Baltimore Book Festival must-sees: True crime, White House correspondent April Ryan and more

Before Adnan Syed and the blockbuster podcast “Serial,” there was Kirk Bloodsworth.

Bloodsworth, a former Marine-turned Maryland waterman, in 1993 became the first person to be exonerated after being initially sentenced to death for a gruesome crime that he didn’t commit. Now 57, Bloodsworth will appear at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Baltimore Book Festival to discuss his wrongful conviction for the rape and murder of a 9-year-old girl on June 25, 1984. He’ll describe the nearly nine years he spent in prison (including two years during which he faced execution) and his subsequent clearing based on DNA testing.


Bloodsworth will appear on the Literary Salon stage with the author and attorney Tim Junkin, who wrote “Bloodsworth: The True Story of the First Death Row Inmate Exonerated by DNA Evidence” which has been designated as the 2018 One Maryland One Book Selection.

Bloodsworth’s plight invites comparisons to that of Syed. Since the investigative journalism podcast aired in 2014, the nation has been riveted by the 38-year-old Syed’s bid for a new trial in the slaying of his former girlfriend, 18-year-old Hae Min Lee, whose body was discovered in 1999 in Leakin Park.

Bloodworth, who helped convince Maryland legislators to repeal the death penalty, is just one of the authors with compelling stories to tell at the 23rd annual festival, running this weekend at the Inner Harbor.

Others include White House Correspondent April Ryan in conversation with “60 Minutes” correspondent Bill Whitaker. They’ll discuss Ryan’s newest book, “Under Fire: Reporting from the Front Lines of the Trump White House” (noon Sunday at the Literary Salon in West Shore Park, 401 Light St.). Tayari Jones will read from her 2018 Oprah’s Book Club selection, “An American Marriage” (2 p.m. Sunday at the Literary Salon,) and former longtime commentator Marion Winik will give readers a first look at “The Baltimore Book of the Dead” (5 p.m. Sunday at the Inner Harbor Stage).

The festival will feature musical performances, kids’ events and cooking demonstrations in addition to author appearances. Below are a few you won’t want to miss:

Eating your words: The smells wafting over from the Food for Thought stage will make anyone salivate. This year’s lineup includes a happy hour and cooking demo with the staff of the Horseshoe Casino, featuring recipes from celebrity chefs Giada De Laurentiis and Gordon Ramsay (5 p.m. Friday). Chef Virginia Willis will reveal the “Secrets of the Southern Table: A Food Lover’s Tour of the Global South” (2 p.m. Saturday). Personally, we’re eager to find out more about what chef and Washinton Post columnist Cathy Barrow describes as “irresistibly sweet and savory slab pies” — rectangular confections on a baking sheet, many of which can be made without a rolling pin (3 p.m. Saturday.)

Tomorrow’s literary stars: The author and educator D. Watkins, known for his chronicles of life in East Baltimore, presents such up-and-coming local artists as the poets Tariq Toure and Kondwani Fidel, photographer Devin Allen and the memoir writer Sheri Booker at 4 p.m. Sunday at the Literary Salon.

Kidding around: You won’t need to present proof that you’re under 18 to enjoy the offerings at the Enoch Pratt Free Library’s Children’s Stage. The swingset set and their older kin can learn to make magical toys out of pieces of paper with Central Library children’s librarian, Matthew Hickey (1:30 p.m. Friday). The following day, they can learn basic American Sign Language words from Kathy MacMillan, author of “Nita’s First Signs.” (noon Saturday.) A few hours later, New York Times bestselling author and illustrator Ricardo Cortés reads his touching tale of a misunderstood shark, “Sea Creatures from the Sky” (2 p.m. Saturday).

Putting on “airs:” Some of Baltimore’s best-loved local and regional tunesmiths can be found on the Music Stage, including the R&B offerings of The Billy Price Charm City Rhythm Band (4:30 p.m. Friday); Joi Carter’s Caribbean-spiced neo-soul (6 p.m. Friday); QOK’s alt pop/rock (4 p.m. Saturday); The Palovations’ soul offerings inspired by 1960s Motown (5:30 p.m. Saturday) and singer/songwriter ellen cherry (5 p.m. Sunday).