On Tuesday evening, July 8th, Hartford Books Examiner will be in conversation with Marcia Clark at the Darien Library to celebrate the publication of her fourth novel, The Competition (Mulholland Books, $26.00). This event is free and open to the public. View details here: http://www.darienlibrary.org/events/meet-author/marcia-clark-conversation-john-valeri
Ms. Clark also has local events scheduled at Burgundy Books, the Fairfield Antique & Design Center, and Bank Square Books. (See details below.)
Every once in a while, there comes a moment that carries with it the feeling of cosmic destiny.
I had one of those moments just recently, when invited to interview Marcia Clark for the release of her new book.
You see, Marcia Clark loomed large in my life far before she made her debut as a writer of fiction. It was twenty years ago, during the summer of 1994, that her courtroom performance first captivated me. In a trial that was overrun by big egos and even bigger sideshows, she remained a voice for the victims.
In the years that followed the trial, Marcia Clark wrote a candid memoir (Without a Doubt), became a frequent media commentator, and endeavored to put the pall of “The Trial of the Century” behind her. (She also sent this impressionable mind an encouraging message scrawled across and 8x10” publicity photo.)
Reinvention came with the publication of her first crime thriller, Guilt by Association—a book that she’d spoken of wanting to write for more than a decade. Rather than capitalizing on her name recognition at its peak, she took tentative steps toward achieving this goal. Though the passage of time may have diminished her “star quality” (and thereby her chances of success), it allowed her to craft a complex story and an engaging group of characters that may otherwise have gone untapped.
It was with equal amounts enthusiasm and trepidation that I turned the first pages of Guilt by Association—a full five months prior to official publication thanks to my gig as the Hartford Books Examiner—hoping that it would live up to my lofty expectations while at the same time wondering if that was even possible.
To my great relief, I was immediately taken by the character of Rachel Knight, a feisty and foul-mouthed Special Trials prosecutor in the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office (sound familiar?). She was committed to the cause, committed to her friends—and committed to the occasional need for a strong drink (or several)! The publishing industry took note, too, and a slew of starred reviews and blurbs from heavy-hitters (think Ellroy and Baldacci) followed.
As luck would have it, Marcia Clark launched that book in New Canaan, and we met for the very first time in May of 2011. Though I was very much aware of that old adage about not meeting one’s heroes lest they disappoint you, I found Marcia to be immediately warm, keenly intelligent, and wickedly funny. She (again) exceeded my expectations, and our ensuing friendship, unlikely as it may seem, has been a true source of pleasure.
Watching Marcia emerge as one of the genre’s preeminent voices has been nothing short of inspiring. Having the opportunity to interview her face-to-face in a public forum will be one of the greatest honors of my life. I do hope you’ll be able to join us …
PS – The following is an excerpt from my own work in progress. I think it will give you some small idea of how meaningful Tuesday night will be for me.
Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!
Every writer has either had, or is seeking, their very own “I’ve made it” moment.
For some, it’s finally birthing a book after suffering through a labor process that makes pregnancy look easy. For others, it’s making a bestseller list. Or winning an award. Or selling a copy of said book to somebody outside of their family.
My “I’ve made it” moment comes on February 24, 2012. (You don’t want to know the lengths I’ve gone to in verifying this date.) And it comes without a book. Well, it comes without my book, anyway.
I am doing what I do best: putzing around a bookstore while my wife, Chelsey, occupies herself with a magazine. Or her cell phone. I try not to make eye contact; when I do, I can sense her growing impatience. That, and doing so invites verbal sparring that will detract from the simple pleasures that abound.
On this particular night, however, she’s waiting for me down the street, where she has put in a dinner order at Village Pizza.
I am here under the guise of picking up our books and tickets for tonight’s signing event—Rachel Simon (The Story of Beautiful Girl)—so that we can avoid the rush later on, though we both know that a little harmless browsing will be done. And, as I meander through the aisles, I am drawn to the mystery section. I can never resist a good whodunit. After all, I like to consider myself a man of intrigue.
Almost immediately, I am taken by a particular book’s spine. Half red, half white. Entirely beautiful.
It’s the mass market paperback edition of Marcia Clark’s Guilt by Association—and they’re carrying it more than a week prior to the official publication date. (For those of you non-bibliophiles, discovering a book that has been shelved early is the literary equivalent of getting lucky before prom night.)
As I reach out to take it in my hand, my cell phone vibrates in my pocket. A text message from Chelsey.
The garlic bread is ready.
Of course, I am so absorbed in this moment that I don’t even consider checking my phone.
Instead, I give the book a quick onceover. It’s got a new cover design—one that’s a bit more sophisticated and subdued than the hardcover’s art work—and boasts NATIONAL BESTSELLER under the author’s name. Also, an endorsement from David Baldacci.
And then I open the book.
And nearly drop it.
Right there, among the very first pages, along with a trifecta of starred reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and Booklist, is a lengthy excerpt attributed to John Valeri, Hartford Books Examiner.
The moment is interrupted by another buzzing in my pocket, the perfect complement to the buzzing in my head. This time, I take the phone out and give it a glance.
Where are you? Pizza’s ready…
The year is 1995.
I am a socially awkward, overweight, vision-impaired thirteen-year-old with the mentality of a man at least twice my age. Middle School is my hell, and books my salvation.
I have progressed from Nancy Drew to the more adult stylings of Mary Higgins Clark.
And, like a good majority of (pop) culturally conscious Americans, I am hooked on “The Trial of the Century”—the criminal prosecution of ex-football player O.J. Simpson for the murders of his former wife, Nicole Brown, and her friend, Ronald Goldman.
While most kids my age are content to talk “cooties,” I spout terms like “DNA,” “perjury,” and “jury nullification.” While they trade pogs on the playground, I am consumed by CNN’s gavel to gavel coverage of the day’s court proceedings.
During my summer break, I draw up mock trial exhibits and argue in front of a jury comprised of the few people who are willing to indulge me in this insanity. My mother. My uncle. Even my brother and his friend, Jason, on the rare occasion that they have nothing better to do.
It’s the brutality of the crimes, the intense media scrutiny, the larger-than-life personalities, which have all drawn me in.
And there is one figure that looms larger than all others.
Her name is Marcia Clark, and she is my hero.
The following are Marcia Clark’s upcoming events in Connecticut:
Wednesday, July 9th – Burgundy Books, 7 PM – In conversation with owner Linda Williams. The cost of admission is $10, which can be applied to the purchase of a book. A reception and book signing will follow the program. Reservations are required and can be made by calling the store at 860-391-9525. Location: 1285 Boston Post Rd. in Westbrook.
Thursday, July 10th -- Fairfield Antique & Design Center, 6 to 8 PM – This is a launch party; lite bites and Spiked Seltzer will be served. Tickets are $25/person and can be purchased online; registration is free for Ladies Who Launch Platinum Members and Over 40 Females members. Copies of The Competition will be available for purchase/signing at the event. Location: 19 Willard Rd. in Norwalk.
Friday, July 11th – Bank Square Books – 12 to 1:30 PM – This is a luncheon event. The cost is $30 for lunch and a copy of The Competition, $10 for lunch only, and free for those who want to attend but do not want lunch or a copy of the book. Reservations are requested and can be made by calling the store at 860-536-3795. Location: 53 W. Main St. in Mystic.