Book Festival: history, mystery, war, cooking ...

Baltimore Book Festival

September 16, 2004|By Annie Linskey | Annie Linskey,SUN STAFF

Starting tomorrow, more than 150 authors will descend on Mount Vernon to talk about their craft. We've highlighted several here.

Anne Garrels

National Public Radio war correspondent Anne Garrels was one of the 16 American reporters who stayed in Baghdad last year during the U.S.-led battle for the city.

She initially had no plans to write about her experiences there, but when she returned to the States she was shocked by the reception she received.

"I was taste of the week when I came back; I had no idea," she said.

In her 16-year career at NPR, Garrels has covered conflicts all over the world, including wars in Chechnya, Bosnia and Kosovo.

Her book, Naked in Baghdad (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $22), was recently reprinted in paperback.

Garrels added a chapter to the new edition describing her recent experiences covering the country that, she feels, has become far more treacherous than in her initial time there. "Each decision to go out is carefully calculated," she said.

She's has several scary moments. "I was extremely close to two car bombs this time," she said. Garrels was traveling with her translator. "In the first instance we were both blown off our feet," she recalled. "I was extremely lucky."

After the incident, Garrels said, she and her translator prayed to their respective gods, and then, in what she described as an old Iraqi tradition, they sacrificed a goat and donated the meat to a local village.

Garrels, 53, plans to return to Iraq. But the chaos of this war has had an effect. "It's the first time I've been jumping at loud noises," she said.

Garrels will speak at the Book Festival tomorrow at 7:30 p.m.

Anne Applebaum

It took Anne Applebaum six years to research and write her 2004 Pulitzer Prize-winning book about Soviet labor camps, Gulag: A History (Anchor, $16.95).

The fluent Russian speaker mined newly opened archives in Moscow and found "miles and miles" of papers documenting the decades of officially sanctioned work camps that roughly 29 million people endured (the exact number of victims is very difficult to calculate). Applebaum, 40, found descriptions of the camps by inspectors. She dug through "official letters from Moscow to the camps, letters to change X or Y policy, lists of prisoners," she said.

Her reception in Russian circles was not always warm. "There is a certain amount of official dislike of the subject," she said. There is "no public discussion of it, very few monuments or memorials to it."

Applebaum's book has been translated into 23 languages -- but not Russian.

Applebaum studied Russian history at Yale and then moved to Warsaw, where she was a stringer for the Economist. She then went to England and worked for Spectator, a weekly magazine. She's a member of the Washington Post editorial board and she plans to write another non-fiction book.

Applebaum will speak at the Book Festival on Sunday at 3:30 p.m.

Sujata Massey

Baltimore author Sujata Massey is fascinated with Japanese culture, the art, the fashion, the religion and, in her seventh book, the food.

Like her previous titles, The Pearl Diver (HarperCollins, $23.95) features antiques dealer and part-time detective Rei Shimura -- a California-born woman whose father is from Japan. "Probably half of the readers have a mixed Asian ancestry; they are happy to read about somebody like them," Massey said.

The book, which came out last month, received rave reviews from a number of papers, including The Sun. She's won awards for several of the books in her series, and her titles have been translated into 12 languages (including Japanese).

Massey, 40, wrote for the features section of The Evening Sun from 1986 to 1991. She started writing fiction later when living in Japan while her husband was working at a naval hospital there. Her first book was published seven years ago.

She's already working on the next book. "I'm interested in the art that was looted from the Royal Museum in Iraq," she said. Rei is "looking for this piece from the Royal Museum, which the government has reason to believe is in Japan." It will be out next year.

Massey will speak at the Book Festival on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. For more information about the writer, visit

John Shields

John Shields scoured the country's seaboards for recipes for his latest cookbook, Coastal Cooking With John Shields (Broadway, $32.50). He cooked with a Haitian woman in Florida, drove from San Diego to Seattle and even made a stop in Hawaii.

The idea was to "get a culinary snapshot of the region cuisine along the coastlines," said Shields.

Shields, 63, grew up in Parkville and has written three cookbooks focused on cuisine from Chesapeake Bay. "During the 1800s and 1900s, Annapolis was considered one of the gastronomical capitals of the country," he said.

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