I still don’t have the final version of Talked to Death from my editor or the cover from my graphic artist. I was hoping to have both by today – now it looks like it will be the first of next week. When people are doing you huge favors, you can’t rush them!
To tide you over, here is a segment from the very beginning of the book:
Friday, November 7
The University of California Librarians
“Are we there yet?”
I glanced over at Liz Nguyen, sitting in the passenger seat of her own car, bare feet propped on the dashboard, short black hair tucked behind one ear. She was scowling at the hills of the Los Padres National Forest, through which we were passing.
The California Library Association Annual Conference, typically known just as CLA – as in, “Are you going to CLA this year?” – was being held in Oakland over the first full weekend of November. Liz and I were presenting our paper on librarian involvement in police investigations. The paper had been published for almost a year, but we’d missed last year’s deadline for presenting at the conference in Long Beach. Just as well, because we’d had additional experience with our subject since then.
Liz’s boyfriend Jon Eckhoff, an LAPD homicide detective, was presenting with us. He’d been involved in about half of the investigations we were discussing, and we thought it would be a nice touch to include the law enforcement perspective.
I said, “We’ve only been gone an hour. Four more to go.”
She sighed deeply, then brightened. “Let’s play a game.”
“What, like Twenty Questions?”
“No… Let’s play Spot the Librarian Stereotype.”
“Never heard of that one.”
“That’s because I just made it up. But you know the librarian stereotypes, right? I’ll describe someone, and you tell me what sort of librarian he or she is. Then we can test our skill at the conference.”
“Heh. Okay, go ahead.”
“All right. This person is almost always female and wears brightly colored clothing.”
“Right! See, you’re good at this.”
“That one was easy. Challenge me.”
“Okay… This person is typically male, might have a pot belly, and only talks to his own kind.”
“Gotta be a library director.”
“Two for two! Our next candidate is under forty and carrying an iPad.”
“Pfft. That could be anyone.”
“He or she is also wearing cool glasses.”
“Right! Half a point for that, because I had to prompt you.”
“Thank you. How would you describe us?”
Liz propped her elbows on her knees, steepling her fingers. “Ah, L. universitasis californii. The most highly evolved of the genus Librariensis.”
I snickered. “We may be the only examples of our species at this conference. Have you read the program?”
I pointed at the passenger door, where Liz had stashed her iPad. “Take a look.”
She flipped the tablet open, pulled up the conference schedule, and started scrolling. “Shit. There’s hardly anything of interest to us. One talk on library instruction assessment and one on information literacy. That’s it.”
“We have to find something else to attend.”
“There’s one on prison libraries. That might be entertaining. And there’s the reception.”
Liz and I were both alumni of UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Information Studies. GSEIS would hold a reception on Saturday evening.
“Your favorite thing. A ‘networking’ opportunity.”
Liz rolled her eyes. “Spare me.” She wriggled a little, repositioning her feet. “We should have flown up here.”
“I couldn’t afford it, and the university wouldn’t pay for it. You’ll be lucky to be reimbursed for your gas.”
Liz and I had struck a deal – she’d pay for the gas if I’d drive. Jon couldn’t get away until noon; he was driving up later in the day with my boyfriend, Pete Ferguson, in Pete’s Jeep. Jon would drive Liz’s car back after our presentation tomorrow, and Liz would ride back to LA on Sunday with Pete and me.
I said, “We should draw up a schedule for tomorrow.”
Liz re-opened her iPad. “Okay. Keynote speaker, then we present, then we hear Barb’s talk. That takes care of the morning.”
Barb Simmons, my dad’s lady friend, was a children’s librarian. She and three colleagues were speaking on public library resources for homeschooled children.
Liz said, “Is your dad coming with Barb?”
“No. She’s traveling with the other women on her panel. All four of them are sharing a room.”
“Sounds like fun.”
“What about the afternoon?”
“Um – right after lunch is the information literacy talk, then the one on assessment. The prison libraries presentation is first thing Sunday morning.”
“Okay, we’ll start home after that. Pete and I will probably skip the one on assessment.”
“We want to have some time to relax. Maybe go to San Francisco. Pete’s never been there.”
“Ah. Okay.” Liz scrolled through the program again, disgust on her face. “I thought last year was lousy for academic presentations. There are fewer than half as many this year.”
“What’s up with that? Where are the presenters from Stanford and UCSF and Berkeley? Not to mention San Jose State?”
Liz shrugged. “Money’s tight. Since CARL was up here in the spring, they probably all went there, and didn’t want to pay the fee for this one.”
“Face it, the only reason we’re here is that our topic fits into the public library arena as well as academia.”
CLA met every year. CARL, the California Association of Research Libraries, met every other year. CARL’s focus was entirely on academic and research libraries.
I said, “We probably wouldn’t have gotten this talk accepted at CARL.”
“No. But we need to come up with something for the next CARL conference, and we should include Justin on it.”
Justin Como, our newest librarian, was constantly seeking opportunities to present or publish. “If we write a paper together, we can include him. Do you have any ideas for a joint paper?”
“Nope. You should include him on your paper about Pete’s great-great-grandfather.”
Back in the summer Pete and I had solved the disappearance of his great-great-grandfather, 100 years previously. We were able to piece together the story of his murder from the diaries of both Pete’s ancestor and the killer, an archaeologist protecting his pet theory.
“I’m writing that one with Fiona Mackenzie. The archivist at University of Edinburgh.”
I stuck my tongue out at her. She smiled sweetly back at me.