Friday, November 21, 2008

Authors and Inspiration

What I'm reading: Running Blind, by Lee Child

The promised a recap of last night's book signing event at Urban Think! Bookstore with Michael Connelly.

Last night's venture into the wilds of downtown Orlando was well worth the trip. Since we figured Michael Connelly would be a big draw even to the small indie store, Urban Think!, we decided to make an evening of it and have dinner first. Traffic was typical, which meant it took about 50 minutes instead of 25, and the interstate has new off ramps, so our poor GPS lady was very busy "recalculating route."

We arrived about 90 minutes prior to the scheduled time and hubby picked the restaurant since he was doing me the favor of driving. (Night driving issues for me). His choice of Tortilla Flats meant we were in and out in another 30 minutes, so we took advantage of the shared space of Infusion Tea at Urban Think! and it turned out it was the first anniversary of the tea shop cohabiting with the bookstore, so drinks were two for one. And their chocolate biscotti was excellent. Unlike the Janet Evanovich signing we'd tried to attend about a year ago, lines didn't go outside and around the block. However, the store filled up steadily.

Mr. Connelly shared some of his writing background. It seems he moved from New Jersey to Florida as a 12 year old and had to deal with not only culture shock by climate shock. The summer hangout was a local park, and it didn't take long for a pressing need for shade. A small building sat at the edge of the park, and the boys watched a banner unfurl proclaiming "Now Air Conditioned." They went inside and the librarian was gracious, saying they were welcome, but there were 2 rules. One, keep it quiet, and Two, they had to be reading. She asked Michael Connelly how old he was, and he said 13, wanting to sound older. She gave him "To Kill a Mockingbird" and told him there were several copies on the shelf, so he could continue to read it each time he came in. He admitted to us that it took all summer to finish the book (and that included getting caught with a Mickey Spillane tucked behind his assigned book—the librarian said he could read that one when he was 14).

Did "To Kill a Mockingbird" inspire him to become a writer? No. But it laid the seeds for what he feels is an underlying theme in his books: someone who has a tough choice to make and does what he thinks is the right thing.

Since he was at the store to promote his newest release, The Brass Verdict, he told us about the inspiration for Michael Haller, first seen in The Lincoln Lawyer. It happened at opening day at Dodger Stadium. The day every seat is filled, and there are more people in suits and ties than t-shirts (because the stadium's location is convenient to the downtown crowd.) The man sitting next to him was an attorney, and when Mr. Connelly asked where his office was, the man replied, "my car." He was quick to add that it didn't make him the world's worst lawyer, that it was a luxury car, with a driver (someone who couldn't pay his legal fees), mobile fax and a trunk big enough to hold two file cabinets. It also meant he could take cases at all 40 of LA's courthouses.

The two men stayed until the end of the game (in LA, most people leave early to avoid the traffic) and Mr. Connelly says he still relies on the man for advice for making his writing accurate.

Accuracy was another topic he touched up. Mr. Connelly lives in Florida now, and he has many contacts in Florida law enforcement and judicial systems. However, Harry Bosch lives and works in Los Angeles, and Connelly also has people there who vet his work because the two states have different laws and procedures. Even the big guys have to do their homework.

The man who introduced Mr. Connelly was a local AP English teacher, and the store was full of his students. Yes, they got 'extra credit' for showing up, but they also asked questions and seemed truly interested. It's gratifying to see young people making the connection between school and real life.

Which brings me to Today's Gratitude List:
1. Teachers, so many of whom go the extra mile for their students
2. Urban Think! Bookstore for its support of Page 15
3. Hubby for driving.

1 comment:

Ray said...

It's been so long since I have read anything by Michael Connelly that I don't remember what he writes.

I see you are reading Lee Child, one of my wife' favorite authors.

I wish I had your warm weather. We have the cold without the snow. We have had snow a couple of times that melted before I got up in the morning.