One of LSU’s greatest sports heroes. A man who believes his father was one of America’s most cold-blooded villains. Blanche DuBois, Stella Kowalski and Lady Torrance. No one can claim that this year’s Louisiana Book Festival will be narrow in scope.
Of course, it never is.
The 12th annual celebration of the written word takes place Saturday, Oct. 31, in and around the State Capitol and will bring dozens of authors to sign books and talk to their readers. The festival runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and takes place at the State Capitol, State Library, Capitol Park Museum and the surrounding grounds.
“The thing that’s said over and over about us is, pound for pound, we’re a better festival than, like, the Texas Book Festival and places like that because you can go in the Capitol … sit within a few feet of this famous author, get your book signed, communicate with them, as opposed to being in an auditorium and seeing him with 1,000 other people,” said State Librarian Rebecca Hamilton. “There’s an intimate piece that people really love about us. The authors themselves love it. They like communicating with the audience.”
The list of authors includes some nationally known names, like Rick Bragg (“All Over but the Shoutin’,” “Ava’s Man” and “The Prince of Frogtown”) and Cokie Roberts (“We Are Our Mothers’ Daughters,” “Founding Mothers,” “Ladies of Liberty” and “From This Day Forward”), who regularly show up for the festival. But this year’s biggest star is likely to be the subject of a book.
Former LSU and pro football star Billy Cannon, whose biography by Charles deGravelles, “Billy Cannon: A Long, Long Run,” was released in September, should draw a crowd.
“Barnes and Noble said when he did the signing (there), he talked with everybody,” said Jim Davis, the festival’s director and director of the Louisiana Center for the Book. “She said plan on the line being very long, because he takes time with everybody.”
Gary L. Stewart and Susan Mustafa, co-authors of the best-selling “The Most Dangerous Animal of All,” also will be part of the festival. The book chronicles the search by Stewart, who was adopted by a Baton Rouge family, to find his birth father.
The search convinced him that his father, Earl Van Best Jr., was the infamous Zodiac killer, whose murder spree and enigmatic messages to police gripped San Francisco with fear in the 1960s.
The crimes have never been solved.
Screenwriter and director Todd Robinson will join Stewart and Mustafa to discuss converting Stewart’s story into the screenplay for the CBS mini-series currently in pre-production, scheduled for spring 2016.
James Grissom is author of “Follies of God: Tennessee Williams and the Women of the Fog,” which researches the women — like Lillian Gish, Maureen Stapleton and Jessica Tandy — who inspired the playwright’s most notable female characters.
“They say that presentation, he is a riot,” Davis said. “He assumes the voices of all these ladies of theater and movies … when he starts quoting them.”
“He is so entertaining,” Hamilton said. “Everything he writes is beautiful and eloquent; even his (Facebook) posts are just like poetry. I’m excited to see him.”
New Orleans author Tom Piazza (“A Free State,” “City Of Refuge” and “Devil Sent The Rain”) will receive the 2015 Louisiana Writer Award, which recognizes outstanding contributions to Louisiana’s writing.
Piazza, who also wrote for the HBO drama series “Treme,” will receive the award at 10 a.m. from Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne.
“He has a huge following,” Hamilton said. “We adore him.”