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What's Sterling Watson reading?

Sterling Watson will discuss his newest work, “Suitcase City,” at the Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading on Oct. 24.
Published Oct. 1, 2015

Nightstand

Sterling Watson

Along with writing seven novels, Watson, 68, co-founded the annual conference Writers in Paradise, with his former student Dennis Lehane at Eckerd College. Watson, who retired from his post as the director of the college's creative writing program about three years ago, also has served as fiction editor for Florida Quarterly as well as an instructor at Raiford Prison in Bradford County, where he taught secondary English and fiction writing. Currently he is part of the faculty for the Solstice Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing Program at Pine Manor College in Massachusetts. On Oct. 24, Watson will be a featured author at the 23rd annual Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading. He will discuss his newest work, Suitcase City, a noir revenge tale set in Tampa in the 1980s.

What's on your nightstand?

The Centurions by Jean Lartéguy. It is a magnificent book. It's a book of great scope and philosophy and history. It's a story on a group of French officers during the collapse of the French colonial empire in Indochina. The writing is beautiful. The characters are wonderfully observed and developed. The men and women, not just officers, but women, are forced to make decisions to preserve their honor and what they think is honor of the country. It's one of the earliest treatments of terrorism.

Do you think the success of the book is achieved through the characters?

I do. They have long, serious philosophical discussions. I think it's a success because of the vivid characterizations. The author really has that gift.

What else are you reading?

I've got two more. The Library of America just published two omnibus volumes on women crime writers of the 1940s. I bought one of them, called Women Crime Writers: Four Suspense Novels of the 1940s. I'm reading The Horizontal Man by Helen Eustis. She's an American translator from France. She also wrote a children's book, Mr. Death and the Red Headed Women and also The Fool Killer, which was made into a movie with Anthony Perkins. I think one of the reasons these women crime writers were published was to show that women could be, at that time, as gritty and detailed about the uglier side of crime as men could be.

And she is?

She is. It's pretty edgy, gritty stuff, but it's an academic novel. The murder happens in an academic community. You get the impression it's a Northeastern college of some sort . I confess to a fondness for academic novels.

Had you heard of her before this?

No, but in the series I had heard of Patricia Highsmith, who wrote The Talented Mr. Ripley. She's written quite a few novels. I read all the Ripley novels and since I've read a lot of her, I'm concentrated on the writers I haven't read. Then I'm also reading Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff.

Now, she's more contemporary. Why are you reading this?

I wanted to read it because it's a story of a marriage told by the different points of view. You see the marriage from the man's view and you get a whole load of surprises when you get the view from the spouse. That's the fun of it, and that's the terror of it. It captures how difficult it can be to keep a relationship together for a long period of time.

Contact Piper Castillo at pcastillo@tampabay.com. Follow @Florida_PBJC.

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