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Archive: Arts & Culture / Spokane and North Idaho

Join the Louise Penny party tonight

Above: Nathaniel Parker starred as Inspector Armand Gamache in a 2013 televised version of Louise Penny's novel "Still Life."

When I worked at The Spokesman-Review, I held a number of positions. One of my favorites was book columnist, which required me to compile the weekly author readings (mostly at Auntie's Bookstore) and to pass on other regional book news.

I had a button posted to my computer terminal that read "So many books, so little time."

I share that bit of miscellany because of what I'm going to type next: Until last fall, I had never heard of Louise Penny. Check that: Maybe I had heard of the name, its being so unique and all. But I had no knowledge of the person behind the name.

But then I listened to an audiobook edition of Penny's novel "The Nature of the Beast" and I was transformed into an instant fan. Penny, as her fans well know, is the Canadian author of the Armand Gamache "Three Pines" mystery series. And the 12th edition of that series, "A Great Reckoning," is now available.

Gamache, for you other Penny newcomers, is head of the homicide department of the Sûreté du Québec, though by the time of "The Nature of the Beast" he has retired (yet is having second thoughts).

In honor of that release, Auntie's is holding a special Louise Penny Mystery Party tonight at 7. Information for pre-registration can be found here. If nothing else, maybe you can pick up a copy of the book.

One further note: No knowledge of French is required.

See an ‘Ordinary’ Eliopoulos at Auntie’s tonight

If you look at the dictionary definition of the word "ordinary," you're likely to find the following: "of no special quality or interest; commonplace; unexceptional."

All of which lends a touch of irony to the titles of artist/cartoonist Chris Eliopoulos' "Ordinary People Change the World" series, written by Brad Meltzer and illustrated by Eliopoulos. After all, some of the people that Meltzer and Eliopoulos include in the series — Jackie Robinson, Helen Keller and Amelia Earhart, for example — are particularly exceptional.

As Meltzer says on his Facebook page, "Forget politicians. Real heroes still exist in this world. Build strong girls and boys with 'I am Jane Goodall' and 'I am George Washington.' "

The Goodall and Washington books are the latest in the Meltzer/Eliopoulos series and will be the focus of a children's event at 7 tonight at Auntie's Bookstore. Cartoonist Eliopoulos will be at the store in person.

It should be an extraordinary event.

Go for a ‘Joyride’ tonight at Auntie’s

Travis Naught describes himself as "a quadriplegic wheelchair user" and "a free thinker." He's also an author and poet, and he'll be reading from his new novel, "Joyride," at 7 tonight at Auntie's Bookstore.

Sharma Shields, author of "The Sasquatch Hunter's Almanac," wrote that " 'Joyride' is a novel of collisions — between vehicles, yes, but even more powerfully between people. Buckle in for a searing, brutal, sexy read."

And Shann Ray, author of "American Copper," added this: "Travis Naught captures the culture of beauty and the culture of despair with the eye of a hawk skirting the nimbus ofthe sun. At just the right moments, his eye draws us down and into thedrama of our collective existence, breaking us in two, giving us the sights,sounds, and tastes of love … and in the end, devastating us both by the reality of what remains and the haunting echo of what we've lost. His prose is clean, his novel absorbing. Joyride is a bright engine of horsepower, chrome, and speed."

Naught will be joined by C.Y. Bourgeois, an Alaska native who now lives in Idaho. Bourgeois will read from her young-adult novel "The Whispering of Trees."

Explore more of the Dark City at Auntie’s

From the days when True Detective magazine thrilled readers in the 1920s, to today's cable-TV shows such as "Homicide Hunter" (on Investigation Discovery) or "Snapped" (on Oxygen Network), true-crimes have titilated a variety of audiences.

Steve Oliver knows that. He's explored it as an author ("Moody Gets the Blues," "Moody Forever," etc.), he's explored it as a one-time bookstore owner and he continues to explore it as a publisher.

Oliver will be at Auntie's Bookstore at 7 tonight to read from The Dark City Crime and Mystery Magazine, a quarterly publication that features fictional stories — primarily based on the West Coast — written by a range of authors, some from Spokane (such as Darin Krogh, Barbara Curtis and even Oliver himself).

As Oliver himself wrote, "The Dark City Mystery Magazine is the product of a community of crime and mystery writers and fans who spend an inappropriate amount of time exploring the dark side of human nature as expressed by its criminal behavior."

You may be among their number. If so, welcome to Oliver's Dark City.

Words about birds tonight at Auntie’s

If you're in the mood for some poetry this evening, Auntie's Bookstore is the place to be. Oregon-based writer Joe Wilkins, author of the poetry collection "When We Were Birds," will read from his works at 7 p.m.

Wilkins will be joined by Spokane-based writers Kate Lebo ("Pie School: Lessons in Fruit, Flour, and Butter") and Shann Ray ("American Copper").

