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Chapter 8 - Savannah - Part 1

Savannah is one of my favorite cities. The historic downtown area is laid out in a pattern of squares with parks in the center of each square. Rumor has it that it is the second most haunted city in the US, with only New Orleans surpassing it. It is the oldest city in Georgia and was built on the Savannah River in 1733. It served as the colonial capital of Georgia and has always been an important port. There is much to see and do in this beautiful city and in February, it is a book lover's dream.

Each year, right around Valentine's Day, Savannah hosts the Savannah Book Festival. This is the 11th year for it. The festival is a multi-day event featuring authors of many different genres. While the opening event, keynote speaker, and closing event, (this year Diana Gabaldon, Lisa Ko, and Jodi Piccoult) require paid admission, the Saturday portion of the festival is free. On Saturday, 40 authors are positioned at venues around the historic area to talk about their books and writing. Since the schedule is published ahead of time, I usually take the time to figure out which author I will see and, if I haven't read them, read their latest book.

So these are the books I read in preparation for the festival. A little insight into the authors too!

Ultimatum by Karen Robards - This is the first of the Guardian series by Robards. I had never read her before and decided to pick up her latest. The book was intense at times and a thoroughly engaging story and I would put it in the thriller category.

Karen Robards first got into writing as a law student at the University of Kentucky. She decided to take a Creative Writing class and had to produce a 50 page story. As she hadn't read popular fiction (her nose and was in law school books) she went to a local bookstore to see what was selling and picked up a historical romance. After reading it she decided to write The Pirate's Woman. Reading it aloud in class she was laughed at and her professor, himself a published author, said she probably needed to find out what sells. Squirreling the embarrassing manuscript away until a few years later, Robards took a chance and sent it to a historical romance publisher who wrote back they loved the "partial", she completed her novel, it was published under the title Island Flame and so a historical romance writer was born. A few years later at a book festival, Robards caught up with that professor - she with five published books, he still with one, and explained to him that "Sex sells".

She made the transition to thrillers to gain a larger audience and observed that she has always written a lot of different things, it is marketing that typecasts.

Enigma by Catherine Coulter - Okay I didn't read this one but have read many in Coulter's FBI series. Enigma is the 21st in the FBI series by Coulter and has her dynamic duo, Savitch and Sherlock racing against the clock to solve two very different crimes.

Catherine Coulter was also a romance writer having grown up reading Regency romances by Georgette Heyer. After spending time as a speech writer on Wall Street she clearly remembers the first time she saw her book, The Autumn Countess in print. At a family reunion in Texas, her sister approached her and asked her if she had ever heard of a town in Oregon called "The Cove - it has the best ice cream and bad things happen there." That sent her on the path to writing her first FBI thriller, The Cove.

The Jersey Brothers by Sally Mott Freeman - A non-fiction work detailing three brothers in the Navy during World War II, this long read by Freeman is about her father and uncles and the trials they went through to find a brother missing in the Pacific and unaccounted for at the end of the war. The book goes back and forth between the brothers' stories, interspersed with what was happening in the war at that time.

Sally Mott Freeman started her 10 year journey to find out what happened to her Uncle Barton, in 2005. Originally it was Mott Freeman's intent was to clear up a family mystery and help her family heal from the tensions the family retained due to her uncle's disappearance. Using diaries, war records, letters, interviews with survivors and translations of Japanese war records, she was eventually able to find out what happened to her uncle. Starting her search in Andersonville, Georgia, once a Confederate POW camp and now a museum and archive of POW records, Mott Freeman's research took her all over the United States and to the Phillipines.

More about Savannah next week but here are a few beautiful pictures of the city.

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