Greetings from the UCLA Lawn

Day One of the LA Times Festival of Books is wrapping up. The sun is bright and the temperature is high, leaving this LA neophyte in a state of sweat-soaked overload. So of course I can’t wait for tomorrow and for future LATFOBs. The big reason? I cannot get over how much of a cross section this festival is not of literary types, not of middle class values of a certain stripe, but of everyone, every race, color, creed, age, all coming out to celebrate books and to take part. I wish this could be replicated elsewhere, but it could only happen in LA. But when I come back, I’m renting a car – even if trying to snare a cab after the Book Prizes led me into something of an interesting adventure (UCLA security = awesome guys.)

The action, at least for me, centers around the Mystery Bookstore, from last night’s packed party where pretty much every West Coast-based crime writer (plus a few midwest and east coasters) showed up to sign books and drink booze, to the booth near the food court where James Ellroy is about to get a line snaking halfway down the block, capping off a day of nonstop signings and incredible hard work from Bobby, Linda, Clair, Ingrid and the rest of the store’s fine folks. They rock. Most in the mystery world already know this, but it bears repeating.

This morning’s panel went well, thank goodness – my nerves kicked in this morning in the green room and only dissipated when the audience laughed at one of Peter Robinson’s remarks early on. April Smith and Les Klinger, too, gamely weathered my off-kilter questions to talk about experimentation, character, the merits and cons of being prolific, and the genre in context.

And right as I type this, an older gentleman holds a sign saying “911 WAS AN INSIDE JOB” while another gentleman, passionately anti-Bush and pro-Obama, commends him for keeping up the good work. Sitting in the shade gives you the chance to see the damndest things….

More tomorrow.