In the right hands, nonfiction can be more compelling than fiction. Case in point are two new books by distinguished Sacramento Bee journalists, one who is working, the other who is retired.
Weed Land by Peter Hecht (University of California Press, $24.95, 264 pages; on sale April 7): For years, Hecht has reported on the political, social and economic intricacies of Californias cannabis culture. Here, he presents a definitive, dramatic chronology of pot and the people who research it, grow it, sell it, use it and regulate it. Included are the proponents who run medical marijuana dispensaries and the law-enforcement agencies who have busted them. Hechts reporting for The Bee has won an Excellence in Journalism prize from the Northern California Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, and awards from the Best of the West program.
Resister by Bruce Dancis (Cornell University Press, $29.95, 384 pages; on sale Tuesday): In meticulous fashion, former Bee entertainment editor Dancis recalls the tumultuous student and anti-Vietnam War protests of the 1960s, and their lasting effects on our culture. Ever the rock n roll expert, he also shows how the music scene reflected the changing mores of the day. Dancis is well-positioned as an authority on the topic, having lived the life: His activism as a draft resister and his role as organizer of the first mass draft card burning during the Vietnam War contributed to a 19-month sentence in federal prison.
Short story contest
You say you can write? If youre 16 or older, you can prove it in the 10th annual Doug Davolt Short Story Contest, sponsored by the Friends of the Elk Grove Library.
A few rules: Entries (which cannot be returned) can be fiction or nonfiction up to 1,000 words, typed and double-spaced, with the word count on the title page. Write your name, address, phone number and title on a 3-by-5 card and attach it to the entry; do not put your name on the manuscript. Include an entry-fee check for $5, payable to Friends of the Elk Grove Library.
Mail or take the submission to the Elk Grove Library, 8900 Elk Grove Blvd., Elk Grove, CA 95624. Deadline is 5 p.m. April 1.
Three winners will receive cash prizes of $100, $75 and $50 at an awards ceremony, 3 p.m. April 12 at the Elk Grove Library. Includes a panel discussion between five authors, and refreshments. The free event is open to the public. For more information, email to email@example.com.
Fiction, nonfiction galore
Books are piling up here at Reading Central, so lets clear the desk of these recommended titles, starting with fiction:
Mega-selling romantic-suspense novelist Janet Evanovich drew 1,000 people to her Bee Book Club appearance in November. Her latest is The Chase with writing partner Lee Goldberg (Bantam, $28, 320 pages), the sequel to The Heist. FBI agent Kate OHare teams with con artist Nicolas Fox to steal back a priceless Chinese artifact that was taken from the Smithsonian Institution. Great fun, with plenty of twists and action.
Missing You by Harlan Coben (Dutton, $27.95, 400 pages; March 18): NYPD detective Kat Donovan joins the online dating scene and discovers a shocking conspiracy of predators preying on the unsuspecting. Coben appeared at the Bee Book Club in 2009.
Murder in Pigalle by Cara Black (Soho, $27.95, 320 pages): Blacks 14-title mystery series is set in Paris, and stars fashion-conscious P.I. Aimee Leduc and computer-science genius Rene Friant. This time out, the teen daughter of the owner of their favorite cafe has gone missing. Black appeared at the Bee Book Club in 2008.
The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman (Scribner, $27.99 384 pages): In the early 1900s, Coralie performs as the mermaid in her fathers Coney Island Boardwalk freak show. She connects with a young photographer, her first love, and together they must solve the mystery of a vanished young woman. In an interview, Hoffman told me, I think Im always writing the same message, which is, How do people survive the things they do? Hoffman appeared at the Bee Book Club in 2009.
Moving to nonfiction, we have:
Heimlichs Maneuvers by Henry J. Heimlich (Prometheus, $19.95, 230 pages): Yes, this is the same thoracic surgeon who invented the famous maneuver that has saved the lives of thousands of choking victims. In his memoir, he shares his research and thoughts on possible cures for cancer and HIV.
Echoing Erik Larsons best-selling The Devil in the White City is Little Demon in the City of Light by Steven Levingston (Doubleday, $26.95, 352 pages). Set in 1899 Paris, the sensational true story recounts the murder of a government official by a con mans mistress, and the subsequent manhunt and trial. Playing a key role was a new kind of science called forensic. The central issue: Did hypnosis compel Gabrielle Bompard to commit the heinous crime against her will?
Lets say youre in college, and you want to be savvy. Helping the cause is Stuff Every College Student Should Know by Blair Thornburgh (Quirk, $9.95, 144 pages). Examples: How to email a professor (Get to the point), care for yourself when youre sick (Miss class), pass a test you forgot to study for (Play the odds), ask someone out (Talk first). Basic, but very sound.
Childrens book writers
Each year, the Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators presents its Spring Spirit Conference, at which authors and illustrators learn more about how to maneuver in that competitive literary niche. This years event will be 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 5 at the Citrus Heights Community Center, 6300 Fountain Square Drive, Citrus Heights. It will be a day of keynote speakers, workshops and breakout sessions with editors, an art director and an agent. Tickets and registration are at www.canorthcentral.scbwi.org/events/spring-spirit-conference.
Authors come to town
Upcoming author appearances include:
Eric Shonkwiler for Above All Men, 6 p.m. Monday at the Coffee Garden, 2904 Franklin Blvd., Sacramento; (916) 457-5507.
Elizabeth Maxwell for Happily Ever After, March 20; and Chris Terry for Zero Fade, March 22. Both at 7:30 p.m. at Avid Reader, 617 Second St, Davis; (530) 758-4040.
Call The Bees Allen Pierleoni, (916) 321-1128. Follow him on Twitter @apierleonisacbe.