Judge unmoved by court poet
January 8, 2004 - 3:22PM
His verse brought tears to a lawyer's eyes, but Brisbane pensioner Neil Maciejewski's poetry was not enough to get him off a public drunkenness charge.
Maciejewski, a recovering alcoholic, was stone cold sober as he recited his poem "What Matters?" to a hushed Brisbane's Magistrates Court today.
The 46-year-old was so drunk when he was arrested last month he was unable to remember swearing at police as they tried to handcuff him.
He was drinking at an inner-city hotel and stumbled onto Charlotte Street where police saw him stopping traffic at an intersection.
He spent the night in the watchhouse and was charged with behaving in a disorderly manner, obstructing a police officer and using obscene language.
He used language of a different sort in pleading guilty today, saying he wanted to give the magistrate an insight into his character.
He recited one of his own poems, which included the lines:
"Some have done it much harder than most, some have done it much better, does it matter?
"They come and they go, they slip and they fall, get up again, experience more pain, does it matter?"
The court fell silent during the recital and one lawyer had tears rolling down her cheeks.
Maciejewski said outside court he had resorted to poetry to try to reduce his fine.
But there is no way of knowing what the effect was on Magistrate Rob Quinlan, who told the court: "It is not every day that I have a poem read to me."
He fined Maciejewski $425.
Judge unmoved by court poet - www.smh.com.au
Tuesday, January 13, 2004
Judge unmoved by court poet
Posted by BookBitch at 1/13/2004 09:50:00 PM
Borders 2004 Original Voices Award Nominees
Borders has nominated five books in four categories for its 2004 Original Voices Award. Each winner will
receive $5,000 and be featured in Borders stores throughout the spring. Finalists for the awards are chosen by both corporate and
store employees; the winners will be announced in March.
The finalists are:
1. Brick Lane by Monica Ali (Scribner)
2. Jennifer Government by Max Barry (Picador)
3. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
4. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (Riverhead)
5. The Time Travelers Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (MacAdam/Cage)
6. How to Breathe Underwater by Julie Orringer (Knopf)
1. A Million Little Pieces by James Frey (Doubelday)
2. Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling by Ross King (Walker)
3. Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx
by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc (Scribner)
4. Positively Fifth Street: Murderers, Cheetahs, and Binion's World
Series of Poker by James McManus (FSG)
5. Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books by Azar Nafisi (Random)
6. Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach (Norton)
Children's Picture Books
1. The Spider and the Fly by Mary Howitt, illustrated by Tony
2. Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! by Mo Willems (Hyperion)
3. The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone by Timothy Basil Ering
4. Eleanor, Ellatony, Ellencake, and Me by C.M. Rubin, illustrated by
Christopher Fowler (McGraw-Hill/Gingham Dog)
5. The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds (Candlewick)
6. Stranger in the Woods by Carl R. Sams II (Carl R. Sams)
Intermediate/Young Adult Books
1. Eragon by Christopher Paolini (Knopf)
2. The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud (Hyperion/Miramax)
3. The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau (Random House)
4. Granny Torrelli Makes Soup by Sharon Creech (HarperCollins/Cotler)
5. After by Francine Prose (HarperTempest)
6. A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly (Harcourt)
Posted by BookBitch at 1/13/2004 08:53:00 PM
Cloak, dagger, carpool lane and diaper bag: There's a suspicious number of female mystery writers in the Bay Area
Adair Lara, Chronicle Staff Writer
Thursday, January 8, 2004
©2004 San Francisco Chronicle | Feedback | FAQ
A man, fatally stabbed, lies bleeding on a sidewalk in San Francisco. His last words, though faint, are overheard by a passer-by -- "When is she going to write a real book?" A woman with a laptop is seen hurrying away.
The suspects? Six ordinary Bay Area women who make no secret of having turned to a life of crime. They are mystery writers: Gillian Roberts of Tiburon, Ayelet Waldman of Berkeley, Marcia Muller of Petaluma and three San Franciscans, Nadia Gordon, Cara Black and rookie Jacqueline Winspear.
Of course there is no real dead person -- that was made up, to get you reading and make you wonder about a different mystery: How do female crime writers -- a surprising number of whom live here in the Bay Area -- defend a violent and unladylike choice of career?