Writing about Wilkins' collection "Notes From the Journey Westward," author Sam Green Wrote, "One way to define love is fidelity to experience, and if this is so, then Wilkins demonstrates such love over and over in his ruthless, entirely unsentimental efforts to imagine and understandthe world he inhabits—and the one that inhabits him. These are the sorts of poems one keeps close by when they’re most needed, when one can feel most lost."

As usual, the reading is free and open to the public. Seating, though, is limited. For further information, call (509) 838-0206.

Books galore: Vestal and Smith at Auntie’s

Most journalists are frustrated authors of one sort or another. Some of us deal with this frustration by sticking to what we do best: churning out regular copy. Others, though, do that and write actual books.

And in the case of Shawn Vestal, they turn out books that people actually like. And want to read.

Vestal, the Spokesman-Review columnist, will read from his book "Daredevils" at 7 tonight at Auntie's Bookstore. Vestal will share the reading spot with Portland writer Alexis Smith, author of the novel "Marrow Island."

As usual, the readings are free and open to the public. Vestal, though, has a big following, so it might be prudent to show up early.

Here are some reactions to the two books on display tonight:

Kirkus Reviews on "Marrow Island": "A stunning novel about sacrifice for the sake of survival in the aftermath of natural and man-made disasters."

SFGate on "Daredevils": "This on-the-road novel takes twists and turns that are on no literary map you’ve ever seen. A 2014 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize winner and on the short list for the Saroyan Prize, Vestal plays with points of view at a dizzying speed, so that at times the novel feels like a symphonic chorus."

Trek into the past tonight at Auntie’s

Above: Joseph Haeger, author of "Learn to Swim." Taken from hippocampus magazine.

A mix of memoir and poetry will be featured during a two-person reading event tonight at Auntie's Bookstore. Authors Joseph Haeger and Lauren Gilmore will begin reading at 7 p.m.

Haeger, a graduate of Mead High School, was the focus of a feature by Spokesman-Review columnist Cindy Hval. His book, "Learn to Swim," is a reflection of his 10-year friendship with a now-deceased friend. 

Spokane native Gilmore won the 2013 poetry Grand Slam, which earned her entry both to the National Poetry Slam and the Individual World Poetry Slam. Author of the poetry collection "Outdancing the Universe," Gilmore was featured at the 2016 Get Lit! literary festival. To read three poems by Gilmore, click here.

The event, as usual at Auntie's, is free and open to the public.

Vestal: Making memoir into art

Over the years, Spokane has attracted quite a few good writers. Some have gone (Sherman Alexie long ago moved to Seattle), but many have stayed put, whether because of loyalty, because of work or because Spokane is their home.

Put Jess Walter among that latter category. In various other categories, you can add Bruce Holbert, Sharma Shields, the poet Tod Marshall, John Keeble, the poet Nance Van Winckel … and so on. The list grows every year.

And it includes Shawn Vestal. On the basis of a short story collection ("Godforsaken Idaho"), a Kindle memoir ("A.K.A. Charles Abbott") and a debut novel ("Daredevils"), the Spokesman-Review columnist has proven to be the real thing. And his fame has spread.

Click here to read a short memoir of the time he cleaned out the house of his just-deceased father. It was published by the British publication The Guardian. And then go out and find copies of his book, buy them (or borrow a copy from the library), and begin reading.

You're likely to be surprised that such a talent has chosen to stick around. And we're lucky he has.

Authors Rowland and Ray to read at Auntie’s

Tales of Montana are likely to be on tap tonight at Auntie's Bookstore when authors Russell Rowland and Shann Ray read from their various works at 7.

Rowland, who lives in Billings, will read from "Fifty-Six Counties: A Montana Journey." A Montana native, Rowland spent two years traveling around his home state attempting to assess what he describes as "our state’s essential character, where we came from and, most of all, what we might be in the process of becoming."

Ray, who teaches at Gonzaga University, is the author of the novel "American Copper," the story collection "American Masculine," the poetry collection "Balefire" and two books of nonfiction. "American Copper" was described in Esquire magazine as a “brutal beautiful vision of Montana.”

As with most Auntie's events, the reading is free and open to the public. And the authors will be available afterward to sign copies.  

Teachers get thanked at Auntie’s tonight

We all have teachers we remember for one reason or another. Some of those memories are bad. Many, though, are good. And some echo experiences that made positive differences in our very lives.

Awhile ago, I had the opportunity to share a positive memory about one of my high school teachers. It was for a book that was to be a collection of such memories. That book ended up being "Thank You, Teacher: Grateful Students Tell the Stories of the Teachers Who Changed Their Lives."

The co-editors of that book, Holly and Bruce Holbert, will present the book at Auntie's Bookstore tonight at 7. They will be joined by a number of the essay writers (though I, because of another commitment, will not be able to make the scene).

If you've every thought about thanking a teacher, you should go ahead and take the opportunity. Even if doesn't end up in a book, it will do you good. And it will help the deserving teacher, too.

