Friday, April 28, 2017

Los Angeles Times Festival of Books - Part 3

Hit a few panels, took a few notes.

Michael Connelly in conversation with Daniel Pyne
Pyne is the new showrunner for Connelly's Bosch. He's also a screenwriter (Fracture) and novelist. His new book, Catalina Eddy, sounds fantastic.

Pyne, Connelly
  • How TV changed Connelly's writing: Dialogue. In the books he can be in Bosch's head as much as he wants, but not on TV. Also, on TV he can't have Harry in every scene. Pyne: Action has to be behavioral, not in thought.
  • Pyne: Features have been taken over by tentpoles and Marvel Comics. TV is where adult storytelling is at.
  • This year is the 25th anniversary of the first Harry Bosch novel.
  • Connelly on Bosch's aging in the novels: acknowledged that because he didn't freeze Harry in time age-wise, that it's become a factor. However, in real life retired detectives who are "closers" are still in demand. Connelly said he will continue writing Bosch until he (Connelly) quits writing.
  • Connelly was asked if he's ever considered writing a period piece. Said he loves 1970's Los Angeles. He placed Harry as a rookie cop at the 1974 SLA shootout.

Crime Fiction: Hidden Truths
Gar Anthony Haywood (moderator), Laura Lippman, Megan Abbott, Stuart Woods, T. Jefferson Parker
  • Lippman's latest novel, Wilde Lake, is a reimagining of To Kill a Mockingbird, set in a different time and location. She was interested in the idea of Atticus Finch being "principled to a fault".  
  • Abbott has joined the writing staff of the upcoming David Simon HBO series The Deuce. When I looked it up on imdb, I discovered Simon is married to Lippman.
  • Parker is friends with a number of military veterans (he lives in Fallbrook, CA, near Camp Pendleton) and stated that the stereotype of the PTSD-afflicted vet unable to cope is largely inaccurate - for every one of those, there are hundreds who grit their teeth and deal with it. He used this issue for his protagonist Wiley Welborn in his latest novel Crazy Blood.
  • On the subject of research: Abbott always uses the same type of gun in all her stories so she doesn't have to worry about learning new specific details. Lippman admitted that she once asked the diminutive Abbott and writer Alison Gaylin what it's like to be short.

Writing and Publishing: Breaking In
Betsy Amster (moderator), Lisa Lucas, Sean McDonald, Oscar Villalon, Bonnie Nadell
  • Nadell: Harder to break in because large publishers aren't taking risks. However, McDonald pointed out that smaller publishing houses that are willing to take risks are popping up all the time (in fact, he just started one called MCD, which plans on publishing about twenty titles per year).
  • Nadell: It seems like the book business perpetually has a "the sky is always falling" mindset, but she doesn't agree. Feels that independent bookstores are stronger than ever.
  • During the Q&A, the panel was asked about the best way for new writers to break in. Nadell: Not looking for experience, looking for the best writing. 

Hooray for Old Hollywood
M.G. Lord (moderator), Karen Maness, Jon Lewis, Kenneth Turan, Glenn Frankel

This was a really great panel. One of the two best I saw last weekend.

L to R: Lewis, Turan, Frankel
  • Frankel is a Pulitzer-winning journalist. His latest book, High Noon: The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of an American Classic, examines how a film revered for its message of the importance of personal integrity was made during the House Committee on Un-American Activities hearings. High Noon's screenwriter, Carl Foreman, testified during the filming and was blacklisted for his alleged Communist sympathies. Per Frankel, the book is about half about High Noon and half about the blacklist.
  • Maness is the co-author of The Art of the Hollywood Backdrop, a massive coffee table book examining the history of backdrop painting. The audience was thrilled to hear that despite being largely supplanted by technology, historic backdrops have been retained over the years by J.C. Backing, a company founded by the Coakley family, whose roots go back to the early days of MGM. Over the years, as studios divested themselves of property, the Coakleys bought up the backdrops. There will also be also be a scenic art show at Gallery 800 in North Hollywood starting in June. 
  • Lewis (Hard-Boiled Hollywood: Crime and Punishment in Postwar Los Angeles) says he's fascinated by the period between the collapse of the old studio system and the rise of new Hollywood.
  • Turan, the famed L.A. Times film critic, wrote Not To Be Missed: Fifty-Four Favorites From a Lifetime of Film because he loves to spread "the gospel" - the good news - of films he loves. Said that the films in his book aren't necessarily the best films, but more of a desert island suggestion.
  • Lewis was asked about Gary Cooper's politics (he was a staunch conservative and Republican) versus the climate of the HUAC hearings. Per Lewis, Cooper testified very early on as a "friendly witness" and didn't name names. He also wasn't interested in getting in the middle of an ideological struggle and took the role in High Noon simply because he liked the script and needed the work. Politics didn't enter into it.

Writing Short Stories
Libby Flores (moderator), Chanelle Benz, Dana Johnson, Rebecca Schiff, Deb Olin Unferth
  • On writing fiction: Flores: "Slow down where it hurts". As for writing characters, she quoted Kurt Vonnegut: "Make your character want something even if it's only a glass of water." 
  • Benz on her characters: Once they've gone through a gate, it's locked behind them. They can't go back.
  • Johnson: Likes to write about the things that people pretend not to see, hear, or would rather not address.
  • Unferth: There are four levels of conflict: 1) Inner/existential, 2) Local (neighborhood), 3) Global, 4) Philosophical.

Crime Fiction: The Hunter and the Hunted
Lee Goldberg (moderator), Daniel Suarez, Gregg Hurwitz, Christopher Farnsworth, Eric Jerome Dickey

The other exceptionally great panel. Goldberg is always entertaining. We were treated to his impression of his heavily-accented French wife's insistence that no matter how she dies (even if hit by a meteor) the police should investigate him for murder. Crime writer's search histories are never not incriminating. Goldberg acknowledged if that happened, it would look like he'd been planning the crime for years.

L to R: Goldberg, Suarez, Hurwitz, Farnsworth, Dickey
  • Dickey literally moves to wherever he's going to set his next novel and lives there for a period of time. As a result he's lived in London, Argentina, and Odenville, Alabama to name a few. He said that his inspiration to immerse himself in a locale is due to having read a novel years ago that was set in Los Angeles and noticing how much the author got wrong about the city.
  • Hurwitz is famed for immersing himself in activities that his characters will experience, including the use of high-powered firearms. He joked that he once got his ass kicked in martial arts to understand the pain it inflicts.
  • Suarez: Researching is the most social thing he does as a writer.
  • Hurwitz: Writers must get gun details right. If you don't, you will hear about it.
  • During his Diagnosis Murder days, Goldberg suffered two broken arms in an accident. The doctor let him stay awake to observe his operation and fascinated, Lee started asking him questions that lead the doctor to ask, "Are you trying to ask me how to commit murder?" After hearing that, Goldberg's wife suggested writing the medical costs off as research.
  • Hurwitz: The mere suggestion of violence and/or gore goes a long way. He'll often end a chapter just before something horrific is about to happen. Nonetheless, more than once fans have told him they can't believe how gory those "scenes" were.
With that, another FOB is done. I had a great time as usual and am already waiting impatiently for the next one. 

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