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Lit 101

SATURDAY: The Black Isle Discussion and Signing at Vroman’s

I have a guilt-inducing shelf full of books by friends and colleagues that I’ve every intention of reading, but, because I am lazy, never do. Recently, when a casual acquaintance sent me her new novel, a bit of historical fiction entitled The Black Isle, I cracked the cover out of mere politeness. And was promptly sucked in to a hypnotic tale of romance, intrigue, war, ghosts, colonialism, and a touch of octopus sex.

This book is not for everyone. It’s dark and twisted, and frankly, it gave me nightmares. But if you’ve the stomach for that sort of thing, you should head over to Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena on Saturday, where author Sandi Tan will be discussing her new work. I will probably see you there, because after reading her book, I have a mad girl-crush on Ms. Tan and want her to be my new best friend. Also, they sometimes have snacks at these things.

Saturday the 11th, 4 pm, Vroman’s, 695 E. Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, 626-449-5320.

Barbara Demick Explains Why North Korea Forbids the Bible

LA Times Beijing bureau chief Barbara Demick (pictured) recently flew back to the west coast to speak to students at Brigham Young University. The author of the award-winning book Nothing to Envy, a look at the accumulated life experiences of six defectors, shared her uniquely informed perspective on the so-called Hermit Kingdom.

Demick’s talk is chronicled in a report today by BYU public relations major Michal Christine Savage. The country’s ban of all things Christian is well known. Perhaps not so celebrated is the underlying motive:

“In North Korea everyone is ranked by their loyalty to the regime,” Demick said. “How high your standard is is whether or not your family believes Kim Il Sung is a God-like figure. As you may know, there is no religion in North Korea, but they’ve plagiarized the Bible. If you read North Korean propaganda, Kim Il Sung is God and the son is Jesus. When he was born, there is a star that heralded his birth and then a rainbow. There is a reason they banded the Bible, its because they’ve plagiarized it.”

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Author of Christian Bale Bio Returns to Manhattan Beach Stomping Grounds

From 1992 to 2002, Scottish-born, Chinese-descended and Canadian-raised movie fan Harrison Cheung rode the ups and downs of Christian Bale’s pre-Batman career. It was an odyssey that spanned the earliest days of Internet marketing and relocated him from applauding Bale from afar in Toronto to working closely with the future superstar and actor’s Adam West lookalike dad at a home in Manhattan Beach.

This Friday, Cheung will be back in Manhattan Beach for an 11 a.m. signing event at the local Barnes & Noble for his new biography Christian Bale: The Inside Story of the Darkest Batman (co-written with Nicola Pittam). For the past five years, the author has been working in Austin as an Internet marketing strategist for IBM.

After a busy appearance on the Comic-Con conference floor last Friday, Cheung tells FishbowlLA via telephone that he’s reminded of a famous observation once made by another author, Sandra Tsing Loh. “She said that if you don’t make it in Hollywood by the time you’re 40, you need to either open a yoga studio or move to Austin,” he jokes.

Remarkably, this is the first Bale biography. Released May 29, the book offers fascinating glimpses of the relationship the actor had with his late dad (who died in 2003) and that patriarch’s very shaky financial management skills. It also provides a time-capsule look at the earliest days of the Internet.

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Gustavo Arellano Takes His Taco Act to Chelsea Lately

When we first wrote about OC Weekly editor Gustavo Arellano’s great book Taco USA, we noted that he was having no trouble drumming up publicity. Tonight, that statement reaches a new level of “truthiness” thanks to his scheduled appearance on Chelsea Lately. Per Arellano:

Rest assured, we’re not just going to gab on a couch. There will be eating and drinking and Chuy, and hopefully it’ll be better than my laughable appearance on The Colbert Report in 2006. Tune in TONIGHT!!!!

This definitely rates as must-si TV, so set your DVRs. And honestly, any author who manages to chat with both Don Imus and Chelsea Handler about a food history book has covered all the PR bases.

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Author Don Winslow on How He Boarded the Train to Literary Success

With the release of Oliver Stone’s new film Savages, a broader audience is set to discover the wondrous fiction of source author Don Winslow.

Winslow has already received much critical praise and royalties for a series of books framed around the notorious drug-dealing past of Laguna Beach. Before Savages and the just-released prequel The Kings of Cool, there was the author’s debut 1997 effort. As Winslow explains in today’s must-read OC Weekly cover story by Nick Schou, he cranked out that work from a very unusual perch:

Everything changed with The Death and Life of Bobby Z, which led to a three-book deal that allowed him to become a full-time writer. Winslow wrote the book on the train between San Juan Capistrano and downtown LA’s Union Station, during his commute to and from his day job.

