Archive for August, 2010

Contest! Find the Falcon!

Posted: August 31, 2010 in Uncategorized

“Excellent Nosh, Petunia.” (On the Same Page might give prizes if you could guess that quotation, but Google has taken all the sport out of anonymous quotation games.) The Maltese Falcon, feeling peckish,  samples our local fare, al fresco, and where in town might you find him?

Remember to submit your guesses for the Falcon’s locations by using the “Contact Us” form on the left hand side of the page. Include the date and the title of the photo shown in the caption.

August 31 "Excellent nosh, Petunia"

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Wednesday, September 1st 7:00 pm
Central Library Auditorium

Winston-Salem Writers will kick off their fall programming with “The Mystery of the Mystery” hosting two North Carolina writers as guests. Author, playwright and television producer Mark de Castrique will join Kernersville author Lazarus Barnhill to discuss mysteries, The Maltese Falcon and more. De Castrique is the author of the Sam Blackman and the Barry Clayton mystery series along with young adult mysteries. Barnhill is the author of The Medicine People, a police procedural set in Oklahoma. Barnhill will explain the different genres of mystery and crime writing while De Castrique will discuss how he goes about crafting his novels.

Meet the speakers…

Mark De Castrique

Mark De Castrique

On The Same Page asks the author for a preview of his ideas about crafting the mystery novel, and his thoughts on Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon and Sam Spade’s relationship to his own hero, Sam Blackman.

OTSP asks: Does crafting the mystery story get easier as you develop a character like Sam Blackman, and you know him better over time?

Mark: Each novel presents its own set of challenges and in many ways mirrors the detective trying to get at the truth.  I have to create the problem and figure out a solution, but most importantly the conflict has to grow out of the characters’ needs and desires.  I made a decision with both my series’ main characters to have them grow through the experience of each story.  Frank and Joe Hardy never got out of high school as far as I know, truly living in an endless summer.  Author Michael Connelly has a great quote: “It’s not how the detective works on a case; it’s how the case works on a detective.”  I think that’s excellent advice and makes for a more character-driven mystery.

Sam Blackman was created because the particular story I wanted to tell needed an outsider who was in Asheville, NC.  I also wanted him to have internal conflicts to deal with, so he became a wounded Iraq war veteran in the V.A. hospital.  He and the novel then developed together.  But there are things about Sam I’m still discovering, and I went back to his war years to look at Sam’s experiences from a different perspective — what if his past wasn’t exactly what he thought it was — and that gave me a fresh angle to approach the second Blackman novel, The Fitzgerald Ruse.  With each book, I hope the detective will be changed somewhat by the ordeal.  To me that seems more natural.

OTSP asks: Sam Blackman and Sam Spade. Your Sam, Sam Blackman, has been described as an “amiable” character and Sam Spade as the original “hard-boiled” detective. Are there any points of comparison between the two? Brothers under the skin in any way?

Mark: First of all, I love The Maltese Falcon and have read it numerous times.  Sam Blackman is Sam Blackman because I thought his name had a similar sound to Sam Spade.

There are other points of comparison.  Both men have a code of honor that they adhere to.  Sam Spade’s is, shall we say, more fluid. He has an affair with his partner’s wife, a women he really doesn’t like, and he hates his partner. But, at his core, he holds to his beliefs in a way that becomes a surprise to the other characters and  readers alike. Both Sam Spade and Sam Blackman take their cases personally. That’s what pulls them into the story and brings the reader along with them.

The two stories are told in different ways.  Sam Blackman tells his case in first person so we see everything through his filter; Sam Spade’s actions are told in third person, a very close third-person because he is in every scene, but the method is effective because the reader never knows what Sam Spade is thinking except through his actions and dialogue.  That was a critical choice Hammett made for maximum impact at the end.

Sam Blackman isn’t as dark or as iconic an “anti-hero,” but I hope that he is an authentic product of his time just as Sam Spade was an authentic product of 1929 San Francisco.

Finally, I’m hesitant to make any comparison between my books and a classic like The Maltese Falcon.  Such a work is an aspiration for mystery writers.  It rises above genre because it is a book that people read again and again, even though they know the outcome.  Such is the stuff that writers’ dreams are made of.

Mark’s interview with the Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County.

Mark gives us a tour of Sam Blackman’s Asheville on YouTube.

