“There used to be a guy across the street who ironed his clothes in his underwear,” someone said as we peered out the upper window of the Stimson-Green Mansion on Seattle’s First Hill the other night.
The things you learn at a book-launch party.
Downstairs, the man of the hour, author Garth Stein, was looking crisp and classy in his tuxedo.
“I thought, the era and all that,” said Stein, referring to his new book, “A Sudden Light,” set in the Pacific Northwest, and focused on a wealthy family and its secrets. Hence the mansion and the penguin suit.
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Stein’s last book, “The Art of Racing in the Rain,” was published more than six years ago but made recent news when a school superintendent in Texas temporarily banned it for a scene involving alleged molestation.
“My book is about how to be a good person!” Stein said. “My wife says it was banned because (narrator and dog) Enzo calls (former President George) Bush ‘a president of questionable moral and intellectual fortitude.’
“I guess it took them six years to figure out what that meant.”
Stein was surrounded by his editor, Trish Todd of Simon & Schuster, and his fellow members of the Seattle7Writers: Jennie Shortridge, Stephanie Kallos, Laurie Frankel.
Maria Semple came in with wet hair and smelling of lovely French perfume. She wouldn’t say anything about her progress writing the screenplay for her national best-seller, “Where’d You Go, Bernadette?” (“No comment!”) Sigh.
But Semple had plenty to say about author James McBride, who won the National Book Award for “The Good Lord Bird” and is coming to Town Hall Oct. 15 for a Seattle Arts & Lectures (SAL) event.
Semple told SAL director Ruth Dickey that she would love to interview McBride onstage. Dickey said she was already preparing to do it herself. Semple said she would be out of town anyway.
She recalled sitting next to McBride at a Cincinnati book fair, and how he only met with readers for a couple of hours, while she sat there all day, greeting a seemingly endless stream of Bengals fans and explaining that her books were not free. (Hey, they paid her $10,000; I’d paint my face with the team colors for that kind of cash).
By the bar: Crosscut Editor David Brewster; National Book Award winner and New York Times columnist Tim Egan with his wife, KUOW and Civic Cocktail panelist (and former Seattle Timeswoman) Joni Balter. They were chatting up author Erik Larson.
Along with the news that he had finished his follow-up to “In the Garden of Beasts,” Larson broke the news that he was leaving Seattle for the Upper East Side of New York City. Well. Be that way.
“Our plan includes spending our summers here,” Larson assured me.
In the dining room: Author Kevin O’Brien, who has written some 14 thrillers with names like “Tell Me You’re Sorry” and “One Last Scream.”
“I’m running out of places to kill people,” O’Brien told me, and I have to say, I felt for the man.
He just killed a character in Volunteer Park for his next book, he said, then realized he’d done that before.
It might help to watch reruns of “Six Feet Under,” I said. Every episode opened with some kind of weird demise.
At this, O’Brien brightened, then remembered that he did think to push one character down the stairs in the Denny Blaine neighborhood.
“She’s a nasty gossip columnist,” he said, waving off my grimace. Really.
Have I mentioned, Kevin, how handsome you looked?
Games people play
Years ago, when I was drafted for a three-man team that would take on “Jeopardy!” champ Ken Jennings at Town Hall, I called Claire Boiko for help.
She and her late husband, Bernard, had made 28 appearances on 10 game shows in the ’60s and ’70s, winning a total of $100,000. It paid for carpeting, schooling, couches and encyclopedias for them and their five kids.
One of their daughters, Patricia Boiko, just finished a documentary about them called “Game Show Dynamos,” which premiered at the Central Cinema last Thursday to a full house. (The film will be distributed through TUGG, which screens films by request).
The crowd included Jennings, who sat on the stage with Boiko, now 89, and competed, “Jeopardy!” style. Boiko held her own, especially on “Books and Authors” and “Constellations.”
“She has to look at the paper to know the date,” Patricia Boiko said of her mother. “But she knows every answer on ‘Jeopardy!’ ”
Beside me, writer Sally James mused about the meaning of the film: “All of us tried to figure out, ‘Who were our parents, really?’ and in some ways, this film is who they were,” she said. “A daughter trying to figure it out.”
How was it for Claire Boiko to see herself on the screen?
“I hate looking at myself,” Boiko said. “Oh, was I ever so young?”
Nicole Brodeur’s column appears Tuesday and Sunday. Reach her at 206-464-2334 or email@example.com.