October 10th, 2013

Interview with Author John Florio

Writer John Florio is the author of “Sugar Pop Moon,” a novel set during the Prohibition era that features a mixed-race albino named Jersey Leo. His adventures take him from the speakeasies of Brooklyn to Philadelphia—which should be of interest to those Philly transplants in our area. The author will be reading from his novel and talking about writing in general on Saturday, Oct. 19 from 2-3 p.m. at the Chesapeake City Branch Library. In preparation for his visit, we asked the author a few questions for the library blog.
John Florio headshot 2013
Why did you choose to make your main character, Jersey Leo, an albino?
The Jersey Leo stories are really about all biases, not just albinism. Had Jersey been a different minority or scarred in some other way, the basic conflicts could have been the same. But there’s a strong, unaddressed bias against those with albinism and it seemed to me that this would be an interesting way to address it.

What interested you about the Prohibition era?
I’ve always been interested in 20th-century American culture, and find those years particularly interesting—not just the bootlegging, but the fashion, the music, the celebrities. Plus, I grew up on Humphrey Bogart movies and hard-boiled detective stories, so I felt at home with the material. I often tell people that I wrote “Sugar Pop Moon” in black-and-white—that is, I pictured many scenes in black-and-white as I was writing them.

What are some of your favorite books and movies set during the time period?SPM cover 96dpi
I really enjoyed Dennis Lehane’s “Live by Night”; and I just began Kevin Baker’s “Big Crowd,” which is excellent. Movies include the Bogart canon, along with Cagney, Garfield, and Howard Hawks (director). Off the top of my head, I’ll throw out “The Postman Always Rings Twice,” “Angels with Dirty Faces,” and “Public Enemy.”

There’s a lot of boxing history and lore in “Sugar Pop Moon.” Tell us a little about that.
I’m fascinated by 20th-century American pop culture, and boxing’s heavyweight champions were a large part of it. I just released a non-fiction book, “One Punch from the Promised Land,” about Leon and Michael Spinks, heavyweight champs back in the ’70s and ’80s. You could put that book on the same shelf as “Sugar Pop Moon.”  Not because both include boxing, but because, to me, boxing and noir go hand in hand. In fact, many 20th-century noir writers have been captivated by the world of boxing—not the sport itself, necessarily, but the stories that surround it. The first name that comes to mind is Budd Schulberg, but there are so many others.

Will this be your first trip to Maryland? Have you ever eaten a crab?
I have friends who live in Baltimore, so I’m not a total stranger to the area. When I got married, the gang took my wife and me to a place that served crabs. I think it may have been called Costa’s, although I’m not sure. What I do remember is a hammer, a pile of shells, Old Bay, and a cold beer. Tremendous.

Join us Saturday, October 19 at 2pm at the Chesapeake City Branch to hear more from John Florio about his book and his writing process.  Call 410-996-1134 to sign up or click here.

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September 3rd, 2013

The 1960s – Decade of Change

Sixties Series Program thumbThe 1960s – what can you say about such a turbulent, chaotic, exhilarating, tragic decade?

If you were alive then, you likely remember where you were when President Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Robert Kennedy were assassinated.  Perhaps you remember the 1961 inaugural broadcast of Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color in LIVING COLOR (if you were lucky enough to have a color TV).  I remember the first time I heard the Beatles singing “I Want to Hold Your Hand” on the radio and thought, “What was that? They’ll never make it big in the USA.”  (And, oh, that long hair!) The emergency plan for my elementary school during the Cuban Missile Crisis was for students to walk a mile home should missiles come streaking toward our city.  Who thought that up?

Vietnam unfolded in front of us on the nightly news and the American flag unfurled on the moon after years of doubt and effort.  The march for civil rights by African Americans culminated in the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the death of Martin Luther King.  It was a decade of contrasts:  great tragedies and great triumphs; British pop music versus the anti-war music of Americans Bob Dylan and Joan Baez; hippies versus the “Establishment”; Pulitzer Prize-winning, powerfully moving “To Kill a Mockingbird” verses the bestselling pulp novel, “Valley of the Dolls.” Roger Maris hit 61 home runs without the use of performance enhancing drugs while psychedelic drugs tuned others out.

CCPL will explore many of the triumphs and tragedies of that decade in its new events series, “The 1960s.” From Ford Mustangs, muscle cars and pop culture to the Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam and Kennedy, we will return to a decade where everything changed.  Click here to see a complete listing of the events we’re offering and call 410-996-5600 ext. 481 to sign up.  What program are you looking forward to the most?

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