by Tim Maleeny
I had the pleasure of reading last night at Book Passage's location in the Ferry Building, my second appearance there this year. The store feels like home --- Reese and Ron made me feel like part of the family, which I suppose I am since my writing career really took off after attending the Book Passage Mystery Writers Conference a few years back. The conference is considered among crime writers to be the best in the country for anyone serious about writing mysteries. Faculty have included Ridley Pearson, Lee Child, Michael Connelly and a long list of local authors such as Jacqueline Winspear, Tony Broadbent, Kirk Russell, Rhys Bowen, Cara Black and Louise Ure. Attending that conference was a pivotal experience for me as I was moving from writing short stories to novels.
On my last visit I read from Stealing The Dragon, a story about human trafficking, the back alleys of Chinatown, and female assassins trained by the tongs. This time I read from my novel with the unlikely title, Beating The Babushka, about a collision between the Russian mob and a major movie studio.
During last night's reading someone asked how much of my fiction was based on reality. I've been told by readers that I write the kind of books that make you stay up late turning the pages, so by necessity a lot of what I write is pure imagination, only loosely based on real world events. But choosing which events has been an interesting process. Stealing The Dragon deals with some nasty politics involving a district assemblyman, and you might have noticed there were headlines in the San Francisco papers yesterday saying that a local assemblyman was being indicted for extortion. The opening scene in the book involves a container ship running aground on Alcatraz, and now in real life we see a cargo vessel smashed into the Bay Bridge. For the novel Beating The Babushka I invented a crooked scam involving the movie industry that seemed plausible. Since the book's release I've learned that crime has actually taken place behind the scenes in Hollywood. So it works both ways --- sometimes you base fiction on facts, and sometimes facts follow fiction. It makes me think next time I should try writing about world peace and see what happens.