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Notable 2018 Books From San Diego Authors

December 27, 2018 1:29 p.m.

GUEST: John Wilkins, reporter, The San Diego Union-Tribune

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This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

This is KPBS midday edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh and I'm Mark Sauer. Everyone knows San Diego is a great place to live and work. That's especially true for the many officers who not only live and work here but also sometimes make America's finest city the setting for their stories our city's rich literary tradition continues with several notable books out now from notable local authors. Joining me in studios reporter John Wilkins among many other topics he often writes about San Diego authors and their books for the San Diego Union Tribune. Welcome John. I'm glad to be here.

Well we've got a few books to talk about today start with children of blood and bone and this book in its 25 year old author a remarkable on several levels not the least of which she's got a seven figure publishing slash movie deal.

And that was before her book was even released. And who is she and what is children of blood and bone about.

Yeah so we're talking about Tomi Adine. She's the middle child of three kids born to Nigerian immigrant parents grew up in Chicago. This is her first book it came out in March. And as you said a big deal dollar wise and it's also been a big deal all year long. It's been on the New York Times bestseller list for about 40 weeks now and it's made several of best of lists for 2018 and it's set in well it's set in an imaginary world in it's adventure story that she created. That's one of the things that readers really like as sort of the worldbuilding that's gone on there.

San Diego resident now and what Tony Adeyemi tell you about her inspiration as a writer and how she chooses what to write well so she's she's somebody who's been writing since she was very very small.

She's African-American. And as we as she grew up she saw very few characters like herself in the books that she read. And so for a long time is she she really struggled with how she would be able to put together a book herself said she didn't see anybody like herself. And so this this book children's blood and bone is very much steeped in African mythology and folklore and so it centers on a young girl who is born to a family of magi. These are these are people who've been able to raise the dead to change the tides to stop fire.

And then all of a sudden they're wiped out by a ruthless killing. And so she has a chance encounter with the princess and gets an opportunity to bring magic back into the world in a book for young adults but really adults going to read it. Yeah I mean young adult books tend tend to look at things like coming of age issues which you know stay relevant for people for a long time. So they are very popular with with readers being the young adult age and she's nurturing other writers via the web. Now she is a very interesting person to watch on social media.

She's super enthusiastic about her fans and they respond in kind to her. She was very popular at Comic Con earlier this summer. And so she's built quite a following. She's she's not at all embarrassed about sharing her good news. Things had happened like she got picked by Jimmy Fallon this summer had his first. Tonight tonight show reading Book Club wants to read the same book. And that was the one they picked. So there's videos of her you know jumping around all excited about it.

Great. All right. Another work of fiction today it comes from a writer with a lot more experience and more name recognition at least right now. T Jefferson Parker and the book is swift vengeance sequel to last year's The Room of White Fire where the main characters what's the story about.

Well so to Jefferson Parker lives in Fallbrook. He's been around a long time as you said he's done about two dozen novels. These two are the first time he's ever featured a private investigator as a central character and his name is Roland Ford. He is an ex Marine ex law enforcement. Recently widowed and he's he's trying to sort of sort out some personal issues and also try and do you know solve some mysteries that come his way.

This is a series second one in a series explores what it means to be a fighter and a patriot in the age of terrorism. What's that about.

Yeah so his first book was sort of looking at the pieces of freedom that we give up in the name of security as we're fighting terrorism. And the second book sort of looks more at some of the assumptions we make and the stereotypes we follow when we look at people's last names or the color of their skin or what church they go to. So he's kind of playing with some of those themes and kind of encourage the readers to step back and maybe think a little more deeply about some of these issues.

How does Parker research his books in San Diego spent a lot of time with cops or military folks.

Well especially a lot of his books have had military themes of late and he lives in Fallbrook which is close to Camp Pendleton. He has done a lot of writing workshops with the Marines over Pendleton. He thinks one of the great untold stories in America right now is these young men that were sent off to fight these long wars and then they come back and you know they don't really know what to do with their lives now. We don't really know how to accommodate them.

