Wednesday, April 14, 2010
An evening with author Scott Turow
Those of you who admire the writing of Scott Turow might be surprised to know that some of those key scenes in his blockbuster novel Presumed Innocent were actually scribbled in a notebook with Strawberry Shortcake on the cover.
It's true. It wasn't his, of course - as he ran for his commuter train into Chicago each morning, he would grab whatever notebook was handy, and sometimes it happened to be one that belonged to his daughter. But still, not what you'd expect, is it?
But Turow is full of surprises. I discovered that when I won tickets to his appearance in Michigan, one sponsored by the Canton Public Library. I jumped at the chance to go, of course, even though I'd be sitting alone - always kind of a weird feeling. However, at literary events, I've found, it doesn't matter. Everyone is so excited to be there, so jazzed to hear the speaker, you could pretty much show up naked with your hair on fire and few would notice.
Turow didn't bring any props, any backdrops, any sound clips. He just stood behind a podium, refreshingly low-key. He was funny, self-deprecating. He talked about his past, how he went from wanting to become a novelist to falling in love with the law to later blending the two. He became fascinated at the stories that unfolded in courtrooms,he said, at the motivation for crime and the faces of evil.
He talked about his 1987 breakout hit, Presumed Innocent, a legal thriller, later a movie starring Harrison Ford, that many say defined the legal genre. He talked about how he'd write it in bits and pieces, in 20-minute bursts of inspiration as he commuted to his job as an attorney in Chicago. He says the fame it brought him changed his life. It was a writer's dream, he admits openly, and says it was probably due more to luck than skill.
Since then, however, he's kept the best-sellers coming, from The Burden of Proof to Pleading Guilty to Ordinary Heroes. In May, Innocent, a long-awaited sequel to Presumed Innocent, will be released.
The thread that tied all his topics together? His passion. It was obvious all through his speech. "I'm blessed," he said. "I have such a full life - I get out of bed in the morning and I can't wait to get started on what's going on that day. I have a very blessed life, and I know it."
What he might not know is how devoted his fans are - at least in Michigan. When he finished speaking - and then read from his new book - the women in the rows behind me were absolutely giddy.
They whispered together like middle school co-conspirators. "I'm going to write him a letter," said one.
"Well, I just can't wait til May," said the other. "We'll stand in line - just like the kids did for Harry Potter."