For each, the mystery seems a means to an end, a way to delve into the deeper mysteries of life, humanity or the moral imperative.
Winspear, the rookie of the group, sees the genre as a means of exploring social and historical issues.
"The mystery as a vehicle draws me because life is a mystery," says Winspear, who grew up in England and whose first book out this year features protagonist Maisie Dobbs, a private investigator and amateur psychologist in post-World War I London. "The archetypical notion is that you use the search for a solution to ask a lot of questions.
"What I'm exploring is how a terrible social phenomenon, such as a catastrophic war, affects people afterward. When I read the First World War poets in school, I'd cry my eyes out. I've always been interested in what happens to ordinary people. Where do you put all that grief? "
Though her settings are contemporary and American, Gillian Roberts, a.k.a. Judith Greber, is also less interested in the sensational than in the more mundane -- but in her case it is the ordinary and awful things people do to each other.
''I write about crimes that have no laws against them," says Roberts. "I'm interested in the cruel things people do to one another that can destroy a life without killing anyone." The series has been optioned for television. Of Roberts' 17 books, 11 chronicle the adventures of Amanda Pepper, a high school teacher in Philadelphia, a position Roberts herself once held. Her latest from Ballantine Books is "Claire and Present Danger."
Marcia Muller, who has been called the mother of the modern female sleuth, and has won a fistful of awards, likes to write about undiscovered past crimes that affect present action -- and which the baddie has to cover up by committing further crimes. "The character sets things right," she says. Her heroine is San Francisco P.I. Sharon McCone. One reader told Muller that Sharon McCone was so realistic that she went to the library and looked under "McCone" to find more of her books. Muller even builds tiny scale models of her crime scenes, complete with furniture.
Ayelet Waldman, who is also a law professor at UC Berkeley, writes her Mommy-Track Mysteries from her brown-shingle house in Berkeley, where she lives with husband, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Michael Chabon, and their four young children.
"My villains aren't villains. They're people whose crime you understand - - someone who commits a murder out of jealousy, like a man who will lose his place in his family," Waldman says. Her titles include "Death Gets a Time- Out'' and "A Playdate With Death."
Cara Black got her inspiration on a visit to Paris in 1994.
"I was revisiting the Marais, treading the cobblestones and absorbing the place, when the story of my friend's mother's hiding during the French occupation came back to me,'' she said. That story inspired her first book, "Murder in the Marais," featuring Aimee Leduc, a spike-haired half-French, half-American security computer detective ("with a penchant for bad boys,'' says Black).
Nadia Gordon, whose real name is Julianne Balmain, has no deep agenda. She sees the mystery genre as a means of entertaining her readers. Like a good host, and like her protagonist, chef Sonny McCoskey, who owns a restaurant in St. Helena, Gordon wants to leave her readers well fed and satisfied. The second book in her series, published in October, is "Death by the Glass.''
"I really love to write about food and wine," she said. "There's a connection between those things and friendship. The people in this world bond this way. It's a special environment.''
While all six roam through various time zones, eras and a universe of ideas en route to solving crimes or delving into base intentions, they all agree that an idea for a book can crop up almost anywhere.
Winspear says, "I was driving along in San Rafael, and a picture came to me of a woman walking through a turnstile from the London tube. I'd driven half a mile and I knew the whole story. Went home and wrote 15 pages that became the first 15 pages of the book." Her second Maisie Dobbs title, "Birds of a Feather,'' will appear next June, and she went to France to see World War I battlefields to research the third.
For Roberts, who nowadays shares an airy glass house in Tiburon with her husband, Robert Greber ("That's how I got the Roberts"), a book will begin with a newspaper clipping or a conversation with friends. "Your daily paper is a treasure trove of human passion run amok."
Once she found a book on spousal abuse in the Corte Madera library that a woman had underlined copiously in the margins, saying, "This happened to me!"
Roberts could not bring herself to look the woman up but couldn't stop thinking about it, either, and finally her husband said, "You write a mystery series. Write a book about it."
Muller got her idea for "The Dangerous Hour," the book she's just finished, when a judge in Sacramento asked if she'd be interested in hearing how an investigator loses his license. Another time the idea started with a title. Her husband, the even more prolific mystery writer Bill Pronzini, heard the phrase "till the butchers cut him down'' from an old song and urged her to write a book called that.