Each leg of the journey took just more than an hour, and Winslow wrote one chapter per trip, two per day. “When I’d hear the conductor say, ‘Union Station, 10 minutes,’ whatever was happening in that chapter, I’d wrap it up,” he recalls. “It worked miracles.”

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LA Times Crowns Kings Celebration with Multimedia Book Release

For die-hard LA Kings fans, two of the other must-haves besides a seat at Thursday’s parade-ending rally at Staples Center are arguably a copy of today’s LA Times print edition, with its special hockey championship coverage section, and the paper’s spinoff 128-page book.

Copies of $14.95 softcover Crowning Glory: The Los Angeles Kings’ Incredible Run to the 2012 Stanley Cup are on sale in the newspaper’s lobby as well as online and via telephone. A spokesperson for the paper tells FishbowlLA an ebook version will be available shortly.

Easily the most notable old-school artifact to be offered to Kings fans by its downtown paper of record are reproduction printing plates of related Times front pages. Yes, Virginia, the team won the Cup when there were still print newspaper runs to be bannered.

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Failed Actor Dishes About Jerry’s Famous Deli

Under the pseudonym of Jozef Rothstein, one-time wannabe LA actor Gene Duffy has compiled a comical look at his dogged pursuit of the Hollywood dream, funded by years of day-job toiling at Jerry’s Famous Deli in Studio City. For the book’s title, Duffy chose an expression he liked to use with co-workers when describing the daily pastrami-and-rye-clatter routine: As the Matzo Ball Turns.

Duffy is now safely back in his native Pennsylvania and due for his next book signing June 16. Speaking recently with the same local reporter who wrote about him when he headed west in the late 1990s, Duffy highlighted some friendly celeb customers (Adam Sandler, Shaquille O’Neal…) and not-so-great famous folks (Sharon Stone…). He also suggested that beyond the hundreds of auditions, he got a taste of another staple of the Tinseltown trample:

“From 2002 to 2010, I wrote five screenplays… I wrote one about football because that’s what I knew. But someone in the business told me there were too many football stories that I should use a different sport. So I wrote a hockey drama and shopped it around. The next time I saw it, it was on the screen without my name.”

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Steve Guttenberg’s Stupendous Studio Lot Tale

Actor Steve Guttenberg is busy making the PR rounds for his new memoir The Guttenberg Bible. And no matter how many times he tells the story of the clever way he kick-started his LA acting career in the mid-1970s, it never ceases to be downright unbelievable.

Per a an interview on NPR, here’s how Guttenberg essentially took a page from Steven Spielberg’s Universal Studios playbook and applied it to the storied Paramount Pictures lot:

“In those days, there was no computer, there were no cell phones. There was just a guard with a telephone. So I just started walking by the time-punch machine and I punched a blank card, like everyone else was punching their cards and I started sneaking onto the lot and I found myself an office in the old Lucille Ball makeup building.”

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Adam Carolla: Sixteen Homes, Sixteen Chapters

There’s no shortage today of Adam Carolla news, thanks to a bit last night on Jimmy Kimmel Live as an LA Kings bandwagon fan and the subsequent accidental tripping of a panic alarm at his Hollywood Hills home.

FishbowlLA prefers to focus on the New York Times write-up about Carolla’s forthcoming book. Cleverly, the comedian anchors each of the 16 chapters around the successive San Fernando Valley area homes he spent time in while growing up and pursuing a now very successful show business career. He tells Steven Kurutz that you can tell a lot about someone by the house they live in… and the mattress they sleep on:

“My mom had the mattress on the floor. I slept with a futon on the floor. I realized the farther you get from the floor, the better you’re doing. You can actually get too high, though, and be sleeping in bunk beds.”

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Crime Reporter Turned University Professor Releases Second Detective Novel

Former LA Times crime reporter Miles Corwin gets a nice write-up in the Orange County Register today about his latest novel Midnight Alley, released April 16. It’s the second in an ongoing series about the adventures of LAPD Felony Special Squad detective Ash Levine.

Corwin, who freelances for various publications and teaches in the English department at UC Irvine, got to spend a lot of time during his LAT days with city police officers. His follow-up to 2010′s Kind of Blue is once again heavily derived from that privileged journalistic access:

The novel’s fast-paced plot is heavily based on Corwin’s own experiences and observations from the time he spent shadowing Homicide Special and working as a crime reporter. Corwin followed the detective unit to crime scenes, interrogations, autopsies, and arrests. He says that it was getting to see Los Angeles crime so close and personal that inspired his fiction.

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