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Colorado’s author of ‘Or Not’ has local link

Sun., Nov. 18, 2007, midnight

His reading at Auntie’s Bookstore won’t take place until Nov. 30, but when he does show, Colorado-based author Brian Mandabach (“Or Not”) will be presenting more than a critically acclaimed young-adult novel to Spokane readers.

He has a local connection to offer.

Turns out Sam Ligon, a member of the creative writing faculty at Eastern Washington University (who doubles as editor of Eastern’s illustrious literary journal Willow Springs), was Mandabach’s main reader and adviser in the revision stages of the novel. Ligon is an author in his own right, having written the novel “Safe in Heaven Dead” and placed stories in a number of publications.

As Mandabach says on his Web site (http://mandabach, among the things he loves are, “Talking to my friend Sam. Best friends in high school. 28 years later. Three hours on the phone. …”

“Or Not” tells the story of 14-year-old Cassie Sullivan, a girl coping with the stress of adolescence complicated by post-9/11 emotions. On the outs with her friends, unpopular at school, having been separated from her boyfriend, Cassie records her emotional experiences in her journal.

“Those looking for light reading will instead discover a young woman who shuns the digital age, preferring vinyl records to CDs, and who is looking for some meaning in a world she suddenly finds unstable,” wrote a reviewer for the literary-review journal Booklist.

What about Johnson?

It was good news that Sherman Alexie won a National Book Award for his young-adult novel “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.” Overlooked, though, was the regional connection of another 2007 NBA winner, Denis Johnson.

Johnson, who won his award in the adult fiction category for his novel “Tree of Smoke,” lives at least part of the year in Bonners Ferry, Idaho. John O’Connor, owner of Bonners Books, says Johnson is a regular customer during the summer months.

“He’s a private person but not reclusive,” O’Connor said.

By the way, Ivar Nelson, director of the Eastern Washington University Press, emphasized the two-year winning streak that the region has been undergoing. In 2006, Spokane author Jess Walter’s novel “The Zero” was nominated for an NBA, while Seattle author (and 1973 Gonzaga Prep graduate) Timothy Egan won the nonfiction NBA for his book “The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl.”

“The Spokane region strikes again,” Nelson said in an e-mail. “We have surmised that it is the water in the Rathdrum Aquifer.”

Grants galore

Spokane Public Library, Spokane County Library District and Fairchild Air Force Base’s library are among 127 libraries nationwide awarded National Endowment for the Arts grants in support of the federal reading program Big Read.

The three Spokane-area systems will share $9,000 to put on a month-long series of events involving Dashiell Hammett’s 1930 mystery novel “The Maltese Falcon.” Chief among those events, says Spokane Public managing librarian Susan Creed, will be a free Feb. 19 kickoff event at the Davenport Hotel and an as-yet-to-be-scheduled screening of John Huston’s 1941 film adaptation starring Humphrey Bogart.

“We chose ‘The Maltese Falcon’ because we liked the idea of a mystery but also because of the Spokane Hammett connection,” Creed said.

Hammett, who suffered from tuberculosis, was interned in a Tacoma hospital for a time in 1920. Upon his release, he worked as a Pinkerton’s detective out of the agency’s Spokane office.

For more information about Big Read, go online at Or call Spokane Public Library at (509) 444-5307.

Auntie’s angels

For the 13th year, Auntie’s Bookstore will provide readers the opportunity to give new books to children who need them. Following Thanksgiving, a tree in the store’s lobby will carry stars bearing the names of local children. Buy a book and the store will gift-wrap and deliver it to the respective young readers in time for Christmas.

For more information on the program, call (509) 838-0206.

Book talk

•Dark City Mystery Book Group (“Straight into Darkness,” by Faye Kellerman), 7 p.m. Monday, Auntie’s Bookstore, Main and Washington. Call (509) 838-0206.

•On Sacred Grounds Reader’s Club (“Memoirs of a Geisha,” by Arthur Golden), 1 p.m. Tuesday, On Sacred Grounds, 12212 E. Palouse Highway. Call (509) 747-6294.

The reader board

•Michele Moran (“Nana’s Secret Christmas Room”), signing, 1 to 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Auntie’s Bookstore.


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