uscon-festival-of-books_2012Ted Danson, Timothy Egan and Jodi Picoult are among the authors who are on tap at Arizona’s Tucson Festival of Books, slated for March 9-10. Your friends at True West will be there as well, manning a booth and chatting with our perspicacious public.

Bill Viner, the chairman of the event, says the festival, now in only its fifth year, is already the fourth-largest of its kind in the country. Some 120,000 book lovers will throng the University of Arizona campus to hear author presentations of their choice—and their choice includes some 400 authors, filling more than 300 time slots.

How can Tucson host so many? Viner says the festival offers 36 different author venues, each staging five presentations per day. The most that a visitor can attend daily are five, obviously, but being able to target 10 favorite authors (total) in two days can be a treat. Besides the speaker venues, the festival also features 250 booths, many of them manned by authors.

Other scheduled authors include Nevada Barr, Mary Doria Russell, Michael Wallis, James Donovan and Stephen Harrigan—all of whom have notably “Western” titles to their credit. A panel on “Apache Wars and Warriors” will feature Paul Andrew Hutton and Robert M. Utley.

“There will be a festival atmosphere,” Viner says. “Lots of food. Also a ‘literary circus’ that will stage a circus to literary themes. And a ‘science city’ that will display scientific exhibits.”

Science City came into being because the festival’s remarkable growth has allowed organizers to expand in innovative ways. “That area focuses on STEM—science, technology, engineering and math literacy,” says Marcy Euler, executive director of the festival.

“During the two days of the event,” she adds, “the University of Arizona campus is transformed, and it becomes the place to be. The authors are like rock stars, whether it’s a kid’s author or a mystery writer or a New York Times bestselling author or someone who writes locally.”

A session on Josephine and Wyatt Earp will feature writers Ann Kirschner, whose Lady at the O.K. Corral: The True Story of Josephine Marcus Earp is due out in March from Harper Collins, and Jeff Guinn, author of The Last Gunfight: The Real Story of the Shootout at the O.K. Corral—And How it Changed the American West (Simon & Schuster).

A presentation on “Writing Western History” will be conducted by authors Thomas Cobb (With Blood in Their Eyes), Michael Wallis (whose recent tomes feature David Crockett and Billy the Kid) and Michael McGarrity
(Hard Country).

Co-authors Bill Broyles, Gayle Hartmann, Thomas Sheridan and Gary Nabhan are scheduled to conduct a presentation on their book Last Water on the Devil’s Highway: A Cultural and Natural History of Tinajas Altas (University of Arizona Press). Tinajas Altas is the most famous waterhole along El Camino del Diablo, which traverses the Southwest along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Terry Kirkpatrick will be on hand to discuss his book Sixty Miles of Border: An American Lawman Battles Drugs on the American Border (Berkley Books).

A panel of mystery writers, titled “Queens of Southwest Mystery,” will include authors Margaret Coel (Buffalo Bill’s Dead Now), Nevada Barr (The Rope) and J.A. Jance (Judgment Call). Another mystery session, titled “California Dying,” will feature authors T. Jefferson Parker (one of only three writers to be awarded the Edgar Award for Best Novel more than once), Thomas Perry (known for his Butcher’s Boy and Jane Whitefield series) and Gregg Hurwitz (who has written both bestselling thrillers and comics).

Film and television star Ted Danson will appear as part of a recognition of the Western National Parks Association’s 75th anniversary. His father was an instrumental figure in the formation of that association in 1938.

Many more sessions will be held, including more dedicated to Western history subject matter, but not all sessions had been arranged at the time Viner and Euler spoke with True West.

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