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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Vacchs departs from Burke in ‘50s gangster novel

Andrew Vacchs’ fame is based on two main areas of his life. The first is his lawyerly crusading on behalf of abused children. The second is his series of detective novels featuring Burke, the investigator named after a 19th-century serial killer. Now, for maybe the first time, Vacchs (pronounced like “ax”) is reaching for real literary success.

His latest novel, “Two Trains Running” (Pantheon, 464 pages, $25) – from which he will read at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Auntie’s Bookstore – departs from his Burke tales but, reviewers say, is no less violent.

Yet it is, according to New York Magazine writer Boris Kachka, something more.

“A sweeping ‘50s gangster novel with shadings of Dashiell Hammett,” Kachka wrote, “it’s not just a departure from Vachss’ lifelong fixation, it’s also his first real foray into serious literature.”

The eye-patch-wearing Vacchs (a childhood injury left him virtually blind in his right eye), long a New Yorker, now lives in Portland. The author of 19 novels, he also has written numerous legal articles, essays, short stories, textbooks and even a children’s book (that, he says, is “for adults”).

“Two Trains Running” is set in 1959, when the seen-better-times mill town of Locke City is a miniature “Sin City,” a writhing mass of corruption ruled by Royal Beaumont, whose hold on power is being threatened by outside mobsters.

From neo-Nazis to black revolutionaries, juvenile gangs and even an IRA unit, Locke City becomes even more of a killing zone when Beaumont brings in a hired killer.

“Dark, violent, blood-drenched, page-turning,” wrote a reviewer for the literary journal Kirkus Reviews.

Sounds like the perfect summer read.

Spokane Is Reading …

After looking at contemporary Colorado, post-Civil War North Carolina and intergalactic war, the annual Spokane Is Reading project will take a turn.

The project committee has selected Susan Vreeland’s 1999 novel “The Girl in Hyacinth Blue” (Penguin Books, 256 pages, $13 paper) as this year’s read.

As with the past selections – Kent Haruf’s “Plainsong,” Charles Frazier’s “Cold Mountain” and Orson Scott Card’s “Ender’s Game” – reader events will be held throughout October, ending with a visit by Vreeland.

Spokane Is Reading is sponsored by the Spokane Public Libraries, Spokane County Library District and Auntie’s Bookstore. For more information, go online to www.spokaneisreading.org.

Going, Galleon, gone

Ye Galleon Press in Fairfield is selling its remaining stock. Dozens of books are already sold out, but even more are still available. If you’re interested in Pacific Northwest, Western United States, Oregon Trail and other, more arcane, subjects, call the press at (509) 283-2422 or (800) 829-5586.

According to Garry Adams, cousin (once removed) of the late press founder Glen Adams, you can call to get a catalog or simply visit. Hours are 8 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. weekdays.

Awards galore

•Spokane author Mary Cronk Farrell won the Western Writers of America Spur Award for juvenile fiction for her book “Fire in the Hole” (Clarion Books, 176 pages, $15), a young-adult novel about a 14-year-old boy whose dream of attending college is threatened by labor problems in the mining districts of 1899 Idaho.

•Two Cheney authors were honored by the Washington State Historical Society with awards presented during the society’s 114th annual meeting in Tacoma on June 11.

Laurie Winn Carlson won the John McLelland Award, honoring the best article appearing in the society’s Columbia Magazine in 2004. She is author of such books as “Cattle: An Informal Social History” and “A Fever in Salem.”

Esther Ruud Stradling won the David Douglas Fellowship Award, which is presented “to a person or group of individuals who have made significant contributions to Washington state” for a history-related project.

Stradling won for her book “American Fever: A Biography of Ole Ruud of the Washington Territory” (Authorhouse, 208 page, $14.95).

“Her book gives an authentic representation to thousands of stalwart pioneers who found their way in the West fueled by dreams, adrenaline and fortitude,” the awards committee said.

Poets who know it

Spokane writing teacher Lisa Conger is teaching a seniors poetry class at The Create Place in Newport, Wash., from 10 a.m. to noon beginning Tuesday and running every Tuesday through Aug. 16.

The Create Place is at 900 W. Fourth St. To register, call the Institute for Extended Learning at 279-6025 or The Create Place at (509) 447-9277.

Book talk

•Current Affairs Book Group (“The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less,” by Barry Schwartz), 6 p.m. Monday, Auntie’s Bookstore, Main and Washington (838-0206).

•Mystery Book Group (“A Drink Before the War,” by Dennis Lehane), 7 p.m. Monday, Auntie’s Bookstore.

•Hastings Harry Potter Book Discussion Group (“Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”), 7:30 p.m. Friday, Valley Hastings, 15312 E. Sprague Ave. (924-0667).

The reader board

•Poetry reading, 3 p.m. today, Auntie’s Bookstore, Main and Washington.

• Andrew Vacchs (“Two Trains Running”), 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Auntie’s Bookstore.

•Ray Edwards (“Wind Seer: The Story of One American Boy’s Contribution to the Anasazi Culture”), Dan Robison (“Justice Never Sleeps: A Novel of Murder and Revenge in Spokane”), 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Auntie’s Bookstore.

•Jess Walter (“Citizen Vince”), reading, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Tinman Artworks, 811 W. Garland Ave. (325-1500).

•Julia Spencer-Fleming (“To Darkness and to Death”), Denise Hamilton (“Savage Garden”), signings, 12:30-2 p.m. Friday, Auntie’s Bookstore.

•J.R. Nakken (“Three-Point Shot”), signing, 2 p.m. Saturday, Auntie’s Bookstore.

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