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Times Festival of Reading returns in person

In its 30th year, the festival moves to a new venue and presents an exciting slate of authors, including Dennis Lehane and Charlayne Hunter-Gault.
Bestselling author Dennis Lehane, a former St. Petersburg resident, will be a featured author at the 2022 Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading.
Bestselling author Dennis Lehane, a former St. Petersburg resident, will be a featured author at the 2022 Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading.
Published Oct. 6

After two years as a virtual author event, the Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading will celebrate its 30th anniversary by returning in person on Nov. 12.

It will be a slimmed-down festival in a new location, St. Petersburg’s historic Palladium. But it will bring back the live author talks and book signings and sales that have always been the heart of the festival.

Headlining the festival will be former St. Petersburg resident and bestselling author Dennis Lehane, talking about his upcoming novel — his first in five years — “Small Mercies.”

Several of the festival authors will present books that leap right from the headlines, on such topics as racial justice and the opioid epidemic, while others will offer insight on history and how it’s written.

Two novelists will talk about their books, one that’s all about scream-inducing movies and one that’s about a screamingly scary vacation.

One panel of authors will delve into the strange corners of Florida, and another will talk about the surprising history of the Tampa Bay area’s signature dish, the Cuban sandwich.

Tickets for the one-day festival are on sale now; see information below.

Tombolo Books, a St. Petersburg independent bookstore, will handle book sales for the festival. Author signings will take place in the Palladium’s Side Door cabaret space after their talks.

Here are the 2022 Times Festival of Reading featured authors. The schedule for their appearances on Nov. 12 will be released soon. We hope to see you at the festival!

Dennis Lehane Lehane grew up in Boston. Since his first novel, “A Drink Before the War,” won the Shamus Award, he has published 12 more novels that have been translated into more than 30 languages and become international bestsellers. Four of his novels — “Live by Night,” “Mystic River,” “Gone, Baby, Gone” and “Shutter Island” — have been adapted into films. A fifth, “The Drop,” was adapted by Lehane himself into a film. Lehane was a staff writer on the acclaimed HBO series “The Wire” and also worked as a writer-producer on HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire” and the Netflix series “Bloodline.” He was a writer-producer on the television adaptations of three Stephen King novels: “Mr. Mercedes” and “End of Watch” for DirecTV and “The Outsider” for HBO. He has spent the last two years playing hard-to-get with COVID and creating the limited series “Black Bird” for Apple TV. He is an alumnus of Eckerd College in St. Petersburg and co-founded its annual Writers in Paradise conference. Lehane and his family live in California. His next novel, “Small Mercies,” will be published in April.

Charlayne Hunter-Gault
Charlayne Hunter-Gault [ Courtesy of Charlayne Hunter-Gault ]

Charlayne Hunter-Gault is an Emmy-winning journalist who has been in the field for over five decades as well as an icon of the civil rights movement who was one of the two students to desegregate the University of Georgia. Well known as an anchor and correspondent for “PBS Newshour,” she has also written for the New York Times, The New Yorker and other publications. Highlights of those writings make up her compelling new book, “My People: Five Decades of Writing About Black Lives.”

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Peniel E. Joseph holds the Barbara Jordan Chair in Ethics and Political Values and is founding director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy, and professor of history at the University of Texas at Austin. He is the author of several award-winning books on African American history, including “The Sword and the Shield” and “Stokely: A Life.” His new book is “The Third Reconstruction: America’s Struggle for Racial Justice in the Twenty-first Century.”

Author Beth Macy
Author Beth Macy [ Josh Meltzer ]

Beth Macy is a Virginia-based journalist whose previous book, “Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company That Addicted America,” was a searing and deeply human look at the opioid crisis. She was an executive producer and co-writer on Hulu’s Peabody and Emmy award-winning “Dopesick” series. Her new book isRaising Lazarus: Hope, Justice and the Future of America’s Overdose Crisis.”

Lisa Unger
Lisa Unger [ JAY NOLAN | Jay Nolan ]

Lisa Unger is the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of 20 novels, including her latest, the worst-vacation-ever thriller “Secluded Cabin Sleeps Six.” The local author’s twisted tale of secret identities, “Confessions on the 7:45,” is now in development at Netflix, starring Jessica Alba. With books published in 32 languages and millions of copies sold worldwide, she is regarded as a master of suspense.

Jack E. Davis is the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning “The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea” and a professor of environmental history at the University of Florida. His latest book is “The Bald Eagle: The Improbable Journey of America’s Bird.”

Gary Mormino is the Frank E. Duckwall Professor of History Emeritus at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, co-founder of USF’s Florida studies program, winner of the Florida Humanities 2015 Florida Lifetime Achievement Award for Writing and author of many books about Florida. His latest is “Dreams in the New Century: Instant Cities, Shattered Hopes, and Florida’s Turning Point.”

Tampa native Paul Wilborn is an award-winning journalist, a playwright, a pianist and singer, the executive director of the Palladium Theater at St. Petersburg College and an author. His first book, the story collection “Cigar City: Tales From a 1980s Creative Ghetto,” won the Gold Medal for Fiction in the 2019 Florida Book Awards. His debut novel, the comic road trip “Florida Hustle,” was published this year.

It takes a lot of expertise to unpack the real story of one of Florida’s favorite snacks. USF social science professor Barbara Cruz, curator of Florida studies at the USF Libraries Andrew Huse and Jeff Houck, vice president of marketing for the Columbia Restaurant Group, combined their efforts to write “The Cuban Sandwich: A History in Layers.”

Gabrielle Calise is a St. Petersburg-based culture writer and editor obsessed with offbeat stories and nostalgia. She is the editor of A24′s “Florida!” travel book and also worked on Wildsam’s Gulf Coast field guide. She currently reports on local history and shenanigans for her hometown paper, the Tampa Bay Times.

Kristen Hare teaches local journalists how to serve and cover their communities as the Poynter Institute’s local news faculty member. She writes feature obituaries for the Tampa Bay Times and is the author of the book “100 Things to Do in Tampa Bay Before You Die.” She lives near Tampa.

Craig Pittman is a native Floridian. In 30 years on the staff of the Tampa Bay Times, he won numerous state and national awards for his environmental reporting. He now writes a column for the Florida Phoenix and was recently named the winner of the 2022 Rachel Carson Award for Excellence in Environmental Writing or Journalism by the National Sierra Club. He is the author of six books; his latest, published in 2021, is “The State You’re In: Florida Men, Florida Women, and Other Wildlife.” In 2020 the Florida Heritage Book Festival named him a Florida Literary Legend. He co-hosts the “Welcome to Florida” podcast and lives in St. Petersburg.

If you go

The Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading takes place 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Nov. 12 at the Palladium at St. Petersburg College, 253 Fifth Ave. N, St. Petersburg. Tickets $25 general admission, or $50 for VIP tickets, which include reserved seat, admission to coffee hour and cocktail hour with authors and a book discount, at mytbtickets.com. This event is a fundraiser for the Tampa Bay Times Journalism Fund. Find author bios and information at tampabay.com/expos/festival-of-reading.


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