Finish the Story!


     “Laurie R. King is a third generation Northern Californian who has lived most of her life in the San Francisco Bay area. Her background is as mixed as any writer’s, from degrees in theology and managing a coffee store to raising children, vegetables, and the occasional building.

King’s writing reflects her background—it is no accident that characters in her books spend time in the Bay Area and England (King’s other home) and are interested in theology, architecture, and travel”

     I was born in Oakland, California, across the bay from San Francisco—we lived in Walnut Creek, where my father worked for a nursery, but Oakland held the nearest Kaiser hospital. My sister was seven years older; my brother, three years younger than I, was born in Walnut Creek; when he was small we moved to the beach community of Santa Cruz, the first house and town I can remember. In the summers we would stand alongside busy Mission Street and shout, “Tourist go home!” at the passing cars. On warm afternoons, which near the ocean would more likely be in May or September than in the actual summer months, we would walk down the hills to the beach. Fifteen years later, when I moved to the Santa Cruz area as a college student, I would be constantly taken aback by coming around some corner or driving up some street and finding myself on familiar ground. My daughter, in 2002, lived across the street from a hillside where my tricycling brother nearly shot under a car in 1958.

    The beach claimed by us locals was on the other side of the wharf from the glitzy Boardwalk, or if the tide allowed, along the bank of the San Lorenzo River south of the bright lights, where the water was calm but the scum and scraps from the upstream tannery a seagull-attracting annoyance. We did venture onto the Boardwalk sometimes—for the Fourth of July fireworks, certainly. I was a whiz at the game of skee-ball, but the only Boardwalk ride I really enjoyed was the ever-magical merry-go-round, its steam calliope, all parts visible, blasting out music as the shiny horses went up and down and the bigger kids stretched out to catch the brass rings. The town itself was away from the beach: Woolworth’s with its cheap temptations and its soda fountain with my mother, the darkly fragrant United Cigar shop with my father (who confused me by calling it the “hot stove league,” although there was no stove I could see, just magazine racks where he bought Astounding and Argosy, John D. MacDonald and the Doc Savage stories, along with those paperback novellas printed in a delightful, back-to-back format which meant that both covers made for a new beginning.) And always, the library.

     The Santa Cruz Public Library was a tall, dark-shingled Aladdin’s cave of riches, which I remember draped with vines although I suspect that later imagination provided that decoration. I still have a small pin, brass and blue enamel, given me by the summer reading club when I was six. And in first or second grade, The Hobbit must have swum into the edges of my ken (although I cannot have been old enough to read it, and don’t recall my parents reading it to me) because I can remember as if it was yesterday sitting in the sunny classroom and composing a story about a small creature that lived under a hill, illustrating each extra-wide line of the pulp paper with small, precise drawings of mysterious figures and round red doors set into grassy hillsides—and remember too the hot humiliation of failing the assignment because the illustrations had taken me so long, I ran out of time to do the text.

     Thus the writer’s first lesson: Finish the story.

     Forty years later, it is a lesson I am still learning. The temptations to decorate, to revise and tinker with a horribly bald and incomplete manuscript instead of bashing through to The End is perpetual, but the mantra that runs through my mind every day of writing a first draft is: Finish the thing, then see what’s there.

“from her website

Laurie R. King’s unconventional approach to the mystery genre has led to the development of two popular series characters: Mary Russell, the detective wife of Sherlock Holmes, and Kate Martinelli, a San Francisco policewoman. Through a number of books featuring each protagonist, King has formed their characters–and those of their cohorts–while consistently crafting tense thrillers, many with religious themes. The author began her career auspiciously, when her first published book, A Grave Talent,won both the Edgar Allan Poe Award and the John Creasey Dagger. Since then, she has produced a significant body of “thoughtful, intelligent, innovative, imaginative mysteries,” stated reviewer Emily Melton in Booklist.

“from the Library data base: Literature Resource Center

Join the reading game @ the library and read either a book by San Francisco Bay Area author, or about San Francisco Bay area!

Read, Finish, and  Enter the weekly drawing for the summer game @ the library and win a gift card!



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