"I had to come up with an individual people were trying to destroy," says Muller, who alternates the McCone books with stand-alone books set in the fictional Northern California county of Soledad.
"A lot of rewriting in a non-series book is about getting to know the characters, their back stories,'' she says. "In a McCone, it's about plot."
Although all mystery relies heavily on plot, these authors all do an extraordinary amount of research. Black's "Murder in the Sentier" takes place in the Paris garment district, where she has spent a lot of time.
"It spoke to me. I wanted to know about this vibrant place with hookers, software startups in crumbling mansions and the garment sweatshops below.'' Black gathers facts by talking to French friends, interviewing French detectives, going to libraries and taking lots of black-and-white photos. Then she comes home to San Francisco to write the book.
Gordon sent her manuscript to "a million" experts on wine, guns, poison. "I still get a lot of nitpicks. People want to know why the character in the first book, 'Sharpshooter,' is drinking Spottswoode Cabernet. I researched Brix -- the measurement of sugar in the grape juice that tells when it's time to pick -- and still got arguments. I got so into Armagnac (which kills character Nathan Osborne) that I wanted to go to France to look at the barrels. My editor said, 'Stay home and write!' ''
She did, but the editor ordered the '71 Armagnac from France for herself.
Fearless alter egos
They all log time in libraries. And those with kids spend more time in the carpool than in the morgue or the gritty back streets. Maybe this is part of why all six of these writers like having an intrepid alter ego.
"Sonny is the person I would like to be,'' Gordon said. "The obvious question will hang in the air for weeks with me, but she will ask the tough ones.''
The character, she said, is based on a friend of hers who skins her own rabbits. But "not on a daily basis,'' she is quick to add.
"It's like kicking ass in high heels,'' says Black, who used to be a preschool teacher and drives carpools in Noe Valley in real life. Her husband is Jun Ishimuro, and they have a son, Tate, 14.
Keeping characters fresh
McCone, her snoop for 31 books now, is taller (Muller is 5 feet 3 inches), thinner and braver than she is. "She does her investigating on the mean streets, while I do my research from inside a locked car."
Roberts was never able to find the tormented woman who wrote in that library book, but "my heroine would take apart the library system if necessary. "
Don't the writers get bored, following the same character from book to book? Sometimes it feels, Waldman admits, "as if you're writing a book you'll never finish." At the same time, she adds, "It helps that she's so like me."
Her sleuth, Judith Applebaum, is, like Waldman herself, a former public defender turned mother. "I'm fundamentally self-absorbed, and I never get tired of myself, so I'll never get tired of her."
"It's good to keep some things the same," says Muller, "because we're asking people to accept such preposterous notions. The average detective is sitting at the computer doing skip traces, not stumbling over bodies and getting beaten up and shot at."
"That's why I had to make Judith go pro," says Waldman. "How many baby sitters can you have die?"
Yet, as Muller points out, people change, so fictional characters must, too. "Sharon, for instance, is not at all the way she was in the first book,'' she said.
"Whenever I get bored, I shake up her life."
Starting with what she says was a pivotal book in midseries, "Wolf in the Shadows," Muller made McCone tougher, more professional. The latest is "Dead Midnight," in which McCone's brother jumps off the Bay Bridge. (Unfortunately, the cover shows the Golden Gate).
Waldman has just brought out a stand-alone novel, "Daughter's Keeper." "I'd like to alternate the books I write the way I do the ones I read," she says. "I use murder mysteries to relax. Non-crime is much harder. My ideal scenario would be two mysteries and then something where I get to make up new people."
None of these writers enjoys hearing people sniff, "I don't read mysteries." But the question that sends them all into a murderous rage is, "When are you going to write a real book?" They don't feel they get the respect of the literary world; mysteries are often not even referred to as novels but as installments.
Together these writers have killed a lot of people. Mostly strangers they invented -- but not always.
"I did kill someone I know once," Roberts admits. "It was the best feeling." We assume she means in a book.
Roberts says the mystery writer is the least aggressive of authors. "Romance writers, now, are vicious. You should be talking to them."
E-mail Adair Lara at firstname.lastname@example.org.
©2004 San Francisco Chronicle
Cloak, dagger, carpool lane and diaper bag: There's a suspicious number of female mystery writers in the Bay Area
Posted by BookBitch at 1/13/2004 08:03:00 AM