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  • Random House

    Author Adam Johnson was given rare access to North Korea. His tale, "The Orphan Master's Son" is both chilling and hope-inspiring.

Between the Lines: Adam Johnson for Bee Book Club on Sept. 6

Published: Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 6AANDE
Last Modified: Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012 - 11:09 am

The Bee Book Club will host a very special event at its Sept. 6 meeting, when Adam Johnson appears for "The Orphan Master's Son."

The blockbuster novel is Random House publishing's biggest title of the year, a research-and-writing feat by Johnson. The darkly surrealistic tale is set in territory previously uncharted in the literary canon – dystopian North Korea, where Johnson managed an unprecedented visit.

The epic story follows the character of Jun Do throughout his life, which eventually intersects with North Korea's late sociopathic "Dear Leader," Kim Jong Il.

In between, readers meet the country's deprived citizenry, an iconic movie star, murderous secret police and paranoid party leaders.

Johnson's story goes inside labor camps and into the apartments where overworked and underfed men, women and children live in chronic fear, subject to nonstop propaganda. Despite that bleak vision, the story interweaves hope with humor, dignity with courage. It is a truly compelling read.

Johnson is an associate professor of English at Stanford University who teaches creative writing. His stories have been published in Paris Review, Esquire, Harper's and Playboy magazines. He is the author of the short-story collection "Emporium" and the novel "Parasites Like Us," winner of a California Book Award.

Recalling his visit to North Korea, he has said, "I was struck by the quiet of Pyong-yang – no planes, no cars, no cellphone conversations. Just thousands of people, all dressed similarly, walking briskly from one task to another."

Johnson will give a presentation, answer questions and autograph books at 6 p.m. Sept. 6 at the Tsakopoulos Library Galleria, 828 I St., Sacramento. Barnes & Noble will be there to sell the trade paperback edition of "The Orphan Master's Son" for 30 percent off the retail price (Random House, $15, 480 pages).

Through Sept. 6, these stores will offer a 30 percent discount on the title: Barnes & Noble, Avid Reader at the Tower in Sacramento, Avid Reader in Davis, Time Tested Books, Underground Books, Carol's Books, Hornet Bookstore at California State University, Sacramento, the UC Davis Bookstore and the Bookseller in Grass Valley.

For information on the Bee Book Club: (916) 321-1128

Makin' movies

Books are available in so many incarnations – audiobooks, e-books and as movies on the big and little screens. Here are two examples, scheduled for October release. See the trailers at www.grantland.com.

• Former Sacramento Bee columnist Pete Dexter's novel "The Paperboy" is a steamy thriller set in Florida, revolving around a small-town sheriff who has been murdered, a man convicted for the crime, and an investigative reporter looking for a big story (Oct. 5). Stars Matthew McConaughey, Zac Efron, Nicole Kidman, Macy Gray and John Cusack.

• "Killing Them Softly" was adapted from George V. Higgins' crime novel "Cogan's Trade." The action begins when two amateurs take down a private high-stakes poker game for $100,000. Big mistake (Oct. 19). Stars Brad Pitt, James Gandolfini, Ray Liotta and Andrew Dominik.

Also: Novelist James Lee Burke's mega-popular mystery series starring Louisiana cop/PI Dave Robicheaux has been optioned by Fox and is in the "packaging stage" for a cable TV series. Burke's latest thriller is "Creole Belle" (Simon & Schuster, $27.99, 544 pages). Alec Baldwin played Robi- cheaux in the 1996 movie adaptation of "Heaven's Prisoners."

A few titles to recommend

So many titles are piled up here at Books Central that the area resembles the Great Wall of China. Let's move some over to you:

• The Scottish physician and writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created a character who lives on in a seemingly never-ending pastiche. The Victorian-era detective is at his peak in "The Lost Casebooks of Sherlock Holmes" by Donald Thomas (Pegasus, $35, 1,000 pages).

More adventure is in "Sherlock Holmes: The Army of Dr. Moreau" by Guy Adams (Titan, $12.95, 256 pages), in which Holmes is on the trail of a crazed scientist whose experiments are costing lives.

• The Library of America has released a new boxed edition of Laura Ingalls Wilder's classic "Little House" children's books – nine titles altogether ($75, 1,750 pages, ages 10 and older). The sentimental tales are based on the author's childhood spent in the Midwest in the 19th century.

The NBC-TV drama "Little House on the Prairie," adapted from one of the books, starred Michael Landon and Melissa Gilbert, and aired from 1974 into the 1980s.

• "The Light Between Oceans" by M.L. Stedman (Scribner, $25, 352 pages): A lighthouse keeper and his childless wife discover that an infant in a rowboat has washed up on Janus Rock. They decide to raise her as their own. Two years later, upon returning to the mainland, they must deal with the consequences. Chosen by Amazon as a Best Book for August.

• "The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry" by Rachel Joyce (Random House, $25, 336 pages): Big buzz is all over this moving story of an elderly man who walks 600 miles in a valiant effort to see his lost love one more time.

• "What Happened to My Sister" by Elizabeth Flock (Ballantine, $15, 304 pages): A mother looks for a new start after one of her young daughters kills the abusive step-father. As for the other daughter – where is she? The first sister wants to find out. The harrowing truth is finally revealed.

• "Wards of Faerie: The Dark Legacy of Shannara" by Terry Brooks (Del Rey, $28, 384 pages): The attorney-turned-fantasy writer continues the 20-title "Shannara" series. Elves and Druids are in search of the magical Elfstones, which contain "untold power." Adventures abound. Brooks has appeared for the Bee Book club. LET US KNOW

If you have information on author appearances, book sales, writing seminars, writers club meetings or other book-related special events, email it to bookmarks@sacbee.com at least two weeks before the event. To read the online calendar, go to www.sacbee.com/books. Questions? Call The Bee's Allen Pierleoni, (916) 321-1128.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Allen Pierleoni



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