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Place plays key role for Spokane author Jess Walter

UPDATED: Thu., May 17, 2018, 3:54 p.m.

A standing-room, wine-sipping audience had an intimate sitdown with the Lilac City’s most-decorated wordsmith.

Jess Walter, a New York Times best-selling author whose childhood near an East Trent Avenue drive-in movie theater has often been the source of his creativity, engaged a sold-out Northwest Passages Book Club event Wednesday evening, offering humor and insight with each interaction.

“One of the great realizations for me as a writer is that you’re from someplace and it forms your work,” said Walter, a 52-year-old whose latest best-seller, “Beautiful Ruins,” is on its way to movie production after being picked up by “The Devil Wears Prada” director David Frankel.

When Spokesman-Review writer and Northwest Passages host Nicholas Deshais asked Walter which of his cache of books he’d most like to see become a movie, his answer came with immediate applause from the crowd.

“Citizen Vince,” said Walter, referencing his popular novel about a criminal who relocated to Spokane under witness protection to work at a donut shop, all while pocketing stolen credit cards.

Wednesday’s event commenced when a video clicked through Walter’s accomplishments and local upbringing, a production voiced over by the gravely yet soothing voice of award-winning columnist and author Shawn Vestal.

Some of those clips included Walter’s bylines in The Spokesman-Review, where he began as a wet-behind-the-ears journalist out of Eastern Washington University.

Walter’s award-winning reporting of the Ruby Rudge standoff in 1992 helped springboard the success of his New York Times-acclaimed book “Ruby Ridge.”

“Randy Weaver, he’s about 5-foot-7,” Walters told the audience. “Then in the Ruby Ridge movie, they cast Randy Quaid, who’s a 6-foot-2 lunatic.”

Walter’s fun approach impressed a Nicole Bower, a Spokane woman.

“I’ve read two Jess Walter novels already,” Bower said. “I just really enjoyed his approachability tonight and his interactions with the audience.”

Walter fielded about a dozen questions from the audience.

Jess Walter also spoke about his labor of love, Spark Central, the nonprofit he helped develop. Spark is aimed at encouraging creativity, especially among underprivileged youth.

“I can’t imagine a better place to be a better writer,” he said.