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Essential events at the Festival of the Book

The Montana Festival of the Book celebrates a full decade of existence this weekend, and organizers have invited a top-shelf guest list to the party. Sifting through the three-day schedule can be a little like reading War and Peace, so we've boiled down some of the highlights to help you get the most from the event.

Remembering Crumley

He's been gone a year, but we still miss him. This year's festival includes a number of special attendees in town primarily to pay tribute to this legend of the crime fiction genre. A retrospective of Jim Crumley's life and work—no doubt including references to classics like The Last Good Kiss and The Right Madness—takes place on Thursday, followed by a screening of The Far Side of Jericho, the critically acclaimed 2006 Western co-written by Crumley and Rob Sullivan, on Friday.

Michael Koepf moderates "The Last Good Kiss: An Appreciation of James Crumley," with Dennis Lehane, George Pelecanos, Laura Lippman and James Grady, at the Wilma Theatre Thursday, Oct. 22, at 3 PM. The Far Side of Jericho screens at the Wilma Theatre Friday, Oct. 23, at 1 PM followed at 3 with a discussion moderated by screenwriter Andrew Smith.

click to enlarge Dennis Lehane, author of Mystic River and Gone, Baby, Gone, is one of several writers attending the Festival of the Book as part of a tribute to late crime fiction novelist Jim Crumley.
  • Dennis Lehane, author of Mystic River and Gone, Baby, Gone, is one of several writers attending the Festival of the Book as part of a tribute to late crime fiction novelist Jim Crumley.

Gala hoopla

David Sedaris' Friday night show sold out and that's got you bummed? Eh, no biggie. The three-person gala event readings on Thursday and Saturday night will more than make up for missing Sedaris' one-man show. Thursday night includes Dennis Lehane, author of Mystic River and Gone, Baby, Gone; Andrew Sean Greer, graduate of UM's creative writing program and author of The Confessions of Max Tivoli and The Story of a Marriage; and Maile Meloy, Montana-bred author of Liars and Saints and, most recently, the short story collection Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It. Saturday night's lineup includes readings by Kevin Canty, a UM fiction professor and most recent author of Where the Money Went; Marianne Wiggins (see opposite page); and James Lee Burke, Missoula's favorite best-selling crime novelist. Check out the full festival schedule for additional panel discussions that feature these heavy hitters.

Gala readings take place in the Wilma Theatre Thursday and Saturday at 7:30 PM.

Wired up

Still mourning the end of the best show ever written for television? You may want to check out an interview with David Simon, the former Baltimore Sun reporter who created and produced the critically acclaimed HBO drama series, "The Wire," and George Pelecanos, the best-selling detective novelist who wrote extensively for the show. Following the interview, Pelecanos and fellow acclaimed detective novelist Laura Lippman are paired for a reading. Like her husband, David Simon, Lippman is a former Baltimore Sun reporter and her popular Tess Monaghan series features a former Baltimore reporter turned private investigator.

An interview with "The Wire" writers takes place at the Holiday Inn Ballroom A/B Saturday, Oct. 24, at 1 PM. A reading with George Pelecanos and Laura Lippman follows at 2:30.

Bittersweet

In his debut novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Montana-based novelist Jamie Ford tells the story of a Chinese teenager who falls in love with his Japanese classmate. Inherent to the Romeo and Juliet-esque romance is a discussion of the U.S. treatment of Japanese citizens during World War II. Join Ford for a reading from his novel and a discussion of the internment experience—and the local connection with Fort Missoula's camps—with UM journalism professors Carol Van Valkenburg and Teresa Tamura, and state Rep. Diane Sands. Attendees may want to check out artist Roger Shimomura's exhibit on the same topic, Minidoka on My Mind, currently on display in the Missoula Art Museum.

"The World War II Japanese Internment Experience" reading and discussion takes place at the Missoula Art Museum Friday, Oct. 23, at 4 PM.

Working the festival

One of the best aspects of the festival involves not just listening to great writers read work, but learning how to apply their wisdom to your own craft, too. Workshops fill the three-day schedule, but Friday's slate gives the best example of what burgeoning writers can expect: "The Essential Moment: The Short Story" features Canty and four other published authors (Holiday Inn Ballroom A/B, 11 AM), while Rick Bass, Greer and Wiggins discuss technique in "Locating the Novel" (Holiday Inn Ballroom A/B, 2:30 PM).

The Festival of the Book runs Thursday, Oct. 22, though Saturday, Oct. 24. Friday's 5:30 PM Festival Author Reception is $25, but all other events are free. For a complete schedule visit www.humanitiesmontana.org.

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