Well another book here is by local writers Lynne Vincent and Sarah Vladek it's the Indianapolis and this is the World War II ship Indian familiar to anybody who's seen the original Jaws movie. The stories neatly summarized in the book's subtitle What is that subtitle The True Story of the worst sea disaster in U.S. naval history in a 50 year fight to exonerate an innocent man. Quite a long subtitle it's quite a long one. Tell us about that. I mean this is a really a dramatic story because of course the sharks.

Well yeah. I mean that ship was a really important ship because it was FDR ship of state. It was the flagship for the Pacific Fleet for much of the war was and many of the storied battles Pacific you know fantail got knocked off by a kamikaze pilot the battle of Okinawa and so it because it was such a celebrated ship an important ship. It was actually given the mission of delivering the first atomic bomb the bomb which it did under under secrecy the crew members did not know what it was when it was delivered and then they're coming back from that and they get torpedoed by a Japanese submarine when the last real submarine attacks in the war.

Right. And so there's you know there's about 11 almost 12 hundred members on that crew. About 300 300 were killed in the torpedo attack. The rest of them went into the water and close to 600 others were killed in the water from exposure drowning and famously the sharks.

And this this nonfiction story it's a terrific read I've read this book. And what made it the worst tragedy. Who's the scapegoat.

Well it was the worst tragedy because of the ship that it was and because of what had happened I knew that. American public didn't even find out about it until after the war was over. And so it became kind of a scandal because it got sunk became a scandal because the Navy was slow to send rescue crews out for the crew members and then they scapegoated the Captain Charles McVeigh basically said hey you should have been zigzagging to try to escape submarines he'd had no idea there were submarine traffic there. Plus it was supposed to be under his discretion where he is whether he zigged and zagged or not.

His discretion was not to him. And they hung him up over that so it took the crew members surviving crew members close to 50 years to get his name cleared. And even his Japanese opponent the captain of the submarine stepped in to say hey they flew him in for the hearings and he said Look even if he'd been zigzagging we would have taken him out. So.

All right. Another nonfiction book here we have you don't own me. Who wrote this book and what's it about.

So Orly Lobel is a law professor at the University of San Diego and she's long been interested in the world of work and how innovation gets both encouraged and controlled by employers. So her new book you don't know me is about a 10 year court fight between Mattel and GA over dolls of all things. So Barbie clothes designer at Mattel went over to MJK with designs for what became the Bratz doll. And so there was a long court fight over that hundreds of millions of dollars spent by both sides in this litigation and 10 years.

I mean that's for mockable and it gets to the issue here about intellectual property and who owns it and obviously a very complex issue.

So she uses the toy world as a way to look at sort of this bigger issue that we're seeing all over the place. I mean you see it with Apple and Google and these other technology companies have come down very very hard. Anybody that they see as kind of infringing on their on their property or anybody who's an employee of theirs who walks away with something that they think was developed under their watch then they go after them.

So it gets to this whole notion of employment freedom and mobility right.

It doesn't it. And one of the main arguments she makes in this book and in an earlier book that she wrote is that these companies by doing this are really in and in effect stifling creativity. It's really not a good thing for the economy or for the larger world. Never get settled at this point. Well so it went to trial. Mattel won the first time MGM won the second time and then just kind of petered off after that Bratz pulled the doll after they got sued and lost and then they later reintroduced the doll.

And as we know Barbie has since sort of changed the way Barbie is made. You know and that's one of the other interesting issues in the book is sort of our consumer culture visions of womanhood that we get through dolls and other things so that's another interesting issue she explores in the book.

Very interesting but all these books are good bets. If you're looking for a good read to curl up with this winter and I've been speaking with the Union Tribune reporter John Wilkins who writes often about San Diego authors and their books. Thanks John. Thank you for having me. If you'd like to hear our midday interviews with these authors go to our website PBS dot o r g.