One of the pleasures of a nearby New York Times-reporting bookstore is that the store brings in writer friends and colleagues I would not otherwise get to see very often.
Case in point was last Sunday. Cathy Pickens (Can’t Never Tell) and Jane K. Cleland (Killer Keepsakes) came to Quail Ridge Books and Music with Rosemary Harris (The Big Dirt Nap). Cathy and Jane I’ve known from their first books—Cathy’s won St. Martin’s Malice Award and Jane’s was nominated for a Best First Agatha—but this was my first (and surely not last!) meeting with Rosemary. The three writers gave a delightful presentation that had customers lined up to buy their new books. (I was hoping to post pictures, but they came out too fuzzy.)
I was back at the store on Thursday night for the launch of local buddy Alexandra Sokoloff’s The Unseen, another of her suspenseful horror stories. This one uses a real event as her jumping off spot: the opening after forty years of some seven hundred boxes of lab files from the parapsychology lab at Duke University that was headed by Dr. J.B. Rhine.
What her protagonist, a California psychologist, finds among those boxes is pure fiction. What isn’t fiction is the character’s reaction to North Carolina’s trees. Alex is from California herself and her take on our trees is something I’ve heard from other westerners, so I was amused to read: There were many things about North Carolina that Laurel knew she would never get used to, but above all were the trees. The trees were everywhere. So dense they formed walls—walls lining the highways, walls obscuring the houses and the businesses, vast green walls preventing her from seeing any direction except in a straight line. She sometimes felt as if she had been dropped into an enormous hedge labyrinth. The trees made . . . navigation around town practically impossible. In L.A. Laurel was used to triangulating off buildings. A tree looks like a tree, especially when surrounded by hundreds and thousands of other trees. She’d spent her first few weeks in a perpetual state of lost.
On Tuesday, yet another local lunching friend, Diane Chamberlain, will be at Quail Ridge with her new book, Secrets She Left Behind. I’ll be in the audience applauding with all the rest.