Neighbors in Winters learn about writers in Davis

August 2, 1998
Elisabeth Sherwin -- gizmo@

I got a call earlier this summer from Mike Kimes of the Winters Rotary Club who needed a speaker. Turns out, he wanted someone to talk to club members about a local environmental success story, Putah Creek, which runs through both Davis and Winters.

I referred Kimes to Joe Krovoza, the co-chair of Putah Creek Council and a good speaker. ( I later heard that Joe wowed the Rotarians when he gave his talk.)

However, as long as I had Kimes on the phone, I most immodestly volunteered myself as a future speaker. I could hear the hesitation in his voice. Oh, no, Kimes was thinking. What is she going to speak on: Home canning, flower arranging, cat grooming or worst of all, a recent vacation complete with slides?

No, no, no. Although I like to think I'd have something insightful to say about all those subjects, I volunteered to talk on another topic with which I have some familiarity: Davis writers.

So last week I armed myself with copies of seven books and drove over to Winters for lunch at the Buckhorn and a chat with the Rotarians. (Amazingly, I wasn't fined for anything.) I asked my luncheon companions what they were currently reading. Kimes was working his way through "Moby Dick" and enjoying it immensely although he did admit that he was learning more about whaling than he really needed to know. John Laugenour was reading Steinbeck's "East of Eden." And kudos, I think, to the chief of police, the only person in the room who knew that the title of Clarence Major's latest novel, "Dirty Bird Blues," referred to Old Crow whisky.

These are the books, in addition to Major's, that I discussed:

William Langewiesche's "A Meditation on Flight" (Pantheon, $24, 1998) and "Sahara Unveiled: A Journey Across the Desert" (Pantheon, $24, 1996). I thought Langewiesche would be appropriate since he was for a time a resident of Winters before he and his family moved to Davis.

Langewiesche has just completed a three-week trip promoting "Meditation," a collection of essays. Before his career as a writer took off, Langewiesche was a commercial cargo pilot and pilot for an air taxi service on the U.S./Mexico border. Some people support their writing careers by waiting on tables. Langewiesche support himself by flying, which he found largely routine and mechanical.

"The book grew out of a conversation I had with my editor in Boston," said Langewiesche. "I used to work as a pilot and he pushed me into writing the book. Writing is a form of thinking and while I wrote the book the subject of flying became more interesting to me. But this is my first and last book on flying," he added. Some of the essays in the collection first appeared in the Atlantic Monthly.

And I also spoke about two quite different local writers found ways to approach the same subject: Antarctica. Professor Robert E. Feeney has just published the non-fiction "Polar Journeys: The Role of Food and Nutrition in Early Exploration" (American Chemical Society/University of Alaska Press, 1998) while science fiction writer Kim Stanley Robinson has just published his most recent novel, "Antarctica" (Bantam, 1998).

But you don't have to go to faraway places to write an exciting book. While Davis is in Yolo County and Winters is much closer to Solano County, there are commonalities. John Kemper's book on "Discovering Yolo County Wildlife" is a best-seller in Davis and, let's face it, the wildlife in Yolo and Solano counties is just not that different (although Solano County has marshes that Yolo lacks).

Finally, I thought that readers in Winters should know that mystery novelist John Lescroart of Davis has just finished his 10th novel, "The Mercy Rule." It's brand new, hot off the press (Delacorte, $24.95, 1998).

Lescroart's father was in the insurance business. He wanted the best for his son, but didn't think that writers could make a living. It took some time, but Lescroart's efforts have paid off and he's now making a handsome living at the business of writing. His father would approve.

This is an all-male list of writers, yes. As I told the Rotarians, I want to be invited back for another lunch at the Buckhorn. When that happens, I'll bring the all-female list of local writers.

To inquire about ordering any of the above mentioned books from an independent bookstore,
Bogey's Books [ Click Here ]

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