Festival Report: Hot Books and Free Squid

The LA Times Festival of Books is a much needed yearly reminder of just how many people actually give a damn about reading. Of course it’s only a small percent of the larger population, but when you put them all together in one place it’s pretty astounding. It’s also always hot as hell. I figure those 20 dollar lemonade dealers have some kind of top-secret weather machine that cranks the mercury up to three digits every year just in time for the Festival. It’s hard to be glamorous and sweaty at the same time.

The Friday night kick-off party at Mystery Bookstore was a blast. It was jam packed and hopping and I had a great time catching up with old friends and meeting new ones.

Saturday was a long hot slog but I signed a ton of books and got to hang with all sorts of creative miscreants. I finally had a chance to sit down and talk female pulp writers Kevin Burton Smith. I tried not to be too geeky when I met Joseph Wambaugh. I don’t think I would have made it through the day without all the free water from Sisters in Crime and my trusty parasol.

By far the strangest thing about the day was the number of underage school girls (and boys) who wanted their picture taken with me. They didn’t buy the book, they just wanted to pose with me. At first I thought it was just me, but they were everywhere, doing it to every writer they could find. Finally I just flat out asked what was up. Turns out there was some kind of scavenger hunt deal where the kids needed a photo of themselves with an author. And no, I didn’t get arrested, but thanks for your concern.

I valiantly resisted buying any more books (the TBR pile is currently taller than I am) but I did receive a collection of four Goodis novels in one volume (Nightfall, Down There, Dark Passage and The Moon in the Gutter) as a gift.

That night Eric Stone was able to convince a large group of brave souls to leave bland white Westwood and venture out into the real Los Angeles. We had a HUGE meal at the amazingly named Honey Pig in the gritty heart of Koreatown. Maybe not the best choice for the vegetarians in the group (here, Sarah, have another mushroom) but damn, it was good. The food was all cooked on a big cast-iron volcano in the middle of the table. The spicy pork belly was not all that spicy, but still very tasty when combined with charred fresh chili peppers. I also really liked the simple dish of sesame oil, salt and pepper for dipping. The best moment of the night was the looks of horror on everyone else’s face (except Eric, of course) when the waiter tossed a large whole squid on the cooker (“Free!” he told us) and then started chopping it up with scissors. Charbroiled Cthulhu! I think I must have eaten almost the whole thing myself. It was so delicious, if I described it you would go mad!

Sunday was mostly spent trying to recover and make up for the lost word count. I figured one day at the Festival this year would be more than enough.

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