Discovery of a “wicked” note in a California literary legend’s book – Orange County Register
So I spent part of last weekend at the 55th California International Antiquarian Book Fair perusing the exhibits, examining a few rare editions and talking to a selection of book nerds.
I also came across an interesting book that I thought my wife would enjoy. But it was out of my price range – we’re readers, not collectors – so I passed it on. But later, still thinking about it, I searched the internet where, to my surprise, I found an affordable copy and bought it from an antique shop.
The book, which collects four novels as The Evening Redness, was written by Lawrence Clark Powell, designed by Ward Ritchie and published by independent Santa Barbara publishers Capra Press.
Author and librarian Powell, who grew up and made a career in Southern California, and designer and printer Ritchie were longtime friends and Occidental College graduates. They are giants of California letters and both mean a great deal to my wife, whose work, who directs the Book Arts program at Occidental College, touches on the legacy of these two men. The book was for her.
When it showed up I was ecstatic… until I opened the package and saw it wasn’t what I understood (or the picture showed). Unlike the editions I had seen in person and online, this one was worn, sun faded and well used. I was a bit disappointed.
Inside the book even had a scrawled inscription and a bookplate with the names of some couples on it. It looked like a pretty shabby present and then I looked again at the bookplate – the couple’s last name was “Powell”.
Then I squinted more closely at the handwritten note addressed to the couple from the bookplate. It was signed by someone from Tucson. Larry? Uncle Larry? I asked my son, a budding codebreaker, for help, but he was at a loss.
I was trying to figure out the missing word until the message to the Powells suddenly clicked: “From their evil Uncle Larry.”
Was “Bad Uncle Larry” … Lawrence Clark Powell? That seemed likely when Powell spent his final decades in Tucson.
Suddenly that dingy old book hinted at an exciting past. If that’s the case, Powell must have given it to his relatives, who appear to have read and enjoyed it.
When I gave it to my wife yesterday, she was thrilled. She loved the idea that the inscription was from Powell, a self-proclaimed “bookie” who has written 100 books, and she began to delight me with stories about him and Ritchie and their adventures, delving into them until she fell asleep .
And the book, released into the world after being shared by family members, ended up in the hands of someone who wanted it – and its smeared, worn cover – just as it is.
Whatever its pages contain, this book has already given us a wonderful story.
Octavia’s Bookshelf opens this weekend
Tomorrow, February 18th, Octavia’s Bookshelf in Pasadena will open its doors with a grand opening event featuring food, drinks and performances by poet Joshua Evans and writer Lynell George.
This week I stopped by for a quick chat with owner Nikki High, who was in high spirits as she prepared for the opening.
High told me that well-wishers stopped by to bring food and that people who knew Octavia E. Butler, the writer whose work inspired the store’s name, stopped by to share stories about the author.
The store already looked full, but she said, laughing, that more deliveries were coming and she wondered where it was all going.
Hopefully bought and out the door again, right? Maybe I’ll see some of you there on Saturday.
Visit octaviasbookshelf.com for more information.
City Under One Roof author Iris Yamashita wrote a secret number in her book
Iris Yamashita is an Oscar-nominated screenwriter for the film Letters from Iwo Jima and her debut novel is City Under One Roof. An advocate for women and diversity in the entertainment industry, Yamashita has taught screenwriting at the University of California, Los Angeles and the American Film Institute.
Q. Is there a book or books that you always recommend to other readers?
One book I always recommend is All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, although most people I know have already read it.
Q. What are you reading right now?
I’m currently reading a book from CJ Box’s Joe Pickett series.
Q. How do you decide what to read next?
I have so many on my to-read list, but it’s been hard to find time to read books in my spare time because not only am I a slow reader, but I’m also constantly watching movies and books or other material for my screenwriting jobs reading. The books on my current list are mostly books by fellow authors I’ve come into contact with or corresponded with.
Q. What is something – a fact, a bit of dialogue, or something else – that you remember from a recent reading?
I recently read Jamie Ford’s The Many Daughters of Afong Moy and the idea of epigenetic memory stuck in my mind. Basically, the theory is that you can inherit trauma genetically, so that a person’s behavior or depression could stem from something their ancestors suffered.
Q. Do you listen to audio books? If so, are there any titles or narrators that you would recommend?
I used to listen to audiobooks a lot more pre-COVID when I had to drive long distances to get to meetings across town or listen to books at the gym, but these days my meetings are mostly virtual and I walk in the park instead of going to the gym to go to the gym. One of my all-time favorite audiobooks is Cary Elwes’ As You Wish: Inconcognizable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride. I loved the film and this is a hilarious look behind the scenes with many guest appearances by the cast and filmmakers.
Q. What is something about your book that nobody knows?
I often talk about the Alice in Wonderland references in City Under One Roof. What no one knows is that in my writing group, where I sometimes work material, we jokingly made a pact that we would always include the magic number 42 in our books. (Lewis Carroll, a mathematician, often referred to the number in “Alice in Wonderland” as Rule 42: “All persons taller than a mile high leave the court,” and there are 42 illustrations in the book. ) So far I’m the only one in my group to have published a book, so for now I’m just living the pact.
Q. If you could ask your readers one thing, what would it be?
Would readers who enjoyed reading this book and looking forward to the upcoming sequel be interested in a book written in a different genre? (I have a number of unproduced scripts that I think could be written as books, but they’re not in the mystery genre.)
Oh, and free audiobooks: Today, February 17th, is the last day to get three free audiobooks on black history offered by Libro.fm and Tantor Audio:
Black Lives Matter at School by Denisha Jones & Jesse Hagopian
“From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation” by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor
“1919” by Eve L. Ewing
Visit libro.fm for more information
Please write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org with news, comments or to let me know what you are reading and your comments may appear in the newsletter.
As always, thanks for reading.
Waiting for Armageddon
How doomsday preppers inspired Kashana Cauley’s The Survivalists. CONTINUE READING
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Chris Palmer wanted to read a book about Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. So he wrote one. CONTINUE READING
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Aleksandar Hemon talks The World and All That It Holds, The Matrix and new music. CONTINUE READING
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The bestsellers of the week
The best selling books at your local independent bookstores. CONTINUE READING
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What’s next on ‘Bookish’
The next free Bookish event is today, February 17 at 5pm when guests Kathryn Ma, Deepti Kapoor and W. Bruce Cameron discuss books with host Sandra Tsing Loh.
If you missed it (or want to relive the action), you can also watch our notable episode celebrating 10 Southern California writers who published memorable books in 2022.
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https://www.ocregister.com/2023/02/17/the-book-pages-discovering-a-wicked-note-in-a-california-literary-legends-book/ Discovery of a “wicked” note in a California literary legend’s book – Orange County Register