Auntie’s evening: a pair of poets

Poetry is on the schedule at Auntie's Bookstore tonight. Regional poets Kevin Goodan and Kimberly Burwick will read from their new collections at 7.

Goodan, a professor at Lewis-Clark State College, was raised with his stepfather and brothers on Montana's Flathead Indian Reservation. He will read from "Let the Voices," in which "the speaker in these poems gives voice to childhood companions often hungry, both literally and figuratively, for a kind of salvation. In a splicing of lyric and narrative vignettes language becomes both subject and catalyst for recovering one's voice in a negligent world."

Burwick, who teaches in the English Department at Washington State University, will read from "Good Night Brother." As one reviewer wrote, " 'Good Night Brother' opens a world of experience as distilled and compelling as anything Dickinson or Plath might render, in a music wrought from anguish. Poem after poem stops us short, not only for its sheer courage, its willingness to confront the raw truths of a ‘deformed’ relationship, but for its craft, its nuance, its impossible restraint."

The reading is free and open to the public. 

For a literary trip, head to Fairfield

It's not often that a literary reading/signing is paired with a museum tour. But that's exactly what's happening tonight in Fairfield, Wash.

Tim and Beck Hattenburg, co-authors of “Death Ride: A Little Boy’s Night of Terror,” will read from their book at 7 tonight at the Fairfield Library, 305 E. Main St., in Fairfield (just off Highway 27, some 30 miles south of Spokane).

The Hattenbergs' book details events that occurred on a wintry night in 1937 when a man murdered the parents of then-5-year-old Larry Kuntz. The boy survived a brutal beating to finger the killer, who later was hanged.

Following the reading, attendees will be invited to go next door and tour Fairfield's newly remodeled museum.

The reading and tour, which includes refreshments, are free and open to the public.

Git Lit! Thursday: Poetry, whiskey and pie

Note: The following post has been edited.

The 2016 edition of Get Lit! continues Thursday night with a pair of events.

The first, at 7 p.m. at the Lincoln Center's Monroe Ballroom, will feature a conversation/reading by Paul Harding and Nance Van Winckel. Harding is a novelist ("Tinkers," winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for fiction), and Van Winkle is a poet and author ("Ever Yrs"). Entry is $15 general admission, free to students.

The second is a Pie & Whiskey Reading, which will be held at 9:30 at the Spokane Woman's Club. The event will be hosted by Sam Ligon and Chris Bovey and will feature a number of other regional writers, including Jess Walter and Kris Dinnison. Entry is $5 at the door (for ages 21 and over only).

And, yes, you had me at "pie."

As for tonight, you can catch a couple of competing events: "Raising Lilly Ledbetter: Women Poets Occupy the Workspace," a reading by authors such as Kate Lebo and Brooke Matson at 7 p.m. at the Spark Center, 1214 W. Summit Parkway; and a reading by Corinna Nicolaou, author of "A None's Story: Searching for Meaning Inside Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and Islam," at 7 p.m. at Auntie's Bookstore.

Catch writers Vestal and Ligon on Tuesday

When I list cultural events on this site, I typically do so the day of. That's particularly true of literary events, most of which take place at Auntie's Bookstore. But the event that is taking place on Tuesday, which Auntie's will provide books for, is a bit bigger than most and deserves advance notice.

It involves authors Shawn Vestal and Sam Ligon, both of whom will debut new works and both of whom will engage in a moderated discussion with Jess Walter — author, of course, in his own right. The event will begin at 8 p.m. and will be held at 304 W. Pacific Ave, which is the old Washington Cracker Co. building (and is now home to regular Terrain events).

Ligon, who teaches in Eastern Washington University's creative writing program (and who is editor of Willow Springs), will present both a novel ("Among the Dead and Dreaming") and a collection of short stories ("Wonderland").

Vestal, a columnist and staff writer at The Spokesman-Review, will present his first novel, "Daredevils."

The event is free and open to the public.

Oh, and by the way, the Vestal-Ligon event helps kick off this year's Get Lit! literary festival — which is only fitting.

Don’t wait until dark to hear Steve Oliver

As a culture, we are fascinated by crime. Whether in classic cinema ("Scarface," "The Godfather"), true-crime books ("Helter Skelter"), magazines (True Detective) or cheesy television shows ("Snapped"), we devour crime stories the way teenagers devour pizza.

Steve Oliver is no different. Oliver, though, has found a way to meld crime and art. Or at least a kind of art.

The author of the "Moody" mystery series, Oliver doubles as a publisher. He's published books, reprints of old newspaper crime stories and, now, he's been printing an old-school-type mystery magazine titled “The Dark City Crime and Mystery Magazine,” which specializes in mystery/crime stories boasting West Coast settings. Including Spokane.

Oliver will share some of those stories at Auntie's Bookstore tonight at 7. The program is free and open to the public.

There's only one thing wrong with the timing: The sun won't set until 7:29. So the event title needs a slight edit.

Call it Steve Olievr's "Near Dark City" reading.