We’ve been avalanched with phone calls and emails since announcing that Anne Perry will be here May 1 for the Sacramento Bee Book Club. The internationally renowned mystery and historical-fiction writer is the author of more than 70 novels in six series, most of them set in Victorian-era England. Perry lives in Scotland and comes to the United States only occasionally.
Why specialize in fictitious mayhem going on in England between the late 1830s and the late 1890s? I asked Perry on the phone recently. “It’s a period that’s fun to write in because it’s close enough to us that we can understand the wit and the social activity, but far enough away to still have a sense of glamour,” she said.
“Death on Blackheath” is the 29th title in her series starring Thomas and Charlotte Pitt. He is the commander of the powerful Special Branch, which oversees national security; she is his intuitive wife who often helps him solve cases. Sort of Nick and Nora Charles without the cocktails.
Perry will appear at 6 p.m. May 1 at the Tsakopoulos Library Galleria, 828 I St., Sacramento; (916) 264-2920. This is a free event, but tickets are required. Get them at www.beebuzzpoints.com starting today (click on “Bee Events”). Information: (916) 321-1128, www.anneperry.co.uk.
Barnes & Noble will be on site to sell “Death on Blackheath” for 30 percent off the retail price (Ballantine, $27, 320 pages).
The book will be offered at a 30 percent discount now through May 1 at these stores: Barnes & Noble, Avid Reader at the Tower in Sacramento, Avid Reader in Davis, Face in a Book in El Dorado Hills, Time Tested Books, Underground Books, Hornet Bookstore at California State University, Sacramento, the UC Davis Bookstore and the Bookseller in Grass Valley.
It’s Poetry Month
The timing was good. The landmark biography “E.E. Cummings: A Life” by Susan Cheever hit bookstores in mid-February, and now it’s the first day of National Poetry Month. Cummings was among the most influential poets of the 20th century, the equal of Robert Frost.
National Poetry Month was established by the Academy of American Poets in 1996 and is celebrated nationwide in April. Activities, resources and poetry-writing opportunities are at www.poets.org. One quirky part is Poem in Your Pocket Day (April 24). Choose a poem, put it in your pocket and share it with everyone in person or on Twitter at #pocketpoem.
Special related events are on agendas around town; try this sampling:
• The Sacramento Poetry Center hosts poets and open-mike nights; 1719 25th St., Sacramento; (916) 240-1897, www.sacramentopoetrycenter.org.
• Luna’s Cafe features “Poetry Unplugged” at 8 p.m. Thursdays; 1414 16th St., Sacramento; (916) 441-3931, www.lunascafe.com.
• The Sacramento Central Library and its 27 branches will hold Poetry Month-related events; (916) 264-2920, www.saclibrary.org/home/events.
• “The Show” at 1001 Del Paso Works cultural center is a place for poets “to sharpen their skills and be around other poets.” Its next event will be April 26 at 1001 Del Paso Blvd., Sacramento; (916) 613-2940.
Let’s pair some titles by subject, starting with these two:
In celebration of Marvel Comics’ 75th anniversary comes “Marvel Encyclopedia,” the “definitive guide to the characters of the Marvel Universe” by various editors (DK, $40, 432 pages). Everybody’s at the party, from the Avengers and the Fantastic Four to lesser-known players such as Egghed, Cannonball and Callisto. Great color art, with an introduction by Stan Lee, who started the whole thing.
Zany cartoonist Stephan Pastis often inks his alter ego into his “Pearls Before Swine” strip, which is carried in The Bee. I asked him why: “No matter which (day’s) strip you’re reading, you’re seeing one person. He just comes to you through his characters. So when you do it as a character yourself, you’re breaking down a wall between the cartoonist and the reader.” He does a good job of it in “Pearls Falls Fast,” a sampling of his funniest work (Andrews McMeel, $18.99, 256 pages).
A second pairing is all about glamour. “La dolce vita” or “the sweet life” was the name for the celebrity scene in Italy in the 1950s and 1960s. Documenting that golden age of charm, beauty and international sex symbolism is “La Dolce Vita: Stars and Celebrities in the Italian Fifties” by Marco Panella (MSC Divina, $20, 188 pages). Candid black-and-white photos capture a time that will never come again. Step out with Kim Novak, Sophia Loren, Gina Lollobrigida, Claudia Cardinale, Anita Ekberg, Brigitte Bardot, Federico Fellini, Anthony Quinn, Xavier Cugat, Robert Mitchum, Charles Boyer and many others.
On the other side of the camera is paparazza Jennifer Buhl, who tells great anecdotes of stalking and photographing Shakira, Katherine Heigl, Britney Spears, Paris Hilton and others in “Shooting Stars: My Unexpected Life Photographing Hollywood’s Most Famous” (Sourcebooks, $15, 352 pages).
A third pairing is of two National Book Award winners with new novels. “In Paradise” by Paris Review co-founder Peter Matthiessen follows protagonist Clements Olin as he joins a “meditation retreat” at the Auschwitz death camp, where the scene becomes both metaphysical and surrealistic (Riverhead, $28, 256 pages).
Richard Powers imagines the modernistic in this story of an obsessed composer who is mistaken for a terrorist because of his DIY “genetic engineering” home lab in “Orfeo” (W.W. Norton, $27, 384 pages). The panicked genius becomes a hunted fugitive, but his plan to create “art” out of his situation could have profound effects on the “security state.”
A final pairing of two nonfiction titles by the same author, Asia specialist John Man, takes us to Japan in search of the “true histories” of real martial artists. “Samurai: The Last Warrior” follows Saigo Takamori, whose “last stand” against the “modernized” Imperial Japanese Army in 1877 became samurai legend.
Delving deeper into Asian culture is Man’s “Ninja: 1,000 Years of the Shadow Warrior,” which traces the stealth killers from medieval Japan to the Nakano Spy School, which taught the art of “ninjutsu” during World War II. (Both titles are from William Morrow, $17.)
Audiobooks are a thriving segment of the book market and make good companions during the daily commute and weekend road trips. New titles from Macmillan Audio include:
“The Snow Queen” by Michael Cunningham: Two brothers search for “transcendence” in different ways. Cunningham is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Hours.” Narrator Clair Danes is the Emmy Award-winning co-star of the Showtime series “Homeland.”
“The Cairo Affair” by Olen Steinhauer: High intrigue in the Mideast when the widow of a murdered CIA agent tracks her husband’s killer.
“Destroyer Angel” by Nevada Barr: U.S. Park Service ranger Anna Pigeon has two days to rescue a group of kidnapped campers in the wilds of Minnesota.
“Keep Quiet” by Lisa Scottoline: After a tragedy, a father and son share a secret that could ruin their lives.
• Aspiring writers can take cues from 20 local authors who will answer questions and sign books. Learn a lot from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Market Place, 1325 Riley St., Folsom (916) (916) 984-4220. Free refreshments.
• Michael Parenti for “Waiting for Yesterday: Pages From a Street Kid’s Life,” 2 p.m. Sunday at the Italian Cultural Center, 6821 Fair Oaks Blvd., Carmichael; (916) 482-5900. The $10 fee includes refreshments.
• YA paranormal author Rachel Hawkins for “Rebel Belle,” 6 p.m. April 8 at Face in a Book, 4359 Town Center Blvd., El Dorado Hills; (916) 941-9401.
Call The Bee’s Allen Pierleoni, (916) 321-1128.