March 2014

A Week In Seattle - Independent Bookstores, Lovely Restaurants And Old Friends

I arrived in Seattle – a city I’d lived in or around for more than twenty years (7 of those years on Bainbridge Island) unsure what to expect. I was there to close out my storage unit, then to meet my publisher, Tyson Cornell, to launch the paperback of my first novel, Inside Passage, which is set in Seattle, and to introduce our new book, In Velvet, a thriller set in Yellowstone Park.

Emptying the storage unit was intense – do I want to keep all 30 drafts of Ross Macdonald’s only screenplay? After a long day, Dorothy and I went to Café Campagne, a sibling (same owner) of a restaurant featured in Inside Passage. I remembered being there often with my adolescent children, arriving late - after games — as my daughter’s high school basketball team worked their way to winning the state championship. Some things never disappoint, and the warm duck confit salad and the cassoulet were as good as I remembered, better than what I found in far more expensive NYC bistros. And tucked away in the Pike Place Market, the ambiance couldn’t have been cozier.

Another day finishing off storage, then on to Bainbridge Island, and the Eagle Harbor bookstore. The ferry boat ride through the fog was exactly as remembered minute by minute, and then we were on the island — new stores and more cars, but unmistakably Bainbridge. We were warmly welcomed by Victoria, the events manager, and I signed books, gave her a new poster for the paperback edition, and presented her with a signed advance copy of In Velvet. It was a treat to be back at that wonderful Bainbridge bookstore where I’d spent so much time with my young children.

We went on to visit the house we’d built on the southern tip of the Island over 20 years ago. The new owners (less than 2 years) graciously let us walk through and, remarkably, almost nothing had changed. It’s still a warm little jewel – a great room with wide fir plank floors, walk-in fireplace, wood stove, Dutch door, rich, wood paneling throughout, and the floor to ceiling windows fronting the South Sound and Mount Rainier, when it’s not fogged in (we didn’t see it that day). Interestingly, one of the new owners is Carol Cassella, the author of Oxygen: A Novel.

That afternoon, I picked up Tyson, who’d just arrived, and we visited Elliot Bay Books, a well-known independent bookseller in Seattle. It’s a beautiful store and I was thrilled to see copies of Inside Passage on hand and leave an advance copy of In Velvet.

That evening we went out to dinner with Dave Miller and his wife Katie. As a young architect, Dave designed the Bainbridge house (presently he’s chair of the Dept. of Architecture at the Univ. of WA). I held my ground when we occasionally disagreed – this was, after all, our house – and together, we built a very special home. He and Katie were married there. So there was a lot of reminiscing about the house and our history together. Dave comes for a long weekend of fishing with me in Montana every summer.

Dinner was at Tulio, where the epilogue of Inside Passage takes place. I had what I always have there – the grilled veal chop with grilled onions and mushrooms. Though Walter, the chef, was out sick, the veal chop was still the best ever, anywhere. And I reconnected with a young waiter who’s now the maitre ‘d.

The next day I picked up Tyson and we visited three more independent bookstores, stopping first at the Seattle Mystery Bookshop where Adele was expecting us. I signed paperbacks and a poster and gave her an advance copy of In Velvet. I also connected with JB, the owner, who I interviewed on Blog Talk Radio Thurs. 2/20 about the history of the bookstore, a Seattle institution since 1990.

Next up was the U district and the University Bookstore where I signed books and met Anna Updegraff. This is an old haunt of mine, and I was especially glad to see my book on the shelves. Tyson, who is an old hand at these visits, is good at making them comfortable and productive. Anna invited me to come back and do an event for In Velvet, which I hope we can work out.

From there Tyson and I went to Youthcare, an organization that does wonderful work with homeless youth. For In Velvet, we’re partnering with the Yellowstone Park Foundation, giving them a portion of the proceeds of book sales. This has been such a positive experience that we wanted to do it again with the sequel to Inside Passage, Teaser (the second book in the Corey Logan trilogy, Teaser will be published in winter. 2014). In Teaser and it’s sequel, Minos, Corey Logan finds runaways, and once found, they become the client. She works with them to decide how to go forward with their lives. So we thought an organization that helped care for homeless youth would be an ideal partner. We weren’t disappointed. The women we met with at YouthCare were smart, committed, and doing impressive work (the next day Tyson and I toured their Orion Center, which confirmed our initial impressions). Meeting with them certainly made us feel like it would be worthwhile to support the work they’re doing.

Tyson in at Third PlaceFrom there we stopped at Third Place Books, another lovely independent bookstore. More signing and schmoozing and spreading the word about In Velvet.

That night, Tyson hosted a dinner for me at The Queen City Grill. A highpoint of the trip, it included Brendan Kiley, an editor and critic at the Stranger (Seattle’s leading alternative paper), who also has done research for me, Andrea Dunlop, our excellent Seattle publicist, Dorothy, Johnathan Evison, a northwest writer who’s work I admire (West of Here), and another independent publisher, Dark Coast’s Jarret Middleton. The Queen City Grill is one of my favorite restaurants in Seattle. As described in Inside Passage, Abe “…thought the Queen City Grill was among the most beautiful rooms in the city. Something about the dark woods, the muted colors, and the organization of the space and the light gave the busy restaurant an aura all it’s own, a warm, welcoming glow.” A very good, very lively, time was had by all.

The following day Tyson and I went to Andrea’s office to meet her colleagues, then we toured YouthCare’s Orion Center. After, we went out for a drink and had a substantive, productive conversation about how we might create even more momentum for all three books and about how to organize future work together. It was we both judged, a successful trip.

That night Dorothy and I treated ourselves to dinner at Shuckers, one of Seattle’s premier seafood restaurants. A pivotal scene in Inside Passage is set at the oyster bar. Riley, a hit man, is meeting Lester, Nick Season’s right hand man. Riley is squeezing lemon on his oysters when Lester arrives. ”Kumamotos, Kushies,” Riley explains, as Lester thinks – “Riley talking food was just one more thing he didn’t give a shit about.” The sequence ends with the memorable line, “As he left the bar, Lester upended the silver platter (of oysters), tipping Riley’s skanky pussy food onto his lap.”

Sat. our last day, Craig Duncan and his wife Reesa met us for lunch at Café Campagne. Craig was a legendary fishing guide in Alaska and lives near a ranch in eastern WA where his 4 brothers and his father – all fishing guides, Dave Duncan and sons, a famous Alaskan fishing operation – all work and live when they’re not in Alaska. For 15 years, Craig guided me and my children on the Yakima River in eastern WA. We became good friends and now, he comes to Montana every summer to fish with me. Last summer, he couldn’t come - he needed surgery - so this was a wonderful, festive reunion. I hadn’t seen Reesa in a long time and neither of them had met Dorothy. So lamb burgers at Cafe Campagne with old, dear friends - telling Reesa and Dorothy stories of remembered days on the river with my kids — was the perfect finale to a great trip.