Bee file, 2008

Bee file, 2008 Chris Enss in her home office in Grass Valley. The Old West is always close for the author.

Between the Lines: There's a lot happening for Chris Enss

Published: Sunday, Apr. 29, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 7AANDE
Last Modified: Monday, Apr. 30, 2012 - 11:22 am

We're chatting on the phone with writer Chris Enss of Grass Valley, whose books are all about the lore and legends of the Old West (buy them at

She's doing well. "It's an overnight-success story that took a lot of long nights and 51 years to get here," she said.

Her two biographies of singing cowboy-cowgirl duo Roy Rogers and Dale Evans – "The Cowboy and the Senorita" and "Happy Trails" – have been adapted into a musical that will debut on Broadway next spring, starring multiple Grammy winner Clint Black.

Meanwhile, veteran director Walter Hill is writing the screenplay of Enss' "Thunder Over the Prairie," with Ryan Gosling a likely candidate to play legendary gunman Wyatt Earp.

Coming in June is "Sam Sixkiller: Cherokee Frontier Lawman," a biography of the Oklahoma marshal. In October: "The Bedside Book of Bad Girls" (the outlaw women of the 1800s) and "Object Matrimony," a sequel to "Hearts West," both about mail-order brides on the frontier.

'Hand Me Down' is new

Melanie Thorne's debut novel, "Hand Me Down," is getting some buzz (Dutton, $25.05, 320 pages). Certainly, the panel of judges who select the winner of the annual Maurice Prize were impressed.

Thorne took the latest prize – a $5,000 award that's given through the UC Davis Foundation only to graduates of the university's creative writing program, directed by novelist Pam Houston.

Davis legal-thriller novelist John Lescroart ("The Hunter") founded the grant in 2005, naming it after his father.

On the phone, Lescroart mentioned that he's read "Hand Me Down" twice. "It's very powerful and personal," he said. "It shows all the signs of an immensely talented writer with a bright future."

The story follows the bumpy path of a teen girl in Sonoma County who survives dysfunctional family situations through pluck and wit.

By the end of the story, she has fought her way through the morass to a new life that offers hope and redemption.

Thorne will appear at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Barnes & Noble, 1725 Arden Way, Sacramento; (916) 565-0644.

Spenser returns

In May 2011, more than a year after mystery writer Robert B. Parker died of a heart attack while writing at his desk, it was announced that his estate had made a deal with Penguin-Putnam. The publisher would continue with his popular Spenser and Jesse Stone series, naming veteran novelist Ace Atkins to write the adventures of Boston private eye Spenser. The Stone books would be written by producer-screenwriter Michael Brandman.

Now comes Atkins' first Spenser entry, "Lullaby" (Putnam, $26.95, 320 pages; on sale Tuesday). The gang's all there: Spenser, longtime love interest Susan, best friend Hawk and other familiar characters from Parker's world.

Atkins' dialogue and narrative are less sparse and more informative than what appeared in Parker's last half-dozen Spenser novels, which verged on being little more than fleshy outlines.

Was the godfather of crime fiction getting bored with the series? This adventure is more satisfying, and does Parker honor.

Not coincidentally, the trade paperback edition of Atkins' 2011 "The Ranger" also goes on sale Tuesday (Berkley Books, $15, 351 pages). It's the first in the Quinn Colson series and is dedicated to Parker. An Army Ranger returns from Afghanistan to find trouble waiting in his Mississippi hometown. Look for the sequel May 31 – "The Lost Ones" (Putnam, $25.95, 352 pages).

From page to projector

Reading habits among young adults got a huge boost with the 1997 release of the first "Harry Potter" book. As that series continued, the "Twilight" and "Hunger Games" series – and all those movie adaptations – grew the YA audience.

Now the Hollywood Reporter points out other YA best-sellers whose movie rights have been sold to major studios:

"The Scorpio Races" by Maggie Stiefvater (Scholastic, $17.99, 416 pages): Movie rights sold to Warner Bros.;

"Earthseed" by Pamela Sargent (Tor, $9.99, 288 pages; trilogy): Movie rights to Paramount; http://

"Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children" by Ransom Riggs (Quirk, $17.99, 352 pages): Movie rights to 20th Century Fox; www.

"The Mortal Instruments" by Cassandra Clare (Margaret McElderry, $10.99, 512 pages; five-book series): Movie rights to Columbia/Screen Gems; and www.

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