There are many great writers who call Baltimore "home." It's a shame that our local bookstores don't feel this is a big deal. When we asked at each store for Baltimore authors, we were led to the local-interest section where we found tidewater schedules and the history of form stone. Not quite what we had in mind.
Of all the stores we visited, only Borders featured a display aptly titled "Local Literati," which included everyone from Edgar Allen Poe to filmmaker John Waters. Take note, mega-bookstores, here's a rundown of some of the mightiest pens in Baltimore.
Russell Baker, "Growing Up" (1991) This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is an American coming-of-age tale set between the two big wars. It features Depression-ravaged Baltimore as its backdrop.
Madison Smartt Bell, "Master of the Crossroads" (2000), "Ten Indians" (1996), "All Souls Rising" (1995), "Doctor Sleep" (1992) The author of 11 novels and professor of creative writing at Goucher College writes about the slave revolt in Haiti in his newest book. In his article "Small Blue Thing," Smartt Bell discusses Poe's "Raven" and comments on the demise of all that has been lost since Poe's time.
Taylor Branch, "Pillar of Fire" (1998), "The Eyes on the Prize" (1991), "Parting the Waters" (1989) Branch has compiled a three-volume set that is more than a biography of the Rev. Martin Luther King, it's a magnifying glass on society during the lifetime of the great man, and it shows how his legacy affected generations to come.
Lucille Clifton, "One of the Problems of Everett Anderson" (2001), "Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems 1988-2000" (2000), "The Terrible Stories" (1995) This author is currently Distinguished Professor of Humanities at St. Mary's College of Maryland and has also served as Maryland's poet laureate and won a National Book Award for "Blessing the Boats."
Dan Fesperman, "Lie in the Dark" (1999) The Baltimore Sun reporter sets a homicide investigation amid the Bosnian conflict.
Mark Friedman, "Columbus Slaughters Braves" (2000) An Orioles fan originally from Silver Spring, this law student was inspired to write his story about baseball and brothers by Cal Ripken and his 2,131st game. Friedman researched the book, which is not about the Orioles but the Cubs, by catching a few games and interviewing outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds.
Ivy Goodman, "A Chapter from Her Upbringing" (2001) The Sun praised this author and her book of short stories for being able to relate on a very real level to many different women.
Stephen Hunter, "Pale Horse Coming" (2001), "Hot Springs" (2000). Despite the fact that he is the former movie critic for the Baltimore Sun, Hunter is making a name for himself writing thrillers.
Wendy Jefferson, "Best Friends" (2001) This is Jefferson's first book. She lives in Baltimore and works at an area hospital.
Laura Lippman, "In a Strange City" (2001), "Sugar House" (2000), "Big Trouble" (1999), "Butcher's Hill" (1998), "Baltimore Blues" (1997), "Charm City" (1997) A Baltimore Sun reporter, Lippman started a mystery series starring the fictional heroine Tess Monaghan -- a former reporter turned P.I.-for-hire in Baltimore.
Sujata Massey, "The Bride's Kimono" (2001), "The Floating Girl" (2000), "The Flower Master" (1999), "Zen Attitude" (1998), "The Salaryman's Wife" (1997) A former reporter at the Baltimore Sun and former teacher in Japan, Massey weaves her experiences into a series of titles starring Rei Shimua, a Japanese-American antiques dealer living in Tokyo.
Alice McDermott, "A Bigamist's Daughter" (1999), "Charming Billy" (1998) Although she usually sets her stories in places like Ireland or Long Island, this Maryland-based writer is still homegrown.
Sean McGrady, "Town Without a Zip" (1997), "Sealed With A Kiss" (1995), "Dead Letters" (1992) Although he may be less known than other fiction writers who set their tales in Baltimore, McGrady has a series of whodunits starring U.S. postal inspector Eamon Wearie. He travels throughout the city solving murder mysteries using his mail-delivery skills.
H.L. Mencken, "The Diary of H.L. Mencken" (1991), "American Language" (1945-48), "Heathen Days" (1943), "Treatise on the Gods" (1930) Born at 380 W. Lexington St., the sage of Baltimore (and Baltimore Sun columnist) gained worldwide notoriety when he was chosen to cover the Scopes Monkey trial in 1925. He later satirized the South and went on to become one of the most prolific social critics of the 20th century.
Eric Mills, "Chesapeake Rumrunners of the Roaring Twenties" (2000) Did you know that Maryland's very own Eastern Shore serviced most of the entire East Coast with bootlegged goods during the 13 years of Prohibition? This nonfiction book documents just that -- Chesapeake watermen who became expertise smugglers.
Allison Pollack, "Return to Suicide" (2001) This Mt. Airy resident saw her first novella published in 2001.