen and Stine, the roster will include Countryside High graduate Eliot Schrefer, whose new novel is Threatened. It's the second in a series begun with his book Endangered, which was a finalist for the National Book Award and is a current Sunshine State book.

Other YA authors include mother-daughter team Suzanne and Melanie Brockmann with Night Sky, Amy Christine Parker with Astray, Tammar Stein with Spoils and Jeff Strand with I Have a Bad Feeling About This. Also on hand will be award-winning children's author Sara Pennypacker to talk about her Clementine books.

Several Times staffers will appear at the festival. Will Hobson and Michael LaForgia will talk about their 2014 Pulitzer Prize-winning series. Ben Montgomery will present his nonfiction book Grandma Gatewood's Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail, and Craig Pittman returns with The Scent of Scandal: Greed, Betrayal, and the World's Most Beautiful Orchid. Stephanie Hayes, whose novel Obitchuary has sold more than 10,000 copies, will talk about self-publishing. Times columnists, including Ernest Hooper, Janet K. Keeler and Daniel Ruth, also will appear.

Watch these pages for reviews, interviews with authors and much more. And mark your calendar for Oct. 25.

Contact Colette Bancroft at cbancroft@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8435. Follow @colettemb.