Lazarus Barnhill

Lazarus Barnhill

The mystery genre, easily one of the most popular genres with our fiction readers at FCPL, has grown enormously in diversity–the caper, the medical/legal, the cozy–suspense, noir, even romance makes its way into the mystery genre. Lazarus Barnhill will introduce us to aspects of the mystery genres, and On The Same Page asks him about particular qualities in his own writing.

OTSP asks: Humor and romance are strong elements in your novels. Can you tell us how that came about?

Lazarus: There’s an old joke that rattled around my family when I was a kid: Cousin Kenny happened upon Uncle Lou sitting in a saloon and looking distressed.  Kenny was taken aback because Lou was the calmest guy he knew.  He wondered what could possibly get him so upset.  “What’s wrong, Uncle?” he asked.  “I got a phone call.  Fellow told me to stay away from his wife or he’d come after me with a gun.”  Kenny shrugged.  “So why don’t you just stay away from his wife?”  Lou took a drink and said, “He didn’t mention his name.”

Humor and romance are both expressions of the underlying passion of human life. Powerful human emotions tend to erupt when there is crime, trauma and violent conflict.  We’re accustomed to the fear and anger that are so inevitable in such situations, but we tend to overlook that all our other emotional responses are heightened as well.  Recently I heard it said that London was never sexier or funnier than it was during the blitzkrieg, as perverse as that may sound.  Also, from a purely literary standpoint, the use of humor can control the timing and tone of the scene you’re writing.  Strong physical attraction is a wonderful tool that, skillfully used, can lead or mislead the reader as dictated by the needs of the story.

OTSP asks: Who do you like to read who’s working in the mystery genre today?

Lazarus: I’d like to mention three names, all of whom I enjoy and who will appeal to different tastes. First is a fellow who died in 2008, but for whom I feel great kinship: Tony Hillerman.  He was so prolific and his death so recent that I still consider him current.  Of course he wrote detective novels centered in the Southwest with great insight into Native American culture.  He was actually born in the tiny town of Sacred Heart in central Oklahoma, about fifty miles south of where I’m from.  When I read Hillerman, I’m reading a person who has great respect for his characters, even the really bad guys.  Plus he is so gratifying to read.

Kathy Reichs is the second author I enjoy, who is now a part time resident of North Carolina.  Of course she is the creator of the Temperance Brennan character who has become so popular via the Bones television program.  She based this character on herself, in that Kathy really is a forensic anthropologist. Ironically the Temperance in her books is a lot more like Kathy—and a lot more likeable in my view—than the Temperance on TV.  The mysteries are a lot more baffling in the books as well.

The third writer, and the one I appreciate most purely from a literary perspective, is Dennis Lehane, the Boston writer whose police and PI mysteries are currently riding a crest of popularity.  I get a lot out of his work because in my view he accomplishes what I’m also trying to do in my work.  He uses the genre as a platform for exploring the human condition.  When you read his work, you must be prepared to exam your spirituality, your morality and your important relationships.  With Lehane it’s not just finding out “whodunit,” it’s an equal measure of “what are you going to do about it?”

Barnhill’s Bookstore in the Winston-Salem Journal

You’ll find Lazarus Barnhill’s books at Second Wind Publishing

The Falcon seeks out spots for a little leisure now and then. Not quite an aerie, but a good  spot for a stake-out or people watching.

Remember to submit your guesses for the Falcon’s locations by using the “Contact Us” form on the left hand side of the page. Include the date and the title of the photo shown in the caption.

August 30 Not quite an aerie

Here’s our second photo to sleuth out the location of the intrepid Falcon as he makes his way throughout the community. He hits the high spots, going where the people go, and yet, sometimes, he’ll leave you scratching your head.

Send us your guess by using the contact form on the left side of this page. Remember to give us your name and email, the title and date of the photo, and your guess for the picture’s location. If you guess correctly, we’ll enter you in the prize drawing when On The Same Page finishes up on October 11th. That’s also when we’ll reveal the correct answers to ALL the picture locations.

And if you’re new and you missed the earlier pictures, go ahead and look through earlier blog posts…we’ll leave them up.

August 28 The Falcon starts his Saturday on the right note.

It’s gold. It’s jewel-encrusted. The jewels are enameled over in black. And now, it’s in Forsyth County.

The priceless, coveted Maltese Falcon is in town for On The Same Page. The question is, as always, where?

