The young writer’s Thursday

Today’s TBT is the picture of a young writer…’s work:

Laurie 1967 essay

English descriptive paragraph

Laurie Richardson

Nov. 21, 1967

San Francisco, as I last saw it, was enough to stir the heart of any native Californian. The scene was movingly beautiful. I can remember it as if I saw it just yesterday. It was from the freeway leaving the city, looking down through the tall, intricately woven expansion of the Golden Gate Bridge. The angular outlines of the downtown buildings were softened by a light gray fog. The mist cleared over the water, letting the morning sun shine down onto the bay. Alcatraz, forboding [sic] yet lonely, protruded from the clear surface of the blue gray water. An ocean liner slowly made its way past the tiny sailboats on its journey to the ocean. The scene slowly disappeared behind the hills surrounding the bay. The last things to be hidden from sight were the tall, proud pillars of that beautiful bridge.

To which the teacher remarked:

I think the word selection (angular, intricately woven, etc.)

is what takes this beyond the real of “good” to “quality” communication.


My mother saved this, throughout many moves.


In the Company of Sherlock Holmes brings together a mix of people you never thought you’d see writing Sherlock Holmes stories. 9781605986586Such as… Les Klinger and Sara Paretsky:

The Closing by Les Klinger

Rachel finished the last few documents, put down her pen, and looked at McParland. His heart thumped, as it always did.

“How are you?” she said. “Charlotte says you’ve been on the road.”

He shrugged. “Yeah, had to go to New York for a client. Just a few days, though. How are you?”

Rachel smiled. “Great. Great.” McParland loved her smile. “How’s Sherlock?”

McParland smiled back. This had been a running joke with them, ever since law school, when she’d bought him an annotated edition of Conan Doyle’s stories and he’d gotten hooked. He’d been especially thrilled when he learned that his great-great-grand-uncle was the real-life model for a Pinkerton agent who appeared in one of the stories. His bizarre fascination with Holmes and his world had always amused Rachel, he thought, especially the Sherlockian “game” of pretending that Holmes and Watson weren’t fictional.

* * *

The Curious Affair of the Italian Art Dealer by Sara Paretsky

In an effort to rouse him from his stupor, I tried to draw Holmes’s attention to crimes reported in the sensationalist press. The stabbing of a cabman in Fleet Street “was banal beyond bearing,” while the theft of the Duchess of Hoovering’s emerald tiara “would prove to be the work of a criminal housemaid.” When later reports confirmed he was wrong in both cases—the Hoovering cadet, bitter at the privations of a youngest son, had sold the tiara to fund a disastrous trip to Monte Carlo, while the cabman turned out to have been a Russian spy trying to overhear secrets of a Hapsburg diplomat—Holmes sank deeper into his drugged stupor.

I could not neglect my own practice, or perhaps I should say, my other patients, who were usually more willing to follow my advice than was my brilliant but capricious friend. It was at the start of the third week of my stay with him that I was summoned to the Gloucester Hotel to attend a man who had been violently assaulted in the night.

In the Company of Sherlock Holmes publishes November 11. You can pre-order a copy from:

Poisoned Pen Books (signed by Laurie King, Les Klinger, and others)


Barnes & Noble/ Nook

Amazon/ Kindle

Mary Russell’s War (twelve)

From Mary Russell’s WWI diary:

20 October 1914

Dr Ginzberg has been tormenting me to write in this journal. I have considered having one of the nurses carry it to the hospital incinerator, but suspect that if I do so, a fresh volume will appear. The woman is relentless.

I have now proven to the doctors of all stripes that I am still capable of setting pen to paper. That is all.

The Les & Laurie Show: Lovecraft edition

I love doing book events with Les Klinger.


Conversations about Sherlock Holmes, from our two very different points of view, are a whole lot of fun.  And now Les has a new book on H.P.Lovecraft,9780871404534

and he’s coming to Kepler’s Books in Menlo Park to talk to me about it, and to sign it–plus, there may be early copies of the book he and I edited, In the Company of Sherlock Holmes9781605986586

One of my favorite bookstores, one of my favorite people, next Tuesday at 7:30–details here.

Twenty five years of earth moving

This Throwback Thursday concerns twenty-five years ago tomorrow, when the Loma Prieta earthquake killed 63 people and rewrote the face of northern California. At 5:04 that afternoon, I was sitting with my writing pad in my lap with soccer practice going on in front of me.  The roar of an approaching train grew as windows shattered and walls rattled, nearby houses came off their foundations, and car alarms began blaring.  The school’s playing field rippled like a shaken bedsheet, most of the kids ending up on the ground.  In minutes, all of downtown smelled of apple cider, from the huge vats of the nearby Martinelli factory.

At home, we found that we were lucky: the was still house standing, more or less, but the inside… The chimney had jumped in the air and come down a foot to the side of its base, leaving thirty feet of brick loose in their mortar.  A summer’s worth of canning had leapt off the shelves, with the pantry now knee-deep in packets, cans, and forty gallons of glop made up of applesauce, jams, chutneys, pickles, tomato sauce, and broken glass.

My mother's kitchen.

My mother’s kitchen.

Aftershakes shuddered every few minutes.  That night, we slept in the backs of our Volvo wagons.  For the next week, we lived in the driveway:Scan 142880003


cooking with water from jugs filled at various places that still had power to run their system.

Scan 142880003-1

The cat supervising the water bearer.

Santa Cruz County was more or less cut off from the rest of the world, with three of the four main roads in either buried under hillsides or submerged under water.

Downtown Santa Cruz lost its gems, the old Cooper House and the rambly building of Bookshop Santa Cruz.  On the other hand, San Francisco’s waterfront was transformed, the dark claustrophobic freeway torn down and the Embarcadero opened up.

And anyone who went through it twenty-five years ago, goes rigid whenever the walls start to shake.