“Thrilling Tales” convenes every first and third Monday at SPL’s downtown branch, led by librarian David Wright. It features masters of storytelling and suspense.
Seattle Public Library librarian David Wright loves stories.
As a child, he experienced a new adventure every night as his father read books popular from when he was a kid — from Howard Pease’s 1930s and ’40s adventure tales for boys to classics like “Robinson Crusoe.”
Decades later, he can still recall the sense of suspense he felt growing up.
‘Thrilling Tales: A Storytime for Adults’
The next reading is of Stanley Ellin’s “Kindly Dig Your Grave” on Monday, March 7. Readings are from 12:05-12:50 p.m. every first and third Monday, Seattle Public Library, Microsoft Auditorium, 1000 Fourth Ave; free. If you can’t go, you can listen to some story times at https://www.spl.org/audiences/adults/feature-detail?feature=x9548
“I remember there is a moment Robinson sees another person’s footsteps walking on the beach that aren’t his own,” said Wright, who holds a master of fine arts in theater and has been involved with libraries for about 20 years. “It’s these kind of moments that are just like, ‘Oh no!’ ‘What’s going to happen?’ ”
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For the past 11 years, he has brought that enthusiasm for storytelling to life through his bimonthly “Thrilling Tales” series — think story time for grown-ups — with crowds of up to 100 people voluntarily spending their lunch breaks listening to him read aloud a very short story, followed by a longer reading.
The story genres differ at each reading — crime, science fiction, fantasy, horror — but they are all suspenseful, and definitely all thrilling. Wright said that he selects works from across the 20th century.
“Particularly in the middle of the 20th century there was a thriving short-fiction culture in magazines and there’s just such a huge body of stories, so I literally have four file boxes under my desk that are all stories that may or may not be part of ‘Thrilling Tales,’ ” he said with a laugh.
Popular authors range from Ray Bradbury, described by Wright as “a masterful storyteller,” to Roald Dahl, Patricia Highsmith and Shirley Jackson. During the Feb. 22 reading, Wright recited the short story “Mud,” by Geoffrey Forsyth, about a man leaving for work only to discover his deceased grandmother, father and wife lurking around his home, and Ruth Rendell’s psychological suspense story “People Don’t Do Such Things.”
At the Feb. 1 reading of Bradbury’s “Trapdoor,” in the main branch’s Microsoft Auditorium, about 50 people were gathered as Wright, wearing a black button-down shirt and wide-rimmed glasses, dimmed the lights and began the tale of the mysterious sound coming from main character Clara Peck’s attic.
As listeners munched on salads, sipped coffee and slowly unwrapped their sandwiches, the room was quiet. All eyes were on Wright, the star of the show, the voice behind the words. For 45 minutes, the hustle and bustle of the outside world were insignificant.
All that mattered was the story.
“He can have up to four to five characters, and he’s done different voices so you know who’s talking in the story,” said Nancy Riggs, 67, of North Seattle. “I was never read to as a kid, so at my first [‘Thrilling Tales,’] I just hung on his words.”
“He’s one of the best storytellers I’ve ever listened to,” added Zachary Valenter, 25, who attended the Feb. 1 reading with his co-workers at Seattle City Light. “We come every week that he does the show.”
Wright said there’s something special about a live reading.
“You are in tune with other people’s reactions and a lot of stories I read always have a moment of revelation or a twist, and you can sort of hear a gasp or just a moment when the coin drops for a lot of the audience,” he said.
In addition to “Thrilling Tales,” Wright created “Page to Screen: Hear the Story, See the Film,” to explore stories made into movies. This Saturday will feature Julio Cortazar’s “Blow-Up,” followed by director Michelangelo Antonioni’s film of the same name.
Next up: A reading of Stanley Ellin’s “Kindly Dig Your Grave,” on March 7.
All readings are free, and brown bags are welcome.
“Long before we had written language at all, let alone writing down stories, we were telling stories,” Wright said. “So I think it resonates deeply with people.”