The Falcon

August 25

On The Same Page will be following the Falcon around town over the next several weeks, and posting photos here on the blog. If you think you can identify the location of the photo, send us your guess using the contact form over there on the left hand side of this page. Include the date of the photo from the caption. All correct entries will be saved, and at the conclusion of On The Same Page, there will be a prize winner (or two or three) drawn from the correct entries.

We will post the pictures again with the correct answers at the end of the program after we notify our prized winners.

Ah, yes, prizes.

Prizes are always fun, so much fun, we’re still working with the Falcon to decide what they’re going to be. They probably won’t be jewel-encrusted, but they’ll be good! Stay tuned for prize announcements.

We’ll also post whatever we can find out about the Falcon. Only the most incredible and intriguing stuff, brought to you by YOUR library, Forsyth County Public Library. Visit our blog often. The Falcon may be at one of YOUR favorite places.

(And just so you know in case you were wondering why a jewel-encrusted lump of bird-shaped gold is loose in Forsyth County, it’s not. We’re the library, not Tiffany’s.  Our falcon is a lump of some sort of polyresin. Think Ebay.)

First US edition cover

Cover illustration 2004 by Brett Helquist from CHASING VERMEER by Blue Balliett. Scholastic Inc./Scholastic Press. Reproduced by permission.

If you like to read…

If you like codes…

If you like to solve mysteries…

If you like art….

Read Blue Balliett’s Chasing Vermeer, and come talk about it with other kids.

Southside Branch Library

Thursday, September 16th, 3:30 Book discussion and snacks!

Here’s the description of this awesome mystery: “When a book of unexplainable occurrences brings Petra Andalee and Calder Pillay together, strange things start to happen: seemingly unrelated events connect, an eccentric old woman seeks their company, and an invaluable Vermeer painting disappears. Before they know it, the two find themselves at the center of an international art scandal, where no one — neighbors, parents, teachers — is spared from suspicion. As Petra and Calder are drawn clue by clue into a mysterious labyrinth, they must draw on their powers of intuition, their problem-solving skills, and their knowledge of Vermeer. Can they decipher a crime that has left even the FBI baffled?”

That’s what it says on Scholastic’s webpage for the book. AND the page also has a chunk of the book right there, so you can try reading it and see if you’d like to read the rest. Plus, FAQs from Blue Balliett, who wrote the book, and a slideshow of the illustrations from the book. Brett Helquist did the artwork. Online games, too. Visit their cool website. And read this great book, and plan to spend the afternoon at Southside Library talking about it with other kids? Could YOU have solved the mystery?

If you need to borrow a copy of the book, visit your libraryAsk Your Librarian, or you can call us at Southside at (336) 703-2980.

Tuesday, August 24th, 6:00 pm Reading The Maltese Falcon

Book discussions are the heart of On The Same Page. To get us all thinking about the book, Professor Tim Galow from Wake Forest University’s English Department is going to jump start our program with Reading The Maltese Falcon.

OTSP asks (because we always want to know): Professor Galow, why are we still searching for this Falcon after all this time? What makes The Maltese Falcon a great pick for book discussion?

Wake Forest Professor of English Tim GalowTim Galow: “I think The Maltese Falcon is a good choice for a book club because it has all of the excitement of the genre, but is in some ways very different from a mystery by, say, Agatha Christie or Arthur Conan Doyle. And Sam Spade is a different kind of detective. He is a man from the era of Babe Ruth and Ernest Hemingway. So it is a book that is not just a part of American culture, but one that really speaks to American beliefs and attitudes. In short, it’s a great read that also allows us to think more generally about a wide range of topics, from detective fiction to masculinity to our own national history. It really opens up possibilities for discussion.”

This session will be an exploration about the Dashiell Hammett”s world, the book’s themes and characters, and its landmark literary significance. If you are a book club leader….if you belong to a book club that will be reading the book…if you are just interested in learning more about the book, and would like to share perspectives with Professor Galow and the rest of us, PLEASE JOIN US! This should be fun.

And thank you to Tim Galow for helping us out and joining the discussion! Professor Galow specializes in 20th century literature and contemporary media studies. Much of his work explores the role of literature in modern American culture.  His new book, Writing Celebrity (upcoming from Palgrave, 2011), examines how celebrity media transformed the profession of authorship  in the early twentieth century United States.

Winston-Salem State University Language Arts Center
Hauser Building, Room 103
For information, phone 703-3022.

Check out of list of book discussions throughout the community and join us this season of On The Same Page.