How often does a librarian get to hear two great authors discuss their work within the same week? At Bookfest on June 18, Mary Doria Russell shared her process in creating her latest book, Doc, a retelling of the early days of Doc Holliday. And last Thursday, thriller writer Karin Slaughter came to town.
In a room packed with librarians, Slaughter (who reminded me of a feminine Huck Finn) quickly won all hearts with a description of “Save the Libraries,” a foundation she spearheaded for the purpose of channeling funds to financially strapped public libraries. She and fellow library-loving writers – Lee Child, Mary Kay Andrews, Michael Connelly, Iris Johansen, Kathryn Stockett, and Lisa Scottoline – have come up with innovative ideas for raising money. For example, for library talks they turn back their customary fee and pay their own expenses. They use the online site, Ebay, to auction off character names: one fellow paid $3,000 to have Michael Connelly name one his characters after him.
Karin Slaughter is a small-town Georgia girl with big-time ideas about crime writing. Her books, from the first, Blindsighted, to the eleventh, Fallen, feature fascinating characters in precarious predicaments, some so dire that she has been criticized for excessive violence. She doesn’t back away from that characterization.
Mary Doria Russell brings to life another Georgian, John Henry Holliday, better known as “Doc Holliday.” We all know the mythic figure from page and screen, embodied by numerous actors from Victor Mature (hilariously miscast) to Val Kilmer (brilliant). According to legend, Doc was a compatriot of the Earp brothers, a gunman, a gambler, a drunk, quick with the cards, quicker with a gun. Through research and imagination, Russell leads us down a different path starting with Doc’s early years, raised tenderly by his devoted mother, who like Doc, died young of tuberculosis. (Interesting aside: Margaret Mitchell, author of Gone with the Wind, was Doc’s second cousin, once removed). Is there a suggestion of Doc in Ashley Wilkes? Pick up this book and find out how an educated, refined scion of Southern aristocracy came to be perceived as one of the most notorious bad guys of the old West.
Both writers were articulate, self-deprecating, gracious and very funny. Don’t miss a chance to see them the next time you can.