A Day at the 2009 National Book Festival

Today was the 2009 National Book Festival in Washington, DC and although the day promised rain, nothing could dampen our spirits.  Eager to claim our press passes and stake out our seats, we packed up and headed out about 9:00am.

Thirty minutes later when we got off at the Smithsonian Metro stop, the crowds were heavy and already filling the tents.  We staked out our seats in the Mystery and Thriller tent- second row, stage right – and Virginia headed to the media tent for our coveted press credentials.

A disclaimer – The National Book Festival is a huge event, drawing well over 100,000 folks with individual tents devoted to fiction and fantasy, poetry and prose, history and biography, teens and children, we knew we couldn’t see everything so we decided to devote ourselves to Mysteries and Thrillers.

First, let me set the scene.  Each genre has its own circus size tent with a stage, sound system and rows and rows of chairs.  The speakers are formally introduced, talk for 10-15 minutes, then take questions for their remaining time.

Some folks come and go between speakers, others stay put for the whole day – like we did!  We saw 12 authors in all but for expediency we are going to focus on our “favorite four.”

First was Michael Connelly who, while nursing a sore throat, was a game participant.  He talked about witnessing a robbery at the age of 16, how his character Hieronymus Bosch came to be and how writers “live for the moment that the wave (of ideas) comes.”

Next is an author new to us, Craig Johnson.  A real life cowboy from Wyoming, Craig does an award winning series featuring a small town (Western) police force.

The real surprise though is that Johnson could have a second career as a stand-up comic.  We laughed from beginning to end and would have loved an encore.

Our third pick is Lee Child.  We had a chance to talk briefly about the adventures and misadventures of protagonist, ex-Marine Jack Reacher.

Child told us that in addition to large print and audio books he does a special edition for a group of 200 ex-Marine Corp radio operators who have lost their eyesight and its done in Morse Code.

And our fourth and final pick  –  Lisa Scottoline.  A former prosecutor from South Philly, Lisa had us rolling in the aisles while celebrating the good work of librarians who opened the world of books to her.

We also made a quick trip to the media tent for some pictures of Paula Deen.  Much smaller than she appears on TV, she exhibited the same warmth and down home humor that have made her a darling of the airwaves.

By now it had started to rain so we beat a hasty retreat for the Metro home.  Wonderfully sated after a full day of books and authors at the 2009 National Book Festival, I’m ordering Chinese for dinner and tucking in with the new Michael Connelly.

I’ll let you know how I like it –

Michael